Gotcha4Life: NRL superstars join forces to build mental fitness

NRL superstars and fierce on-field opponents James Tedesco and Daly Cherry-Evans are united when it comes to supporting mental fitness charity Gotcha4Life.

State against state, mate against mate is the battle cry of State of Origin, but rival players James Tedesco and Daly Cherry-Evans are temporarily bucking sport allegiances to join forces for an important cause.

As ambassadors of mental fitness charity Gotcha4Life, founded by Gus Worland, the NRL sportsmen are encouraging Australians to build their mental fitness, open up about their feelings, and support the foundation’s ultimate goal of eliminating suicide.

“I’ve been involved with Gotcha4Life for a few years now and in that time, Gus and the team have created a positive space for players to open up,” Sydney Roosters fullback James says.

“It’s really important to make those conversations part of everyday life, especially for professional athletes where there’s still a lot of stigma around being open with your emotions.”

Listen to Gus Worland’s discussion about men’s mental fitness with Jo Stanley, Gerald Quigley and Zoe Bingley-Pullin on The House of Wellness radio show:

A partnership for mental wellbeing

Gotcha4Life has partnered with the NRL since 2018, sharing the united vision of strengthening positive mental wellbeing in sport through the NRL’s mental fitness program State of Mind and Gotcha4Life’s mental fitness programs delivered to grassroots clubs all around the country.

“These athletes are gladiators on the field, but they’re also human beings,” Gus says.

“Just like us, they experience all of the emotions, have their ups and downs, and all the same vulnerabilities everyday Australians go through, and it’s important to realise that.”

Considered one of the most widely watched annual sporting events in the country, the State of Origin’s best-of-three series will culminate with the final game in Sydney on July 12.

“I’m very excited James and Daly have decided to band together to support Gotcha4Life because in terms of Australian sports fans, especially for those hailing from Queensland and New South Wales, there are no bigger names that could get behind us,” Gus says.

Good mates off the field

The role of mateship is particularly important to Gus and it’s also a major theme of Gotcha4Life.

While the players for the Blues and Maroons are used to being competitors, they’ve also formed a solid friendship through their work with the foundation.

“Daly and I are good mates; we’ve played for Australia together and even though we battle it out on the field, we’ve still got each other’s backs outside of the game,” James says.

Considering the pair’s rivalry as Blues and Maroons players, you’d think the grudge would get bigger as the years go on, but according to Daly they don’t let the game come between them.

“There are three games a year where we’ll absolutely do everything we can to beat the other team, but the overarching message is that it’s just a game and there’s a bigger fight at hand, which is mental fitness,” Manly Warringah Sea Eagles halfback Daly says.

The pair also want to challenge outdated attitudes in the NRL and other sporting codes, particularly stigmas towards being vulnerable and open about your emotions.

“Arguably the biggest thing is safety and feeling confident about being in an environment free of judgment,” Daly says.

“There’s still a stigma surrounding vulnerability and showing emotion, and the fear that you’ll be teased by your friends for showing that side.

“Gotcha4Life is working to change that and hopefully destroy these stigmas in the process.”

Mind over matter

It’s a given that physical fitness is the priority of professional athletes, but Gus and the Gotcha4Life team are also helping to make mental fitness and building emotional muscle a crucial part of the conversation.

“Physical fitness is still a huge part of my preparation for games, but my mental fitness has become just as important because I know that without a clear head, without having balance in my life, I can’t go out and perform to the best of my ability,” Daly says.

“It took me a while to understand that, but now that I do, I really embrace it.”

Make a difference

Show your support by making a life-changing donation to the Gotcha4Life Foundation, with every $40 funding a spot at a youth mental fitness workshop.

Need someone to talk to? Call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or visit

Read more about mental health:

Written by Charlotte Brundrett.