There is a generation of sports fan who find it hard to go to a game and not purchase a program. In years gone by it was to ensure that you knew who the opposition players were, as there was not the television or internet coverage that the modern generation enjoy today.
Sadly like many newspapers around the world the content of many of the programs has become less collectible and worth buying. Take Cricket Australia who on the last Ashes Tour produced the same program with only the central pages changed, for more than one Test match.
If we take the program produced at the weekend for the Wallabies v Springboks Test match, here was an ideal opportunity to produce some meaningful content. One cannot help but feel that this was an opportunity missed. The ARU could have shared their vision as to how the cutting of the Force is going to strengthen Australian rugby. Maybe that was the wrong vehicle, but the style of writing of yesteryear must no longer be in vogue, as all a program carries today are puff pieces which have more to do with marketing than giving insight.
That aside it was good to see the ARU pay tribute to a player from each side whose life ended prematurely. Former Springbok Joost van der Westhuizen, whose life was cut short by Motor Neurone disease, and ex Wallaby Dan Vickerman who sadly ended his own life.
While the ARU, or their program’s editorial staff were happy to mention van der Westhuizen’s illness and also the charity set up in his memory, the J9 Foundation, there was no mention as to how Vicketman’s life ended prematurely.
Maybe there was an element of guilt on behalf of Australian Rugby that the game as a whole was not there when he needed us most. However with this Thursday being designated RU OK? Day, the second Thursday in September, a day when we are reminded to ask our friends, colleagues and team mates if they are OK, surely this was a missed opportunity.
Surely highlighting RU OK? Day and Vickerman’s tragic passing Rugby could have helped raise awareness of a real issue in society, mental health and depression.
In a perfect world every day should be RU OK Day. However that is not the case, and so this day in September is designated R U OK? Day. It is supposed to be a day of action dedicated to reminding everyone that we’ve all got what it takes to ask, “are you ok?” and support those struggling with life.
Australia has an average 2,32o people who commit suicide every year. By highlighting the pain that Dan Vickerman went through, who knows, maybe it would have encouraged someone to seek help, or better still those aware of someone struggling, to rally around and give the necessary support to avoid another tragedy.
There is no shame in depression, it is a very real issue, and an illness affecting many. It needs to be acknowledged and discussed.
It is sad that Rugby felt it could not talk about the issue, as unless we do the chances are we will lose more sporting heroes and loved ones in the future.