Rugby league prodigy Owen Craigie faced many challenges throughout his illustrious career – some good, some not-so-good.
Once labelled the “best naturally talented player I played with” by eighth Immortal Andrew Johns and “the most freakish talent I came across in my junior days” by Danny Buderus, the proud Gomeroi man etched his name in the history books – by representing the Australian Schoolboys in three consecutive years (1994, 1995 and 1996) – and making his NRL first grade debut as a teenager.
A season later, in 1997, he claimed a premiership with the Newcastle Knights.
He then appeared in 153 senior appearances with the Knights, Wests Tigers and the South Sydney Rabbitohs before prematurely retiring due to ongoing injuries.
Unfortunately for Craigie, things took a decidedly turn for the worse.
Gambling, drug and alcohol addictions, as well as depression, sent his life spiralling out of control.
But, when he hit rock bottom just recently, rather than feel sorry for himself, he decided to tackle his demons head-on.
Now, the revitalised 42-year-old is asking people to join him Chase the Energy to improve their mental and physical health.
“I started the concept in March,” Craigie said.
“I was going through a separation and fighting to see my kids; I breached my AVO, which is always a Family Law matter, not Criminal Law.
“However, when I broke it [the AVO], I got charged.
“That meant I had a criminal record – and it scared the hell out of me.
“I just wanted to do something with my kids but got locked up instead.
“They then handed me over to Corrective Services.
“When I got out at 7.30 in the morning, I went straight to court.
“Since then, I haven’t stopped; I’m a bit like the black Forrest Gump.
“I just started running because, at that time, I was bankrupt, broke, my past was haunting me (from the lies I told), and all the hearts I’ve broken over the years.
“Everything piled up on me.
“When I lost my mind, after considering taking my life, I was admitted to the psych ward at John Hunter Hospital and began rehab.
“I was really unwell; people could only see what was happening on the surface.
“I’d been mixing with the wrong crowd so, I knew, I had to change that [situation].
“At the end of the day, I had some good people in my corner, who’ve looked after me.
“I’m forever grateful and thankful for that.”
Oddly enough, something simple, like a social media tag, has provided Craigie with a new lease on life.
“I just did a post one day, at a beach in Newcastle, saying ‘Chase the Energy’,” he said.
“To me, it’s about recharging your batteries, like you recharge your phone – you’re charging your batteries for life.
“I’ve tried many things to get myself well; mentally, physically and spiritually.
“And, the only way to do it was through active exercise.
“I started by walking, then running, jogging and swimming.
“Chase the Energy is a very adaptable thing to be a part of, we’re always changing, especially after COVID-19.
“My purpose is my training; my wires’ my children.”
In the meantime, some big household names have backed Craigie’s initiative, such as The Bachelorette Elly Miles, and NRL stars Andrew Johns, Matty Johns, Jack Johns, Kalyn Ponga, Mitchell Pearce, Kurt Mann, Matthew Gidley, Mark Hughes, Adam Muir, Blake Green, Marc Glanville, Bevan French, Akuila Uate, Bradman Best and many more.
“I’m blown away by all the support. In fact, I’m very humbled by it,” he said.
“At one stage in my life, I didn’t think anyone loved or cared for me because the person I’d loved the most quit on me.
“To be fair, she probably had every reason to do that now, looking back.
“But, I’m clean and sober today.
“I fight very hard to live this lifestyle – it’s my choice what I put in my body and who I hang around with.
“I choose to Chase the Energy.
“It’s now become a mental health movement that’s taken off in 10 countries.
“Lifeline also approached me [to partner] saying they couldn’t get to the people I’m reaching.
“I’ve picked up 11,000 followers in six-seven months.
“And, it’s showing no signs of slowing down.”
Craigie’s future looks extremely bright with many enterprises on the horizon.
That includes setting up a not-for-profit organisation, like the Mark Hughes Foundation; joining forces with Fast Fuel Meals; a clothing brand; setting up a website; public speaking; and tending to those less fortunate.
“I’m really excited by some of the things going on at the moment,” he said.
“We’re doing Chase the Energy Fast Fuel Meals.
“Ten per cent of all sales will go towards the foundation.
“I’ve got Chase the Energy bottles of water and energy drinks coming out, too.
“Then the team at Love Realty in Boolaroo donated a caravan where I’m aiming to feed the homeless twice or three times a week.
“I’ve secured about 60 to 70 volunteers already.
“I’m doing that because I’ve been there myself, I was homeless.
“However, I’m lucky – three of my mates are not with me today.
“I just want to make the world a better place, not only for me, but for my children and everyone else.
“I’m helping up to 40 people a week as well.
“We’ll soon release a song on iTunes, thanks to Sydney rapper Matt (E Zee) Zahra, so stay tuned for that.
“It’s all happening.
“My mantra is ‘stay active, have a healthy lifestyle and activate your mind to live your best life’.
“So, if you’re in trouble, reach out to me.”
You can follow Owen Craigie on Instagram and Facebook, by heading to @owiecraigie, @chasetheenergy, Owen Craigie (FB), Chase the Energy (FB), Chicks Chase the Energy (FB) or visiting Chase the Energy – Sportsclique Shop.
If you need help in a crisis, phone Lifeline on 13 11 14.
For further information about depression, contact beyondblue on 1300 224 636 or talk to your GP, local health professional or someone you trust.