Eel’s eerie premonition: ‘What if it ends tomorrow?’
ONLY when Ryan Matterson had everything did he really start to worry.
It was about a year ago.
Back when this rising NRL backrower was fresh off a Roosters premiership, had signed a lucrative Wests Tigers deal and was also being hyped as a potential NSW Origin bolter.
Overnight, Captain Everywhere.
Which is when a worrying truth hit him.
"All my life, the dream was to play NRL," Matterson recalled. "My dad played first grade, my uncle, and now here I was with everything I'd ever wanted.
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"So this one day, I was catching up with some mates. Footballers who played lower grades and still worked as tradies.
"And I remember thinking 'so what would happen to me if this all ends tomorrow?'.
"The problem with becoming totally reliant on being an NRL player, eventually it's going to disappear.
"And so what happens then? Do you hit rock bottom?
"We've definitely seen it happen before.
"While there's going to be an end point for everyone, some don't start preparing for that until it happens."
So at 24, Matterson started preparing for life without footy.
A truth which, ironically, he now wakes to every morning.
Which is why this latest instalment of The Daily Telegraph's 'A Day In Isolation With …', it comes with a twist.
Specifically, Matterson asking we skip his backyard workouts and instead focus on those 30 minutes afterwards - when this Eels recruit embarks on daily 'mindfulness' sessions with club welfare manager Jason Stewart.
Every morning, Matterson connects with Stewart for a conversation that always begins with the pair listing three things they're grateful for.
Importantly, said calls aren't simply part of some new lockdown routine, but instead the latest chapter in a year-long journey that also sees this Wentworthville product meditating, consulting a sports psychologist and studying a Community Services Diploma
Eventually, Matterson wants to become a Holistic Health Coach.
His aim, to help "put all the pieces together physically and mentally" for those in need.
Better, the back-rower says he is receiving strong support from a Parramatta club that, despite standing down almost all staff, have retained all welfare officers and the club psychologist.
Every Eels player also has access to Calm, an iPhone app with teachings on everything from meditation and yoga to breathing exercises.
"Right now, I've got rugby league in my life," Matterson explained. "Have everything I ever wanted.
"But what if that disappears?
"No matter what is happening externally, we all need to learn ways to stay at our best.
"So that's what I'm working on.
"Like with this coronavirus situation, I can't change it. Just as I can't the fact my partner Jessica's job is in limbo, either.
"But I also understand there's a lot of people far worse off than us.
"So that's why I'm focusing on what I can control.
"Which means not only isolating, but also focusing on ways to improve.
"Despite everything that's going on right now, his is actually the most positive I've been in a long time."
Originally published as Eel's eerie premonition: 'What if it ends tomorrow?'