State of Mind: Masoe’s return home shows need for empathy

Last week’s State of Mind round had the theme of ‘What’s Theirs’, a slogan intended to raise awareness of other people and how they are feeling.

The round coincided partially with the news that Mose Masoe was leaving St Helens, and returning to the NRL with the St George-Illawarra Dragons.

Masoe seems to have been something of a divisive figure during his time in the UK with St Helens.

While many have repsonded positively to the big man’s obvious charisma and ability, others have chosen to snipe at his apparent lack of effort and quality.

The big Samoan probably didn’t respect Super League enough as a competition when he first arrived over here, and clearly needed to get fitter.

But he has undoubtedly improved since then, and still manages to produce entertaining moments like his ‘quarterback pass’ against Leeds.

It was therefore revealing to hear some audio this week in which Masoe revealed that his real reason for leaving Saints was so that he could see his young son again.

“It was for family reasons, I’ve got a son back in Australia,” he said.

“I got to spend the Christmas period with him for six weeks while he had his school holidays. It made me want to be a dad.

“We tried to get him over last year, but his visa got declined.

“Mike Rush and the club have been helping me out a lot. We went to court to try and get him over here, but that’s the law.

“I pretty much said to Rushy that I was looking to go home after that. It took a whole year to get to court.

“He’s seven now, so he’s getting older. He needs a guide there, like a father figure, to point him in the right way, otherwise I might lose him, in some way.

“That’s the reason I really wanted to go home.

“I’m going to miss the club, they’ve been good to me and my family, so it was a tough decision to go home.

“You can always get another job, but you can’t get another family.”

Predictably, the cynics and keyboard warriors have been out in force, decrying his apparent reasons, and asserting that he was a useless player anyway, who was always going back  to Australia, and good riddance.

It would be nice to see these people apply their own high standards to themselves, in work and in life. In manners, too.

Empathy is a quality which is decried and unfashionable these days, from the highest ranks of government downwards.

Yet it is empathy, the ability to see another’s situation and understand it, which is so vital to team sport. And not just team sport, but also the mental health of the wider community.

This has been brought home to me on a very personal level this year, with the death of my partner of 10 years, Cathy, to breast cancer, at the end of April.

Simply carrying on was almost impossible at times, but thanks to the empathy and understanding of others I have been able to remain functional, despite the grief.

Many times, what did not help was the sneering or sniping of people who did not know what had happened, whether in a professional or personal capacity.

What someone shows in public is merely a surface impression of their life.

So, to bring this blog to its concluding point, in rugby league, in life, empathy is key to a healthy community.

After State of Mind, everyone should take a little more time to ask, “What’s theirs?” and then act accordingly, with sensitivity and understanding.

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