When Greg Inglis launched the Goanna Academy in a Macksville hall, the former Storm and Rabbitohs superstar didn’t field a single question about his on-field feats.
“It was all about how they can find help, what was the best way that I dealt with my mental health issues and stuff like that,” Inglis said. “I found that really rewarding.”
After recently returning from England, where a hamstring injury restricted him to just three Super League appearances for Warrington, Inglis now intends to focus full-time on the Goanna Academy while playing for the Macksville Sea Eagles in the NSWRL Group Two competition.
The decision to finish his playing career where it began is the fulfilment of a 20-year vow Inglis made when he left Macksville to begin a remarkable journey that saw him play 263 NRL matches, 39 Tests for Australia and 32 Origins for Queensland.
His father, Wade Blair, and grandfather, Alex Blair, also played for Macksville.
“I have had a great footy career professionally, but I want to give back to Group Two and to my home-town as well,” Inglis told NRL.com.
The Origin of the Goanna
“I was 15 when I last wore the Macksville jersey, but I have never forgotten where I came from. It’s something I have always spoken about and I always like to give back to the community.”
Inglis also wants to help end the stigma around mental health by talking about his own battles with depression and mood swings, which led to him being diagnosed with Bipolar II after he quit the NRL in 2019.
“Goanna Academy is what I am focusing on now. That is what I am passionate about,” Inglis said. “I think it is the first Indigenous-owned mental health program in Australia, so I am proud of that.
“I just want to get out there and share my story about the struggles that I went through, what I faced and what I got diagnosed with. By me sharing what I went through I can give them tips about how to handle themselves if certain things come up - to go and seek help and to talk about it.”
Inglis, who won the Clive Churchill Medal in the Storm’s 2007 grand final triumph, the 2009 Golden Boot award as the world’s best player and helped the Rabbitohs to the 2014 premiership, sought treatment in 2017 and again in 2019, as he struggled with life after football.
“I am very fortunate that I went through what I did with my mental health and being in those two clinics,” he said. “It was the best thing for me, and I want to share my story.”
The 34-year-old has teamed up with Rich Digital, the sports consultancy founded by Shane and Brent Richardson, to develop the Goanna Academy program and he now intends to take it to schools.
Inglis brings out the Goanna to finish it
Online memberships are also available on the Goanna Academy website.
Mudgee Council has also expressed interest in Inglis delivering the Goanna Academy program, which includes coaching clinics, ahead of next year’s Charity Shield clash between the Rabbitohs and Dragons.
“Basically, it is me telling my story and helping people to learn how to cope, and learning football skills or how to coach, especially with juniors, so that rugby league is fun and enjoyable for them,” Inglis said.
“I want to get kids in school clinics and honing their skills, just to get them interested in sport and off the streets.”
Australian Story: Greg Inglis
Inglis lives on the outskirts of Sydney but will also spend time in Macksville next year when he plays for the Sea Eagles under the coaching of former Rabbitohs clubmate Matt Hyland.
Former Souths team-mate Sam Burgess is coaching the Orara Valley Axemen, while Clint Greenshields will have charge of the Sawtell Panthers and Brandon Costin has taken over the coaching reins of the Coffs Harbour Comets.
“It is great to see Group Two building itself back up and getting people interested in footy again, and supporting their local teams,” Inglis said. “The rivalries and the passion of the communities who come out to support their teams are great.
“That is what I grew up and watched. My grandfather played for Macksville, my dad did as well, and I have had uncles and cousins play there too.
"When I left Macksville, I said to my dad and my family that I wanted to finish my career where it started so that is what’s going to happen now.”