Plymouth fly-half Dan Mugford has spoken out over how his failure to gain acceptance and win a regular first team place at Sale sent him spiralling into a deep depression that caused him to try to take his own life as recently as last weekend.
Former Albion, London Scottish and Nottingham playmaker Mugford, 25, believed he was fulfilling his dream of playing in the Premiership when he joined Sharks last year.
However, the Devonian has shone a light on the circumstances that lost him his pride, girlfriend and professional career – and even threatened his life.
Mugford, who was released by Sale in May, told The Rugby Paper: “What happened at Sale left a big mark. I’ve struggled with it and have been going through severe depression.
“Before Sale I’d played a fair few years in the Championship and always enjoyed success, so when I got my chance in the Premiership I began there in a really positive way. I had a chance at the start of last season and did well, but then suddenly it stopped.”
Mugford, above, added: “I continually asked questions about why I wasn’t in the team and what I was doing wrong, but (rugby director) Steve Diamond told me other players knew more and that I needed to listen to them even though, as a fly-half, it was my job to lead the team.
“Despite being told I was doing well in training, I still couldn’t get into the team. That became very hard to take and, unfortunately, depression started to control my life.”
He explained: “I couldn’t stop thinking about rugby. I’d go home after training and already be thinking about getting up for training the next morning, so I just didn’t have any normal life – and when I was told I was being let go, everything just fell off a cliff.
“I knew other Premiership clubs weren’t all that interested because I hadn’t been playing and I just saw it as the end of the dream. The depression set in even deeper and that took its toll at home because I ended up becoming a horrible person.
“I lost my pride in the good things I’d achieved and, eventually, I lost Alice, my girlfriend. That’s when I realised I had to have a change of perspective.”
Mugford sought help from the Rugby Players’ Association and is now receiving therapy.
He said: “I’m trying to combat the problems and turn my life around but I still have some big wobbles and as recently as last weekend things got really tough again. I just wanted to finish it all and I tried to commit suicide twice.
“Fortunately, I had people rally around me, especially Alice, and I’ve come out of that; but it’s still hard to take when you’ve lost things you love. I’m still battling it, no doubt, and I have days where I feel positive and others when it’s really bad.
“Some people will understand, others will think I’m soft and say that because I’m a sportsman I must have a great life. But it’s scary and I’m just hoping that in time I’ll be back enjoying my life and rugby again.”
National One Plymouth have offered a lifeline, with Mugford adding: “While I’d love to be playing in the Premiership still and hope that can happen again one day, taking a step back and being happy at home was an easy decision to make.
“Plymouth have been excellent in understanding and making me welcome and I’m looking forward to being involved with a great bunch of lads.”
For support you can contact the Rugby Players’ Association by checking out: www.therpa.co.uk/lifttheweight/