NRL Welfare officer Murray Hurst.
NRL Welfare officer Murray Hurst.

Hurst’s challenging role with NRL

FORMER Cowboys coach Murray Hurst believes his work as an NRL Wellbeing and Education Manager is just as important as any work he did in the coach's box.

Hurst returned to Townsville this week for the QRL's annual Summer Camp at James Cook University, where more than 150 junior players from across the region are being taken through training sessions and also receiving talks about off field issues facing young people.

Hurst spent nearly eight years at the Cowboys and coached the Cowboys in 35 first-grade games, before being succeeded by the late Graham Murray.

He has spent the vast majority of his life living and breathing rugby league, and in his role at the NRL Hurst knows more than most about the on and off-field pressures facing young rugby league players.

"I manage wellbeing and education for Queensland, and I talk a lot about respect and resilience, and mental health and depression," Hurst said.

"Those are the topical things that I talk about, as well as respectful relationships.

"I'm here this week in a capacity to talk to these young men, and the coaches, about how those things can affect their lives, and the choices they make will make them."

A highly popular and well-respected figure in footy circles, Hurst enjoyed an 88 per cent success rate during his 25-year coaching career, which also included coaching Tonga at the 2000 World Cup.

He is a resilient man, but Hurst readily speaks of the times he was pushed to breaking point during his move into player welfare.

"It is a difficult one because I mentioned mental health and depression," he said.

"My target area is Intrust Super Cup and NRL players coming to it, and we had six suicides a couple of years ago.

"That's when it's really tough to deal with, because I found it difficult not taking everything on board.

"When you do that ultimately it affects you, and by the end of that year I was totally spent.

"I've since learned that I can't solve everyone's problems, but I can facilitate the assistance for them to solve the problems.

"So that's what I do predominantly."

Hurst is confident the rugby league culture is heading in a positive direction.

"At the moment - and touch wood - there's less issues that arise," he said.

"Mind you a lot of the issues are societal issues.

"That's when we hark back to resilience, but I'd like to think the talks and the lectures we're presenting are having a bearing, certainly on the young ones and the parents."

Hurst returned to his Brisbane base yesterday, but says Townsville will always be his second home.

"To come back and see young people who I once coached coming through as coaches as always special, as is catching up with people who I knew from my time here," Hurst said.

"I have a lot friends and acquaintances here in Townsville and North Queensland."

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