Panther Jamal Idris talks of tackling his demons
Jamal Idris' larger than life personality has often acted as a disguise for the man beneath the dreadlocks.
In front of the cameras and around his teammates, Idris looked like he had life all figured out.
But it was in the silence of his home and in the presence of nothing but his own unrelenting thoughts where he struggled the most.
"I come to a game, everyone sees me for 80 minutes, but right now as I'm leaving the ground, what have I got?" Idris said as he opened up about the mental health problems that made him escape the game to seek medical help earlier this year.
"I go home to a quiet room, flick on the TV and just sit there and think and think and think. When I'm not training, I'm just sitting there thinking about everything else going on in life.
"When I'm on the football field, I have one thing to think about and I love it. Life seems so simple in that moment. Then you walk off the field that's where all the other things come into play. That's when you have to slow it down and sort out what's important and what's not important. Everything that's important, categorise it. Everything that's not important, just brush it. I couldn't do that before."
The lad from Forster went from a nobody to a star in the blink of an eye after making his debut for Canterbury as an 18-year-old in 2008.
As he admits, he just wasn't ready for the experiences and challenges life would throw at him as a result of the fame and fortune at such a young age.
He started to wonder about all the people suddenly claiming to be his friends - who really wanted to help him and who wanted to help themselves?
For so long, those concerns ate at him, and his own thoughts and perceptions were as harmful as those coming from the people around him.
"You get prepared for a lot of things in life, but not that," Idris said of his meteoric rise into the limelight.
"I'm grateful for a lot of things that have happened in my life, and I know I've been blessed, but as a kid, you start to learn real quick that for every 10 good people there are in the world, there's one or two that are bad.
"I learnt this when I was 17 and 18 - because you can be a hero one minute, and the exact week after, the bloke that was praising you could be sitting there stabbing you in the back. I had to learn real quick that they are going to say what they want. You try to block that stuff out, but it's hard man, it's really hard.
"It's easier for me now to see the people around me who have good intentions and those who don't. There are a lot of people in this world who want to bring you down.
"They can make up some crazy stories, and I really don't know what joy they get out of it, but they seem to get some sort of sick joy out of destroying someone else's life. It makes me sick, to be honest with you. In hindsight, I'm happy for everything that has happened in my life, good or bad it doesn't matter because I ended up right here."
A drunken night out on the Gold Coast back in May, which could have ended a lot worse if it wasn't for former Titans coach John Cartwright coming to the aid of Idris, was the catalyst for the Panthers to help him get his life back on track.
The former Bulldogs and Titans centre has confided in Panthers general manager Phil Gould, and Idris recently sent him an emotional text, expressing his appreciation to Gould for going beyond his rugby league duties to make sure he was on track to overcome his personal demons.
"For me, knowing that there's someone like that around who meant a lot to me, and I wanted him to know that, that's why I sent the text," Idris said.
"It's hard to separate football from your outside life, not many people can do it in the NRL. When someone from your football life takes that extra effort or takes that extra step to help you in your outside life, it just means a lot.
"Gus is the man, he's a lot like me the way we think so he understands me a lot. The only other bloke I've known like that in the footy world is John Cartwright. Both of them have always been there for me."
Sydney Morning Herald