Former Huddersfield Giants player Paul Whatuira has lifted the lid on a troubled past as he begins to put his life back together.
In a revealing interview with Rugby League Week magazine, Whatuira has explained how the prospect of fatherhood shortly after defeat in the Challenge Cup final with Huddersfield began a dark chain of events in his life.
Whatuira, a former NRL Grand Final winner during his career, is now hoping his story will help others through similarly dark periods of their life.
“For some reason, expecting to be a father triggered memories of my childhood and all the skeletons started to come out of my closet,” he began.
“My parents did their best to raise me, but I was surrounded by alcohol, drug abuse and domestic violence. Then at the age of six I was molested by a 12-year-old boy.
“That was when I was at Huddersfield in 2009, and I went down a six-month spiral suffering from depression, which led into seven days of hell without sleep. I was terrified … my past demons were hitting me left, right and centre.
“It was then I started to hear voices, telling me to kill my partner at the time, Vanessa, and our unborn child, Gabrielle.
“They were in real danger and I had to get away, so I checked into a hospital. The same day, the voices became more powerful and were telling me to take myself out of this misery.
“I broke out of the hospital filled with rage and anger, and that’s when the assaults took place.
“Fear brought out jealousy and hatred and it was then I assaulted these people.
“I was tasered by the police and taken to a secure unit where I was locked in for four weeks on heavy medication and under surveillance 24/7.
“I feel terrible about the assaults and feel sympathy for the victims, but I had no control over my actions and I’ve learnt to forgive myself and to move forward.
“In the end, I wasn’t convicted because under the Mental Health Act in England I was labelled mentally unwell.”
Whatuira paid credit to Huddersfield for the way they stood by him, but eventually forced to retire, he then attempted to take drastic measures to try end his suffering.
“I tried to play on at Huddersfield, who were great to me, but I was heavily sedated. I had to retire,” he said.
“I had been on heavy medication for five years since the 2009 episode. I felt they were poisoning my body, but in truth they were poisoning my mind.
“I believed the world was against me. I cut all ties with my family and friends and lived alone in a bubble, hiding away in fear.
“I regularly thought about ending my life. Twice I tried. After four years of marriage, me and Vanessa decided to go our separate ways. She loved and cared for me, but how could I love her back when I couldn’t love myself?
“It was then I turned to drugs. My choice of drug was cocaine. In my apartment by myself, for two months I abused my body.
“I needed help badly. I called Aunty Chrissy (former West Tigers teammate Bronson Harrison’s mum) and she was the only person I trusted.
“She was great throughout. We talked and I stopped with the cocaine experience. It was then I started to make decisions for my own good once again.
“I began to learn how my own mind worked and starting educating myself, reading endless self-help books, completing well-being courses and surrounding myself with positive people and reconnecting with family friends and former teammates.
“I understood when I isolated myself that loneliness is toxic and I had five years of toxic thoughts.”
But now Whatuira works for Wests Tigers as their education and welfare officer, and he now wants to give back to society by sharing his story in the hope it will help others.
“My story is not pretty, It’s raw but real and I feel it’s important to let people know how I was – and that no matter how bad things are, there’s always hope.
“If I can just reach out and help one young player or a person in our society, I feel I’ve done my job.”