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What I learnt from Joe Williams

Joe Williams

I remember back in my refereeing days coming across a cheeky and talented half back Joe Williams as he came through the lower grades at the Sydney Roosters. This was now over ten years ago and as Joe says as we greeted recently “we all take our different turns in life but we all end up in the places we are meant to”. I guess we were destined to meet again.

Joe had all the tools for a quality first grade halfback; he could read a game, create opportunities for team mates and had a great kicking game. The son of the talented bush footy player Wilfred William who also played a few years in the Winfield Cup, Joe set about on his own path and ended up playing 49 first grade games for South Sydney, Penrith and Canterbury.

He’s the first to admit given his level of talent that he probably under achieved, someone of his talent probably should of played 200 plus first grade games.

From the outside looking in as a fan of the NRL, you would have never known of Joe’s struggles off the field with his mental health. We all assume that these professional footballers have the glamour life, money, parties, fast car and women to fulfil all their desires.

As a little bloke playing a big man’s game the brutality no doubt has to leave some effect. Joe revealing he first got concussed as a 13 year old boy a situation which led to negative voices he would describe in his head which would leave him looking for a way out. Over time he would be diagnosed as Bipolar & attempt to take his own life as he struggled with everything he was dealing with.

Thank God he didn’t as we wouldn’t have the man we see today, a man full of courage and willing to help all in the community.

I was fortunate to spend some time with Joe as he shared with me his story and efforts now to spread awareness on mental health across Australia and America.

My conversation with Joe has some inspirational messages for you to reflect.

Listen to the entire episode on the player below or continue for my key takeaways from his journey.


“I never hold regrets, whenever you’re in these times of regret or look at the time of your regret, if you think of the exact time you make a decision, at the time it was the decision you wanted to make”

For me everything happens for the reason, the more we hold onto mistakes from the past the less chance of us moving forward. Yeah it hurts, but as Joe says it was what we wanted at the time. The important thing is too learn from it and try to make better choices as we evolve.

Joe Williams


“My work ethic was poor; I got picked for a NSW Catholic rep team on a letter. I was injured because I played the year before my parents wrote a letter. There were players who played out of their skin at the carnival that never got picked. I was gifted a lot because of natural ability. I thought it was all going to come off the back of that”

As you can see there is no substitute for hard work. It’s an important element that mixed with talent can lead to success. Speaking to all these amazing athletes the main message I receive is you need to be ready for opportunity, not try to get ready after the opportunity arises.

Joe Williams



“My mum said I don’t care what you give him, the club who gives my son the best education is going to get him. That’s the best thing that ever happened to me. Mum recognised the need to break the cycle; Mum and Dad never finished school. I went to Marcelin College and not a cent came out of my parent’s pocket. I was so lucky my mum saw that”

An interesting stance when most parents these days prioritise money, but you can’t beat a strong education to begin your journey. But it doesn’t finish there; you need to continue to push yourself to learn everyday through listening to talks, podcasts, reading some great books, the need to continue to learn and evolve has to be a priority.


“I’m lucky that the people I was working with at the time they gave me a 24 hour rule. When I’m in these manic episodes, when I think things are amazing and I have a grand idea, I sit on it for 24 hours. Now I have the ability, even though I want to do it, I’ve got to sit on it”

Even though Joe was describing how he deals with his Bipolar, I think its incredible advice for anyone. I can’t count the amount of times I’ve rushed into something without thinking things through. While I’m a big believer in taking action, the 24 hour rule is a great one for reflection on the actions we are about to take.

Joe Williams


“Speaking is medicine. I’m lucky I get to tell my story to hundreds of people every day this is my purpose. I tell people every day, when you’re in these moments you have to talk about it because talking helps you. Not only is it going to keep you alive but it’s therapeutic for you”

Being silent; I think we can all be guilty of doing this at stages. For us guys we sometimes let our ego’s get in the way. The need to talk and let things off our mind is an incredible tool which I’ve been told time and time again as the critical element of dealing with negative thoughts.

Joe Williams


“The book “The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle teaches you to live in the present and when we are in the present we are the safest. When I was on the Rugby League field I was thinking of nothing but that, I was in the present, in the boxing ring if I was thinking about something else I would have got knocked out. I always though why do I always feel so good on the footy field or boxing ring, it was because I was present. We live in our head to much thinking about the past. Thinking about the past causes depression while anxiety is living in the future, it’s all about the what if’s, so anxiety and depression are on two sides of the scale”

I was lent the Power of Now by my friend last year and couldn’t agree with Joe more. I’m the biggest culprit of both thinking in the past and the living in the future. Its great advice of staying in the present and letting our lives flow a natural path.

Joe Williams


“My parents couldn’t afford doctors, so I started to learn to live with things like gratitude, being grateful, having love for everyone else and myself, humility, empathy for everyone; everyone acts a way for a reason”

One of my favourite and most effective things for controlling my moods and giving me substance is Gratitude. A simple things I learnt from both Mark Mathews and Joel Thompson was the simple things of writing down 3 things I’m grateful for everything morning. Do it yourself and try to make it a habit. For me now I’m up to 5-6 things daily I’m grateful for and goals and daily tasks I want to achieve. From personal experience Gratitude is a game changer, which costs nothing and has massive effect.


“The thing is it’s not that we want to upset everyone else’s day for Australia Day; we want to be part of it too”

I one hundred percent back the moves to have Australia Day moved from January 26. I’ve had arguments with close friends about it as I don’t think they understand the need why to change. As Joe points out Indigenous people want to be part of Australia Day too. Given the history of what has happened on this particular day, I see it as no issue to move Australia Day so we can unite as a nation. We have only celebrated as a whole nation on this day since 1994, our country lacks history and given it is seen as the day of Invasion, I feel it is a respectful move to the original owners of the land to change the date.

Joe Williams

Joe is a tremendous speaker so I encourage you to see him speak live. Be sure to continue to follow Joe on his journey:



​Plenty to reflect on and inspire you to continue to pursue your dreams and goals, I would love to hear your thoughts on any of the topics from the article so drop me a line at



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