“In a nut shell Stockman Rugby is a program for remote, rural and regional rugby players to have an athletic and personal development opportunity in a character building environment,” says founder Shaun Mackin. “Sport is simply a language most young people from the country speak and understand. It is a powerful vehicle to positively impact lives.”
Stockman Rugby delivers a mental health and wellbeing program alongside sport development training to youth in regional and remote areas. The initiative was started by brothers Shaun and Peter Mackin and their close friend, Theresa Acton. After seeing how rugby connected the community in their own town, the trio conceived the idea for a country specific rugby program, using it as a vehicle to deliver mental health support. Founded in 2013 as Queensland Stockman Rugby Union, the group expanded to include members from throughout Australia in 2015.
Stockman Rugby focuses on the personal development of the players involved, but Shaun says the mental health component is non-negotiable. It is an opportunity for teenagers in remote communities to explore common issues on toxic masculinity and other men’s issues in a safe and voluntary environment.
Along with touring, Stockman Rugby also conducts domestic clinics involving Classic Wallabies around country areas. “By having these group discussions, we are challenging the stigma of talking about mental health and wellbeing in a safe environment, challenging players’ own behaviour and what their interpretation of what is and is not acceptable.”
The initiative has been supported by sporting legends including Wallabies John Eales, Mark Ella, Michael O’Connor, Chris Roche, Guy Shepherdson, and former NRL coach Murray Hurst.
“The ultimate measure of this tour’s success will be measured in many ways; the upholding of cultural standards, the victories and losses on the field, the development of players, etcetera,” said Shaun.
“One of the ways we tell the group we measure its success is if in the years to come when individuals from this squad experience their ups and downs, peaks and troughs in life, they pick up the phone and ring someone they toured with and … connect on those deeper issues. That would be our ultimate measure; life changing and potentially life saving.”
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