NRL: Warriors prop James Gavet recognised for community work

Warriors prop James Gavet has been nominated by his club for an NRL community service award.

As reported by the Herald in June, Gavet, who has battled mental health issues in the past, regularly delivers food parcels to Auckland's destitute and promotes community wellbeing and literacy.

The winner of the award, known as the Ken Stephen Medal, will be announced at the 2016 Dally M Awards night.

Other nominees include Sharks skipper Paul Gallen, Parramatta forward Tim Mannah and Knights halfback Trent Hodkinson.

"The nominees for this year's Ken Stephen Medal are among some of the best in our game when it comes to service and sacrifice off the field," NRL community manager Ellen Beale said.

Prior to his recent community work, during a playing stint at the Broncos, Gavet regularly visited homeless people north of Brisbane, offering a smile, food and drink.

Earlier in his career, Gavet and his brother volunteered at a soup kitchen in Sydney.

The 26-year-old is a man on a mission. Aside from establishing himself at the Warriors after a turbulent, troubled past, he also hopes to make the world around him a better place, bit by bit. It might sound sentimental but it's not meant to be.

Gavet was a reluctant interviewee. "It's not about me," he said. "My family collectively have -always been givers, doing random acts of kindness in our community. It's nothing new to us but, if I can use my profile and it is going to push the cause, then that's great. I'm trying to inspire people, not just through sport."

There was a time earlier in his life when that seemed unlikely. Gavet struggled with alcohol abuse from his early teens and was also exposed to drugs, gangs, violence and tragedy.

He told the Herald in March he "went through a stint where [he] was suicidal", and he bares telling scars on his arms.

Gavet was a promising youngster but couldn't convert that across the Tasman during spells from 2012-2015 at the Bulldogs, West Tigers and Broncos.

He struggled with depression and homesickness and the drinking culture at Australian NRL clubs wasn't a good mix.

Perhaps the biggest psychological blow was three season-ending injuries in four years.

"At times I wondered what I was doing," said Gavet. "When you are constantly doing rehab and can't play you don't feel that good about yourself or your future."

He's in a good place now - back in Auckland, playing good football and surrounded by his family - but he has never forgotten.

"Everyone has a past," he says. "There were times in my life when I was struggling with a few demons and to overcome it I needed good people around me, whether it was family, friends or just a random person.

"A lot of people don't have family or friends any more, as hard as it is to believe. All it takes is for someone to randomly come up to them. Whether it does or doesn't change things, even if it is just 1 per cent help, we are willing to do that."

Gavet's nomination comes after he and his sister Riverlina made regular shopping trips to a New Lynn supermarket, filling their trolley with food and bottled water. They would then set up camp chairs out the back of their car and spend time making food bags filled with chicken buns and fresh fruit.

Once finished, they would jump back into the car and head around to the New Lynn mall, finding people who look like they need help.

"Giving it out is the coolest part," Gavet said later. "It's why we do it."

"Most are really thankful, others were just, 'Sweet, thanks'. And that's cool, too.

"It's nice to help out, make some people smile and it makes you feel good, too. It's only a small thing but I know what it's like. Small things count."

- With AAP

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