RUGBY League legend Nathan Hindmarsh touched down in Wagga to talk to the city’s youngsters on Tuesday – but it wasn’t football he was here to talk about.
Mr Hindmarsh, a Parramatta Eels club legend, was instead in Wagga to talk to youths about the disastrous impact problem gambling can have on their lives and those around them.
In his autobiography released three years ago, Mr Hindmarsh came clean about his struggles with gambling that saw him lose more than $200,000 on poker machines in six years, and on Tuesday he came to Wagga to spread his message to prevent others from falling into the same trap.
“I thought I was strong enough to do it myself but that wasn’t the case and that was the frustrating thing,” he said.
The main piece of advice he had for the youngsters at Tuesday’s event at the Wagga PCYC was to be open about their gambling issues with others.
“It wasn’t until I spoke to my partner, sought professional help, spoke to my teammates that things became a lot easier for me to overcome,” Mr Hindmarsh said. Tuesday’s gambling awareness event was organised to promote Responsible Gambling Awareness Week, which runs until Sunday.
Event organiser Julie McDermott, a gambling help counsellor at Wagga Family Support, said the message wasn’t that gambling was evil or wrong, but that it must be done in a responsible manner.
“Gambling at its best form is meant to be a paid form of entertainment, just like going to the movies or going out for a meal,” she said.
“That’s all it was meant to be – it wasn’t ever meant to be something that would make you feel like a hero or make you a fortune. It’s just meant to be a form of fun.”
Ms McDermott said today’s kids were more in danger of falling prey to gambling than previous generations due to the proliferation of advertising – particularly on television and the internet.
“I think it’s certainly going to become a (problem) if we’re not careful, only due to the amount of promotion that goes into gambling and the glorification of it,” she said.
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