Huddersfield Giants’ Kenny Edwards relishing chance to Offload and help

WHEN Kenny Edwards was told by his coach and mentor Brad Arthur that he “was a good dad but not a consistent dad” he was so angry and infuriated that he almost quit Parramatta Eels.

Huddersfield Giants' Kenny Edwards. Picture: Ed Sykes/SWpix.com

In the end, it did not matter; the irascible Kiwi second-row was eventually sacked by them, the third NRL club to boot him out for disciplinary reasons.

Three years on, however, and having been sober for the last two, Huddersfield Giants star Edwards now knows exactly what Arthur meant.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

With greater clarity in his mind, he is thriving again both on and off the field.

Indeed, Edwards is set to become the club’s presenter of 
Offload, the mental fitness programme from Rugby League Cares that is aimed at men aged 16 and over and designed to 
tackle issues around mental wellbeing.

Growing up in New Zealand in a broken home, Edwards admits he has been alcoholic since the age of 12.

At the age of just five, he had already seen his mum attempt to kill herself and also suffered domestic abuse at the hands of his dad.

Now 31 and in his second season with Huddersfield after joining from Catalans Dragons, he is hoping to help others who have encountered struggles in one shape or another.

In Mental Health Awareness Week, Edwards told The Yorkshire Post how quitting alcohol has helped transform his own wellbeing.

“For me, when I was drinking, I felt like I was always on edge,” recollected the powerful forward, who was on the books of Manly and St George Illawarra before making his NRL breakthrough.

“I was always nervous and I didn’t know why, whether it was subconsciously or what.

“But now, being sober, my mind is so much stronger. If I was trying to do this Offload programme back when I was playing in Australia, there’s no way I’d be going out of my way to try and run them as I’d be too busy worrying about what I’d be up to on the weekend.

“For me it’s mentally made me a lot stronger, to be able to think a lot clearer and it’s made me a ten-times better dad than what I was when I was drinking.

“That’s probably the big thing I was aiming for: I just wanted to be the best father I could be every day.”

Recollecting that meeting with Arthur, he said: “The biggest role model I’ve had in my life was Brad Arthur.

“He’d dropped me for round one of the 2018 season after I’d just had the best season of my NRL career.

“I might have turned up to training still drunk or maybe I didn’t turn up at all because I was hungover. I’m not quite sure.

“I remember he told me in his office: ‘Ken, I can tell you’re a good father. Anyone can see that. But you’re not a consistent father.’

“At the time, I never knew what he meant and I was angry; I thought I was a good father as I was always there for my kids but – being sober now and thinking back to that day – I know I wasn’t.

“Being away from alcohol I now understand what it means to be a consistent father. But, at the time, I was absolutely gutted and thought I was hard done by. I even went as far as asking for a release and nearly went to the (Gold Coast) Titans as I was so angry.

“It was the state of mind I was in. Instead of looking at myself.”

Edwards became interested in the Offload programme when his Giants team-mate Tom Holmes – now at Featherstone Rovers – mentioned on a social media post detailing how he had sought help for depression.

He added: “I’ve had a tough upbringing and seen some things that I’d never want my kids to see.

“It’s shaped me into the person I am today and being able to learn on this programme, about men’s mental health, is really key.

“It’s something that’s still not talked about often enough, especially in rugby league where we’re big men with bravado and we’re not supposed to show our feelings.

“I wouldn’t know how to talk about my feelings until recently and it’s important men learn how to do that.”

The Offload programme allows men to engage with issues they usually avoid and has been hugely successful since its launch as a pilot project at Widnes Vikings, Salford Red Devils and Warrington Wolves four years ago.

It now involves nine clubs – with St Helens, Leeds Rhinos, Featherstone, Huddersfield, Bradford Bulls and Halifax Panthers now on board.

Initiated by the charity Rugby League Cares, Offload sessions – called fixtures – last for an hour to 90 minutes and are delivered in the main by former rugby league professionals, who speak about their own experiences in the context of a clinically-designed programme.

Support The Yorkshire Post and become a subscriber today. Your subscription will help us to continue to bring quality news to the people of Yorkshire. In return, you’ll see fewer ads on site, get free access to our app and receive exclusive members-only offers. Click HERE to subscribe.