Xerri wants to be rock for other NRL stars in bad times

Bronson Xerri has detailed how he wants to become a rock for other NRL players dealing with mental health issues, after making his return from a drugs ban.

Xerri played his first NRL game in four-and-a-half years on Friday night, admitting his return felt far more significant than even his debut at age 18 in 2018.

Banned after testing positive to performance-enhancing drugs when at Cronulla, Xerri has made no secret of the mental health battles that followed.

But the Canterbury centre believes he is now out the other side, and a better person for the four years he spent in exile.

"I'm emotional thinking about it," Xerri said.

"I ran out there (on Friday), took a deep breath and I was extremely grateful. I kind of soaked it all in and said ‘I’m back, this is where I belong’.

"As much as I put myself in that position, I’ve grown so much as a person. I’ve got my close friends and family around me that have helped me over those four years. 

"I want to be that person who can help someone that’s going through adversity or that has mental health issues. 

"I’m always a phone call or a conversation away for anyone at the club."

Xerri's return came on such short notice he was not able to have a pre-match jersey presentation, after winger Blake Wilson was ruled out with illness on Friday.

His mum instead spoke to Bulldogs players and staff after the match, where she was invited to a presentation for Xerri in the Accor Stadium sheds.

"There were some very dark days, so I needed them (my family)," Xerri said. 

"My mum was my rock for the four years. To hear her say a speech after the game was very emotional. 

"She’s the only one who has seen me through the actual dark days.

"She told the club how hard those four years were for me and the family. She’s so proud of me and how resilient I am. 

"I think any 19-year-old who went through what I went through probably wouldn’t come back from that, so I’m proud of myself. 

"I could have put my head down and not had that dream again, but here I am and I’m coming back for more."

Xerri believes he can still reach the same speeds he did at age 18, when he was viewed as one of the fastest players in the competition.

But he is still adapting to a much quicker NRL, with the rules having changed significantly since he was informed of his positive test in May 2020.

Xerri's comeback came on the same night Michael Jennings also made his return from a three-year ban for performance-enhancing drugs when subbed in as 18th man for the Roosters.

"It was crazy because I debuted against him," Xerri said. 

"We all make mistakes in life, and I’s crazy how resilient we are and how we can come back from it."

License this article

What is AAPNews?

For the first time, Australian Associated Press is delivering news straight to the consumer.

No ads. No spin. News straight-up.

Not only do you get to enjoy high-quality news delivered straight to your desktop or device, you do so in the knowledge you are supporting media diversity in Australia.

AAP Is Australia’s only independent newswire service, free from political and commercial influence, producing fact-based public interest journalism across a range of topics including politics, courts, sport, finance and entertainment.

What is AAPNews?
The Morning Wire

Wake up to AAPNews’ morning news bulletin delivered straight to your inbox or mobile device, bringing you up to speed with all that has happened overnight at home and abroad, as well as setting you up what the day has in store.

AAPNews Morning Wire
AAPNews Breaking News
Breaking News

Be the first to know when major breaking news happens.

Notifications will be sent to your device whenever a big story breaks, ensuring you are never in the dark when the talking points happen.

Focused Content

Enjoy the best of AAP’s specialised Topics in Focus. AAP has reporters dedicated to bringing you hard news and feature content across a range of specialised topics including Environment, Agriculture, Future Economies, Arts and Refugee Issues.

AAPNews Focussed Content
Subscription Plans

Choose the plan that best fits your needs. AAPNews offers two basic subscriptions, all billed monthly.

Once you sign up, you will have seven days to test out the service before being billed.

AAPNews Full Access Plan
Full Access
  • Enjoy all that AAPNews has to offer
  • Access to breaking news notifications and bulletins
  • Includes access to all AAPNews’ specialised topics
Join Now
AAPNews Student Access Plan
Student Access
  • Gain access via a verified student email account
  • Enjoy all the benefits of the ‘Full Access’ plan at a reduced rate
  • Subscription renews each month
Join Now
AAPNews Annual Access Plan
Annual Access
  • All the benefits of the 'Full Access' subscription at a discounted rate
  • Subscription automatically renews after 12 months
Join Now

AAPNews also offers enterprise deals for businesses so you can provide an AAPNews account for your team, organisation or customers. Click here to contact AAP to sign-up your business today.

Download the app
Download AAPNews on the App StoreDownload AAPNews on the Google Play Store