For Castleford star Peter Mata’utia, Saturday’s Challenge Cup final against St Helens is just a small part of his amazing drive to be a perfect role model.
Mata’utia has his own charity back home in Australia, does a host of volunteer work in and around Castleford and uses social media to promote mental health advice. His voluntary work in schools, helping motivate and inspire children, is particularly important to him.
And it’s all because of a near tragedy several years ago that lies behind his huge grin and big heart. The 30-year-old took on a lot of responsibility for his three younger brothers and three sisters as they witnessed domestic violence growing up. But he said: “To be honest, it was pretty tough and I didn’t know how to balance it properly.
“I struggled and it led me to trying to commit suicide. One of my best friends and my partner, who is now my wife, found me hanging in the closet. They cut the rope, pulled it off me and waited for me to come back to consciousness.”
Mata’utia was just starting his career with Newcastle Knights in the NRL at the time, a decade ago, and admits he wrongly tried to shoulder his problems alone. He said: “I was doing really well in rugby but I got a bit ahead of myself and thought I was above everything.
“I didn’t know how to balance things and I started doubting myself and thinking I had let my little siblings down. I didn’t talk to anyone and instead I tried (to commit suicide). I understood pretty quickly the effect it had on other people.
“I felt really bad for my best friend and partner who found me. They didn’t deserve that and I didn’t deserve it. If I can share this now then maybe I can help people before it is too late. Everyone deserves a chance. When I go into schools I can spot signs because I have been through most things. I want everyone to have a chance to fulfil their full potential.”
Mata’utia, who is also an ambassador for the Tigers’ Learning Disability team, will dedicate Saturday’s final to his mum Matalena. She worked two jobs to provide for her kids but the family still spent a lot of time living in home shelters and relying on food banks.
Mata’utia said: “Mum sacrificed so much for us. But there were a lot of people who also helped us at school, get us to training and showing us there is a better way in life. That community was a big factor in where I am today, wanting to help people. Lockdown underlined how important it is to check on people.”
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