Weekend Interview: State of Mind key to Rangi Chase's rugby return

The heroics of Wales at Euro 2016 these last few weeks have understandably brought up plenty of memories of Gary Speed and reminded everyone of their manager's tragic death five years ago.

Rangi Chase re-signs for Castleford Tigers (Picture: Simon Hulme)

The former Leeds United footballer took his own life at the age of 41, stunning the sporting world.

Rugby league, of course, has had similar tales of heartache given Terry Newton, the ex-Leeds Rhinos, Bradford Bulls and Great Britain hooker, did likewise in 2010, the year before Speed.

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Both suffered from depression.

Rangi Chase re-signs for Castleford Tigers (Picture: Simon Hulme)

It was the death of Newton that, in part, led to the formation of State of Mind in 2011, a charity that “harnesses the power of sport to promote positive mental health among our sportsmen and women, fans and wider communities, and ultimately to prevent suicide.”

Every season, a round of Super League is dedicated to promoting the charity in an attempt to raise awareness of psychological problems in the sport.

Thursday’s game between Warrington and Salford Red Devils, four fixtures last night and, finally, Castleford Tigers’ home game with Catalans Dragons tomorrow, all target issues surrounding mental health in order to help prevent further tragedies occurring.

The message is certainly getting through.

Rangi Chase re-signs for Castleford Tigers (Picture: Simon Hulme)

Rangi Chase, the gifted former England stand-off who re-signed for Castleford last week and could make his second ‘debut’ tomorrow, can vouch for that.

He has suffered from depression – it forced him to quit the sport entirely earlier this season – but has been helped by the charity in dealing with his issues.

“I think it’s massive,” said Chase, who won the prestigious Man of Steel as Super League’s best player in 2011, represented England at the World Cup two years later, but admits struggling to even get out of bed to go training with Championship club Leigh Centurions this season.

“It’s credit to the RFL that they touch on the state of mind because a lot of the boys do struggle from it and it’s not something that people like talking about openly.

“It’s a good topic and people should be aware of it because a lot of us boys go through a lot of things and put on this bravado that we’re all okay, we’re all good.

“Then we go home, be by ourselves and all of a sudden feel alone.

“It’s good to get the message out there that it does happen in our game that people suffer from depression and we are raising awareness.”

State of Mind, with speakers like retired player Danny Sculthorpe, have delivered education sessions to over 15,000 people since 2011 in sports clubs, schools and colleges, among other venues throughout the UK.

Chase has had his own battles; he walked away from Leigh and the sport as a whole in May.

But Castleford – where he made his name from 2009 to 2013 having moved from Sydney – have now offered him a chance to resurrect his career.

“Right now I feel on top of the world; I just feel so happy,” he said.

“It’s hard to explain but when you’ve been down in the dumps and you feel like the world is against you but you come through it, it’s an unbelievable feeling.

“You just feel strong. When you are in that dark place you feel weak, vulnerable and you have a lot of down days that is not nice.

“It’s not something that a lot of people talk about, but right now I feel awesome.

“I just needed time. If I hadn’t have had that break I think I would have ended up walking away or throwing my career down the drain.

“I’m just lucky I had that time to get myself together and realise I’ve got a lot to give in the game. I’m only 30 years old.”

There are certainly few more exciting talents in rugby league than Chase in full flight, his array of creative skills so often bemusing opponents and enthralling crowds.

Whether he will ever be able to recreate his old magic remains to be seen but the fact he has an opportunity to at least try should be celebrated.

New Zealand-born Chase was sold in a big-money move to Salford Red Devils in 2013 but never truly sparked them the way they so desperately needed him to and, after a difficult period, signed for lower league Leigh at the end of last year.

However, he managed just five games there.

“I had been down a lot when I joined Leigh, but I tried to pick myself up and say just crack on, try and do the right thing,” he recalled.

“But I found that I didn’t like getting up for training.

“It was not the club or anything, it was just where my mind was at.

“It was a lot of things; off the field, losing a lot, things not working out at Salford, things not working out at Leigh.

“I was playing nowhere near my standard – I wasn’t even playing at Championship standard. It was frustrating.

“As much as I said I was getting the love back I think I was kidding myself, telling myself I was okay, but I wasn’t.

“This time round it’s just genuine, I feel really good.”

Chase has had more than two months away from rugby league and admitted: “I got to a point where I was going to dig holes if that’s what I had to do.

“I was going to take whatever job I needed to do.

“This year I was going to have completely off, but I have a young family to feed.

“Sometimes you need a break, sometimes emotions can get the better of you.

“I obviously needed time to think about things, which I have.

“I haven’t been in love with the game for a few years and you try and put your finger on what’s wrong.

“You try and get yourself up and keep going, but I did the right thing just to step away from it.

“It’s like I’ve got a new pair of eyes, a new head on my shoulders and I’m playing the game for the right reasons now.”

Chase feels ready to now grasp this unexpected opportunity.

“I didn’t want to put myself in a situation where I wasn’t 100 per cent and I didn’t want to let myself down or any other club down; I had to be ready,” he continued.

“Just recently I started watching games, keeping my eye on Castleford and sort of picturing what I would do in that situation.

“I was getting the hunger back and it was just perfect timing. I feel lucky.”