The Next Chapter: Keith Mason
My playing career came to an end in 2013. I retired at 31 after playing top level Rugby League in the UK and Australia for 15 years.
What I didn’t anticipate was the struggle I’d ultimately go through after leaving the game I’d devoted my life to.
I struggled and ended up questioning my whole existence, which led to a bout of depression. I was in massive debt, lost two houses, became homeless, lost my driving licence and was struggling to see my kids. It came to a point where I knew it was give up or re-invent myself.
I had done some acting and appearing in a film (A Hitman in London, 2015) alongside my good friend Mickey Rourke gave me a new focus in life.
It was also around that time that I met my current partner, Riona. She inspired me to believe in myself again.
I was also asked to go and speak to an former player who had attempted suicide. I could see similarities between my struggles and his, and I wanted to show him that rugby formed only a part of his life.
Sadly, this young man lost his battle with depression. When I found out it made me want to reach out to other players in a hope that I could make a difference.
It was his death that inspired me to come up with a concept that could relate to all players, past and present, not just in rugby and sport but in all areas of life.
Rugby Blood started as a film script, written by myself and [scriptwriter, director] Ben Von Cronos, but I didn’t want to stop at a film. I wanted it to be bigger, to have a bigger impact.
So I decided to find an artist who could help me create the first ever rugby comic. Together with Paul Roper we brought it to life.
By using real players in the comic I wanted to be able to connect with the audience and make the players the heroes.
Not only will it raise their profile, I also wanted it to raise awareness about the real struggles athletes go through.
The Super League players who will be staring in ‘Rugby Blood Origins’ are:
Luther Burrell (Warrington Wolves), Daryl Clark (Warrington Wolves), Jake Connor (Hull FC), Konrad Hurrell (Leeds Rhinos), Jermaine McGillvary (Huddersfield Giants), Mark Percival (St Helens) and Jake Trueman (Castleford Tigers).
Rugby Blood’s central character is David King. King’s life is based on my own story, with a hero twist.
He is a professional rugby league star and entrepreneur who is thrust into a deadly game when his family is kidnapped and held for ransom.
He goes on a blood-fuelled rampage to save them - will he succeed, or will his family’s fate be sealed?
Rugby Blood will also feature athletes from other sports. Former world champion boxer, Joe Calzaghe, features in the second instalment, called ‘Shot Clock’, which is set in New York.
My aim is to make clear to the next generation of rugby players, athletes and everyday people that one chapter of your life doesn’t define the whole story.
When one door closes, as it did to me, you have to work hard, dedicate yourself and make sacrifices to open a new door. Write your own next chapter.
Rugby Blood is available to purchase from various outlets including Amazon.