I've been bashed up plenty of times by media and fans over the years. Some of it's obviously been warranted, some of it not so much. But what it's done during that time, it's hardened me and made me a whole lot more insensitive to criticism these days.
These days, if I hear a story about me that's negative, I use it as a bit of trigger. It spurs me on. I've been around a fair while and know how it works. It can turn around from one week to the next. One week, you can be absolutely hammered for something and the next week, you are revered as a hero.
For me now, I laugh at criticism most of the time. As long as it is not abusive and someone is just offering an opinion on the way I've played or whatever, I just don't let it bother me. But it can be tough for a lot of players and particularly young guys and I'd like to think with mental health such a big thing, the media and fans understand that.
When I was younger, I let the criticism get to me. I was someone who used to put a lot of pressure on myself. I remember my second game in first grade when I was 17 at the Roosters. We were playing against Manly and I'd gone okay but towards the end, I came up with a couple of bad mistakes in a close game that cost us.
One was a bad pass and I remember coming home and struggling to come to terms with the mistake and battling to sleep that night. We had an oval out the back near our house and I went out there and was practised my passing and kicking in the middle of the night, stewing over things. Dad ended up coming out and saying 'what are you doing, don't worry about and go to bed'. There was a story in the paper the next day about how I'd stuffed up that only made it worse after I read it.
I guess the moral here is no-one knows better than me what that sort of stuff can do to players, particularly young players and it's a lot worse now because there are so many mediums these days for so-called fans and critics to have a crack and really get personal. My advice to players, particularly the young guys, is to ignore it. Don't read it. Stay away from it.
From the media side of rugby league, I now see it for what it is. It promotes the game and can help players in that regard and keep fans informed and there is always some good to go with the bad. You live with the bad and provided it is not abusive and personal, I don't have a problem. People are watching our game, people are talking about us, people are interested - that's a big part of why we are in a position to be playing professionally and doing what we love. Everyone has an opinion and good and bad stories are going to be written either way. If you do something that's controversial as I've learnt a few times over the years, it's going to get reported but I don't take it personally now.
Where I do draw the line is the racial taunts which Latrell Mitchell and Blake Ferguson have had to deal with. The racist stuff is vile and the grubs on social media who take that way too far, I'm all for the NRL and the police going after them and getting rid of them.
My advice to players, particularly the young guys, is to ignore it. Don't read it. Stay away from it.
Even our best young player, Kalyn Ponga, is not immuned to copping it on social media apparently after having a laugh with Eels players after our loss. I have a confession to make. So was I. I had a yarn and probably smiled a few times with Clint Gutherson and Michael Jennings after the game. That sort of chat is natural after a loss or win these days and while I can appreciate the perception, the reality is it's got nothing to do with what happens in the games and how much players care.
I remember hearing stories back in the old days of players being filthy after a loss but they'd be back in the rival's shed for beers, respecting each others company after competing against each other. For those who think the guys don't care enough after defeats, we had blokes crying in the shed after the game last weekend. That just about says it all.