Australian Rugby
Ben Tune reveals battle with depression
ESPN Staff
May 12, 2013
Ben Tune reaches out to score the opening try for Australia during a 38-37 Tri Nations win over South Africa at the Gabba, July 27 2002
Ben Tune scored 24 Test tries for Australia © Getty Images

Former Queensland Reds and Wallabies star Ben Tune has revealed he attempted to take his own life during a two-year battle with depression and drug addiction following his retirement in 2007.

Tune, the winger who scored the match-winning try for Australia in the Rugby World Cup 1999 final against France, struggled to adapt to life with sport after he retired in 2007. He was involved in a serious car crash soon after retirement, and he told Rugby Gold that the following back surgery left him in agony that exacerbated a burgeoning addiction to painkillers.

Tune, now 36, told Rugby Gold that he went "doctor shopping" in search of new scripts each week, and that, in early 2009, he took 80 painkillers, washed down with bourbon, in the space of an hour. "Doctors told him he should have died that night," Rugby Gold reported on Sunday. "He is not cured, never will be, but Tune has had a just the rare glass of wine during the past three years and has placed himself on a database that precludes him from buying another painkiller."

"No one, no matter how strong the person is, can beat this illness on their own"

Tune told Rugby Gold: "Looking back, the depression, the illness was always there. Playing sport at a high level camouflages depression. You have these amazing things to look forward to each week. Each off-season I would get down. When I retired it overwhelmed me."

Tune said he wanted to speak about his illness to help to alleviate the stigma attached to depression among males, especially those who participate in contact sport. The death of young North Queensland Cowboys hooker Alex Elisala in April, the third NRL player in seven months to take his own life, prompted Tune to come forward.

"No one, no matter how strong the person is, can beat this illness on their own," Tune said. "I think part of the issue about awareness is that quite a number of people suffer 'mild' depression from time to time, depending on circumstances they have been through. Just because a lot of people have depression ... they shouldn't downplay how serious chronic depressive illness is."

© ESPN Australia / New Zealand

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