The NRL’s ambitious push to emerge from the COVID-19 shutdown has paid off after attracting its biggest television audience for a regular-season game in more than six years.
Two-time premiership hero Darius Boyd has spoken of the support he received from rugby league during his darkest days, after announcing his retirement from the NRL.
The 32-year-old former Brisbane captain confirmed this season would be his last despite another year remaining on his contract for 2021.
Boyd has played 317 NRL games during his time with the Broncos, St George Illawarra and Newcastle but took time away from the game in 2014 to check into a mental health facility.
It changed the course of his life and career as he has gone on to become a vocal ambassador for mental health issues and an advocate of support for men’s health.
“Rugby league cops a lot of criticism but only a game like rugby league could have provided a journey that I’ve had on and off the field,” he said on Friday morning.
“Rugby league helped me out of my dark times. The game provided me with the support I needed as I sought help to improve my mental health.
“The game has provided me a platform for me to tell that story to others. I’ll always be grateful for that.”
Flanked by Broncos chief executive Paul White and coach Anthony Seibold, Boyd said he made his decision to retire during dinner with a friend last month who asked if this season would be his last.
“It had been in the back of my mind but that one question made it feel urgent,” he said.
“I knew right then that this would be it.
“There are more reasons why it should be my last season rather than why it shouldn’t.”
As well as premierships with the Broncos (2006) and the Dragons (2010), Boyd is a Clive Churchill Medallist and has played 23 Tests for Australia and 28 State of Origin games for Queensland.
Boyd was demoted from the Broncos captaincy at the end of 2019 and has copped overwhelming criticism in the past few seasons as he switched from fullback to the halves.
In his final campaign he is poised to play in the centres.
“Yes I’ve copped criticism over the years but I’ve received far more good wishes than bad,” he said.
“The support of the fans means a lot to me. It’s always humbling to think of the person who has saved every cent to buy a ticket to watch their team. They’re the foundation of this game.
“I’ll join those fans after the 2020 season as I stay involved in this great game. I owe rugby league a lot; it’s been very, very good to me.”