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Sydney Roosters fullback James Tedesco.

With every injury setback, a young James Tedesco's mental wellbeing plummeted lower.

A ruptured ACL on debut for the Wests Tigers in 2012 was followed by a cracked fibula and a fractured kneecap in the next two seasons.

The luckless fullback began to question if he was cut out to play footy for a living.

"There were times where I was pretty low coming back in those years, getting injured and having lots of surgeries," Tedesco, a Ken Stephen Medal nominee, told

"My mental health was probably down so I had people that I used to talk with to help me get through that."

Now the incumbent NSW and Australian custodian, a premiership winner and arguably the world's best player, the Roosters superstar's perseverance has been duly rewarded.

But Tedesco still remembers those dark times, and so he joined Headspace's "headcoach" campaign last year to assist those struggling.

Injured Wests Tigers fullback James Tedesco.
Injured Wests Tigers fullback James Tedesco. ©NRL Photos

Openly sharing his battles via an initial two-minute video, Tedesco's story has resonated with many.

"It's personal for me … I think promoting [mental health awareness] through my career and my [headcoach] page will help people," he said, adding that he's currently working on another Headspace campaign.

"A lot of kids I run into tell me how much videos I've sent in have helped them. That's really cool."

Tedesco finishes off Roosters classic

Tedesco is also a patron for the Sporting Chance Cancer Foundation, an organisation which financially supports mobile aid units that make life easier for children living with cancer in regional areas.

The 26-year-old has donated signed merchandise to be auctioned off for the foundation, attended fundraising events and visited Westmead Hospital to lift the spirits of families affected by the dreaded disease.

"It's something that I've found was important to be involved with as a charity and I really like how well they run the organisation and how well they do to help out families," Tedesco said.

"It is confronting but you go in [to the hospital] with them and they have a smile on their face and are just happy to see me and have people visiting them.

"It definitely puts your life in perspective. I meet kids that are going through cancer at such a young age and they've still got a smile on their face. It's pretty special to see that."

Fame hasn't changed Tedesco, who enjoys returning to his roots in Camden to repay those who contributed to his success.

"I still try to back there to see family, friends and people who helped me as a kid growing up," he said.

"We do have a busy schedule [as NRL players] but there is lots of time with days off and time to get out and help as much as we can."

NSW Blues fullback James Tedesco.
NSW Blues fullback James Tedesco. ©Grant Trouville/NRL Photos

Tedesco stopped by his alma mater St Gregory's College this year to present jerseys to the school's rugby league team and give a pre-game speech.

It was an experience that showed Tedesco the power in his public profile.

"[When] I come back to my old team or my old school, [I see] how much those kids look up to me," he said.

"I'm just an old boy – that's where I went to school, so I was thinking of coming back and helping out as much as I can.

"I try to be as best a role model as I can off the field."

Tedesco is quietly pleased to have been put forward by the Roosters for the Ken Stephen Medal as a result of his community work.

"To be recognised is pretty humbling. You don't do it for awards but to be nominated for an award like this is pretty special," he said.


The 2019 Ken Stephen Medal is proudly supported by wealth, property and well-being consultancy, One Solutions.

Help is available 24/7 for anyone who has mental health issues by calling Lifeline Australia on 13 11 14

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