Written by John Davidson
Photo by RFL
Matty English admits he almost gave rugby league away after seeing his teammate Ronan Costello die from an on-field accident.
Huddersfield Giants prop English was there on the field in 2016 when Costello suffered a traumatic brain injury after a tackle in an Under-19s game.
Costello passed away three days later and the front-rower almost passed up a promising Super League career as he dealt with his grief.
English, speaking as part of the competition’s ‘Wellbeing Round’, dedicated to men’s mental health, revealed his struggles to come terms with the tragedy.
He explained: “I was there that day unfortunately. It’s a day that I’d love to forget.
“I miss Ronan deeply and I’m still close to his family and we all try and support each other through it. He was a tough player and a legend of a bloke.
“It’s taken me a good couple of years to admit that I wasn’t dealing with it too well. Then I got in touch with the welfare manager at Huddersfield and he put me in touch with a counselor and that really, really did help.
“I’m not afraid to admit I was struggling and I did need that help. I feel like anyone else from our team or anyone in general who is struggling with anything like that they should step forward and talk about it.”
English questioned why he was playing rugby league after Costello’s sudden death at the age of just 17.
“I did a little bit. A few boys did leave the sport and thought it’s not for me anymore,” the 21-year-old said.
“That made me question it and think why me? Why did I have to be there that day?
“And I think that was the toughest part for me, there was so many questions that I wasn’t going to get answers to. It did make me question it a little bit.
“But I’m grateful that I stuck with it and hopefully make a career out of it.”
Rugby league has the image as a tough and uncompromising sport, but the Giants forward wants to help change the perception that is OK for men to talk about their problems.
He said: “We are tough blokes and it’s a tough industry where we do run into break walls and get back up for 80 minutes.
“But we’re human beings at the end of the day.
“To have that emotion, in my case it was grief but in every case just having that bit to speak out helps. I’d encourage anyone to do it.”
English is regarded as one of Super League’s best young forwards.
The prop, who has been likened in style and appearance to England Test star James Graham, has been a shining light in a difficult season for Huddersfield.
“It’s been a tough year,” he admitted.
“It’s been a year that has definitely challenged us but it’s brought our youth through. I felt like one of the keys of this season is that our youth has been tested because of our lack of experience through injuries.
“Don’t get me wrong – every team has injuries – but I feel we’ve brought our own players through rather than brought in. Which I think is a really, really good thing, not just for Huddersfield but for the Huddersfield development team.”