The Victorian rugby league community is mourning the loss of Ray Ertl, who tragically took his own life last week.
Having represented the Melbourne Storm at SG Ball level alongside the likes of current NRL players Young Tonumaipea and Mahe Fonua, Ertl is a huge loss for not only his loving family and daughter but also to Victorian rugby league.
Ertl captained local club the North West Wolves and was an integral member of the Victorian state representative and Australian Combined Affiliated States teams.
Heath Bassett, who played alongside Ertl at both club and state level and worked two different jobs with him, remembered the inspirational hooker as a huge part of the Wolves’ and the state’s rugby league culture.
“He was legitimately the most passionate bloke I’ve ever met,” Bassett told NRL.com.
“He wore his heart on his sleeve no matter what he did whether it was on the field or away from it.”
The Victorian Rugby League released a statement on their Facebook page, noting the positive influence Ertl had on rugby league in the state.
“The rugby league community of Victoria is saddened… from the news of the passing of Ray Ertl,” the statement read.
“Ray’s short life had a positive impact in our community and his friendly, warm and enthusiastic presence will be missed.”
Bassett, who has since moved away from Melbourne, recalled Ertl as a great bloke who would do anything for you at the drop of a hat.
“He was the most genuine bloke I knew. He wouldn’t lie to you, he’d just tell you how it is, and he’d always be the first guy to help you if you needed anything,” Bassett said.
“It is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to deal with. He is a huge loss to everyone. I don’t think he understood how loved he was and if he could see the impact he had on everyone it might have changed what happened. He was a one in a million kind of guy.”
Ertl’s passing has inspired Bassett to be mindful of his other mates’ personal demons while hoping to encourage others that it isn’t weak to speak about your troubles.
Considering suicide in Australia has reached a 10-year peak, with almost seven deaths occurring every day throughout the country, Bassett’s message is sure to hit home with plenty.
“These things are… close to my heart for sure. I’ve been through some pretty bad patches myself where I thought I had depression and have had to go see psychologists. It is something no-one should have to live with by themselves,” Bassett said.
“I definitely, and personally, couldn’t stress enough that there is help out there and there’s definitely plenty of other ways to approach situations surrounding depression and suicide.”
Ertl’s funeral is on this Monday, the 24th November at AJ Davis Reserve in Niddrie. More details can be found on the North West Wolves Facebook page.
If you or someone you know needs help, you can call Lifeline on 13 11 14.