GMB get involved after death of rugby league player

29 Sep 2010

Geoff Burrow, branch secretary of the Rugby League Players’ Association, who are part of the GMB and represent more than 700 rugby league players, said on Monday that more must be done to help victims of depression after the tragic death of Terry Newton.

The 31-year-old former Great Britain international was found hanging at his home near Wigan on Sunday, seven months after his career was ended by a drugs ban and a year after his younger sister Leanne died of pneumonia following heroin addiction.

Newton, a player with Leeds, Wigan, Bradford and Wakefield, was thought to have become depressed both by the end of his rugby career and problems in his domestic life.

Geoff Burrow, sports officer for the GMB union which has 703 affiliated members through the Rugby League Players’ Association, is hoping to meet the Rugby Football League to discuss a way forward after the Newton tragedy.

“Terry was a valued member and I spoke to him about three weeks ago after he enquired about a course for his nephew to go after rugby league,” he said. “I was waiting to hear back from him.

“We are always there to help, arranging courses and we’re also a shoulder to cry on, but you do wonder if you could have done more.

“I watched his recent television interview with Brian Carney again last night and you could see the pain etched on his face. He looked like he needed someone to put an arm around him. Depression is a terrible thing.

“We’ve got to get around the table with the RFL. While people may regret what they’ve done, we need to make sure that regret doesn’t turn into full-blown depression.

“If someone makes a mistake, while you can’t condone it, you can offer some help.

“If anything can come out of this, we’ve got to put something in place to make sure it doesn’t happen again to anyone.”

The Rugby Football League insisted though that Newton had not been abandoned following the imposition of his two-year ban.

“Every registered rugby league player has access to counselling services if they want them and at the start of every year they are given an information pack with details of those offers,” said RFL spokesman John Ledger.

“Terry will have been reminded of that counselling service.

“The RFL were also in dialogue with Terry about his offer to get involved with speaking to youngsters about the dangers of drugs.

“Nothing had been resolved, but it was an open dialogue and we were still speaking to him about it.”

“People in rugby league stayed close to him,” added Ledger. “He was not left high and dry.”

Article Courtesy of the Morning Star 28/9/2010