Monday June 1, 8pm on ABC
Introduced by Waleed Aly
It’s a story from the pages of a boy’s own magazine. A teenager with a troubled background breaks into his state’s biggest and most successful NRL team straight out of high school and wins a premiership in his debut season.
Without a father, and with his mother institutionalised, he follows his mentor, Wayne Bennett, the most decorated coach in the game, to one of the most famous clubs in the land and ends their thirty year premiership drought.
He goes on to win virtually every honour the sport has to offer, breaking records along the way. Then one fateful evening, a tragic accident opens the floodgates to years of unhappiness and depression, culminating in a well-publicised breakdown and separation from his wife. Welcome to the world of Darius Boyd.
“For all of his talent and for all of his success, he was a hard player for supporters to relate to, because they felt like they didn't know him” says journalist Brett Keeble.
“I got in a bubble of negativity and I just couldn’t get out. It was like a spiral that got worse and worse.” - Darius Boyd
Infamous for a 42 second monosyllabic interview that reporters ended in disgust, Darius Boyd has always shunned the media spotlight which makes his appearance on Australian Story all the more remarkable.
In a candid, revealing and ultimately uplifting episode he speaks on television for the first time about how he doesn’t know who his father is, his mother’s battle with mental illness, his own battle with depression and how football first became his saviour and then his worst enemy.
Wayne Bennett, his only club coach, became the father that Darius never knew. Their relationship transcends the sport. “You admire those that battle so hard to get somewhere and obviously he’d had a battle.” “I could see the change in him after about a week (in rehab) - how much happier he was in himself,” says Bennett. "He was my star player, one of the many we’d kind of lost and I thought, God Darius, I should be here with you, what am I doing visiting you?”
“I think, you know, we talk about courage on the football field, but… it takes a lot of courage off the field, to be able to put up your hand and say ..I've got some problems in my life” - Wendell Sailor
His wife Kayla reveals how Darius fell out of love with rugby league and how unresolved issues from his past put pressure on their relationship.”We’d go back to an after-function and he’d sit there and he’d just look down at the ground or he’d look at the TV... it affected our marriage, like, massively, like everything that could tear a marriage apart happened.” (Kayla Boyd)
Darius also details how the incident that left his best friend Alex McKinnon in a wheelchair was the final straw that caused him to realise he needed help. “It was like a spiral that got worse and worse and I never got on top of it until it was too late,” he says. “Kayla left and it was probably what woke me up and I just needed a change, I needed to change myself.”
In a remarkable redemption story, Darius emerges from rehab a happier, changed man. He reconciles with both his wife and mother, reunites with Wayne Bennett at the Brisbane Broncos and plays in the winning Queensland State of Origin team. And in a happy postscript, he and Kayla are expecting a baby the day after the Grand Final in October.