Sharks' Talakai overcomes depression

Cronulla's Siosifa Talakai has learned how to deal with the pressures of being an NRl player.
Cronulla's Siosifa Talakai has learned how to deal with the pressures of being an NRl player.

In-form Cronulla forward Siosifa Talakai has detailed his fight with depression after failing to handle the pressure of the NRL during a stint at South Sydney.

In a raw reflection on his brief career to date, Talakai described his struggles during his third season at the Rabbitohs and said he was on the cusp of giving rugby league away.

The 23-year-old has won over a new fan base at the Sharks with his performances since the competition restart and this week accepted a one-season contract extension.

His renewed love of the game is a world away from when he exited Redfern midway through 2018, having failed to get a single game under Anthony Seibold.

"I started to crack under pressure at Souths and at other clubs. It was too big for me to handle at the time," he said.

"Pressure is just things like outside noise and a few things within yourself.

"Having to perform each week and be on top of your game. I guess that's what got to me the most.

"It was just catching up with me. Every week kept topping it off and it ended up biting me in the arse."

Talakai admits he was depressed.

A condition that improved minimally when he joined Penrith, where he still couldn't get a first-grade game in the latter half of the 2018 season.

Without another career to target, he was nevertheless ready to walk away last year before a chat with father Tali and mother Suli, the Tongan parents he still lives with in Mascot.

"The biggest thing was mum and dad," he said.

"They've done a lot for me growing up, especially in footy, driving me two hours, three hours to footy comps and what not.

"I was in the balance between playing and not playing. Talking to them turned it around."

A Canterbury Cup stint with Newtown led to the opportunity this season at Cronulla, where Talakai believes he has matured and learned to accept support from teammates.

His biggest influence has been skipper Wade Graham.

"If I get something wrong on the field, he'll always be there to guide me," Talakai said.

"He's taken me under his wing for sure. I'm grateful to learn as much as I can under him.

"I can deal with the pressure now and I've got the support that I need."

Australian Associated Press