What few people know about was the terrifying moment in Paris soon after when Youngquest suffered a seizure while walking along the Champs-Elysees. He was unconscious and frothing from the mouth before waking up with five paramedics standing over the top of him.
“I’ve never really openly discussed that because I played on the wing,” he said. “People think, ‘Hang on, mate, you were only a winger’. I never had any major concussions but it’s all those little knocks that are probably the worst, because you keep on playing. It was more or less like what Andrew Johns has described about his seizures: really vivid deja vu that is so deep that it’s scary.”
Youngquest, 36, is opening up about his life post-football to promote his Athletes 4 Life (A4L) initiative, which helps sportspeople of all codes transition into retirement through running marathons.
He’s getting a team together for the Sydney Marathon in September this year, and has already recruited former NRL players Ben Ross and Joe Williams, who have both talked publicly about their struggles in retirement.
“When you walk out the door after your last game, your life as you know it ceases to exist,” said Youngquest, who played 114 first-grade matches including stints at the Sharks, Dragons and Panthers. “Nobody’s written on the board what you have to do today, nobody is organising your life, your jersey isn’t folded…
“I had times when I felt worthless and helpless. I was nowhere near as bad as others, but it existed. What helped me was running.
“We want to create this network or pathway for athletes, men and women, to reconnect with their athletic identity through running. I’ll never win a marathon but I am racing against myself.”
Youngquest has completed six marathons, from New York to Berlin, and wants to take the A4L initiative global, too.
“We want to be as inclusive as possible,” he said. “We’ll build teams of people, from all sports, to participate. If athletes can’t run because of injuries from their playing days, we’ll use them in ambassador roles.”
As for his seizures, Youngquest says they’ve been kept in check with medication and a healthy lifestyle. Like Williams and other rugby league players, he says he’ll donate his brain for the purposes of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) research.
“I’ve had EEG tests and MRIs and they show nothing,” he said. “But with all the information my doctor has collected, she’s certain it stems from too many brain injuries.”
More info: www.athletesforlife.com.au.
One for the Bunny, two for the show
Latrell Mitchell and Wayne Bennett went to great lengths earlier this week to tell us that the 22-year-old international didn’t sign with South Sydney “for the money”.
Those remarks pricked a few ears at Belmore. Mitchell’s management reached out to the Bulldogs last week about them making a last-minute offer — but the club didn’t have the salary cap space. The club is still fighting with the NRL for cap relief for the chronically injured Kieran Foran.
The comments also pricked a few ears at the Roosters, who distinctly remember Mitchell being unhappy with their offer of a $1.6 million, two-year extension on his current deal because it wasn’t enough.
There’s nothing wrong nor greedy about doing it “for the money”, but let’s get real: Mitchell wanted $1 million a year out of the Roosters and went shopping when they weren’t prepared to pay him that.
What he and his coterie of agents and advisers completely misread was how Roosters chairman Nick Politis was going to react.
Politis knew when reports linking Mitchell to Souths surfaced in May last year what the asking price would be and was adamant he wouldn’t be entertaining seven figures. He was furious when he learned Mitchell had met with the Bulldogs during the finals.
When the extension was quickly rejected, the Roosters pulled their offer and Mitchell’s days at the club were over. So it sorta was about money.
But we can move past all that now. Mitchell’s arrival at Redfern, to play fullback and not centre, adds a fascinating dimension to the upcoming season.
There are doubts about him being fit enough to play fullback, but he’s already impressed many at training with his skill, speed and agility.
You can see it a mile off: Mitchell starting the season sluggishly, struggling in a position he’s barely played at NRL level; the critics questioning the decision as we do; social media lighting up as it does; rumours starting about an unhappy squad as June 30 nears and players are moved out to accommodate Mitchell’s big, fat contract extension …
And then Mitchell lights up, fending and swatting away defenders with ease, scoring tries at will as our heads fill with the notion of a Roosters-Rabbitohs grand final.
Then Bennett will look at all of us with contempt, shake his head and say: “Told you so”.
Was there a portent of things to come in race four at Maitland greyhounds on Thursday afternoon when the Allen Williams-trained Latrell to Excel jumped out of the No.1 box as the $2.50 favourite?
After missing the start, the two-year-old ran second to Gilded Lady. In another interesting parallel, Latrell to Excel has now gone winless in his past nine starts since winning back-to-back races last July.
V’landys on the clock
ARL Commission chairman Peter V’landys created a stir at a Magic Millions function on the Gold Coast when he told the room he would decide within a year between rugby league or racing.
In his day job, V’landys is chief executive of Racing NSW and plenty of questions have been asked from stakeholders in both sports about his ability to juggle the two roles.
“I’ll decide in the next 12 months,” V’landys told the room, according to several people at the function. “If I see that I can’t do both, I will have to make a decision.”
He confirmed the comment when contacted but declined to elaborate.
His contract with Racing NSW finishes in a year, having taken over from Peter Beattie as ARLC chairman in October last year.
The first order of business for V’landys when he returns from holidays will be the future of NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg, who is off contract in October.
This column understands that Greenberg has just enough support on the board — including from V’landys — to have his contract extended.
Rugby union and rugby league have been pinching players from each other for more than a hundred years. Rugby Australia had a different sort of code swap over summer when it secured former Roosters junior Casey Conway as its Head of Diversity and Inclusion.
Proudly gay and Indigenous, Conway had been filling a similar role across the carpark at the NRL. It’s a positive appointment for RA off the back of the Israel Folau saga.
“Rugby Australia values the importance of diversity and inclusion so I’m excited to be joining them on their journey in continuing to make rugby a sport that can be enjoyed by everyone,” Conway said. “With programs and community initiatives that encourage participation and social inclusion, rugby understands the benefits that go beyond having fun on the field.”
“The cut on his head came from a punch he gave himself after practice to get his guys fired up.” — ESPN reveals how livewire LSU coach Ed Orgeron inspired his team before their incredible national college championship win over Clemson … by literally giving himself an upper-cut.
Rugby league, is there anything you can’t do? The Royal Family is in disarray, but Prince Harry will take time out from his stink with his brother and the Queen and whoever else to front up at Buckingham Palace to conduct the draw for the 2021 Rugby League World Cup.
Houston Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager AJ Hinch have been suspended by the MLB, and were then sacked by the club, for an elaborate sign-stealing scheme. Rightfully so, LA Dodgers fans are howling about the 2017 World Series.
It’s a big weekend for …
the Australian one-day team as it takes on India on Friday night in the second of a three-match series on the sub-continent. Which makes perfect sense, of course, in the third week of January.
It’s an even bigger weekend for …
lungs. The lungs of tennis players, of cricketers, of spectators, as we engage in sport. Some perspective, though, for those getting in a tizz: you haven’t lost a loved one or a house.
Andrew Webster is Chief Sports Writer of The Sydney Morning Herald.