Not many of us would tough out 50C heat on the Nullarbor on a bike, but for former Clare lad, dual Magarey medallist and premiership Sturt captain Zane Kirkwood the challenge has been nothing compared with the mental health battle he has faced since he was a kid.
Ironically, the at times crippling battle has been exactly what has spurred him to undertake a mammoth 2700-kilometre charity ride/skate/run from Perth to Adelaide.
And as he rolls into the Mid North on Friday on the final leg of his epic 22-day – “riding, skating, or whatever it takes from Perth to Adelaide raising awareness of mental health” – challenge, he wants others to take inspiration that every small step is a big step in dealing with mental health.
“Earlier this year I wasn’t in a great spot, there was a point where I couldn’t even leave the house, but I started with small steps – just walking a lap of the block, building up to bigger walks, going for a small ride then going for a bigger ride. Shopping centres were a trigger for me so I started off just going for half an hour, and if I couldn’t do it then that was ok, I realised I could try another time,” he said.
“You don’t have to do a ride like this to get over mental health struggles. What I’ve realised is everyone is different and everyone’s mental health is different, but don’t be scared to try different things, set small challenges.
“I’m doing this ride because I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it instead of always playing it safe.
“Like many others every day I’m battling with my mental health.
“This is something I’ve bottled up – only recently letting in those closest to me. I wanted to keep it quiet because I was ashamed and was afraid of burdening those who I told. But it’s something I’m now prepared to be open about because it’s important.
“With sharing this, also comes relief that I don’t have to hide anymore.”
By Zane’s side the whole way from Perth through to Adelaide are his dad, former Clare policeman and North Clare’s last A-grade premiership coach from 1997, Colin Kirkwood, and his brother, Ty.
When the Plains Producer spoke to Zane last Friday, enjoying a cool change in Penong, he said he was looking forward to riding in to familiar territory through the Mid North.
“We were originally from Whyalla and I moved to Clare when I was six, spending 2.5 years there,” he said.
“I’ve got a lot of great memories and friends I stay in touch with at Clare.”
Zane is also looking forward to being reunited with the rest of his family and his partner once he arrives in Clare ahead of the final leg home.
Keep an eye out for Zane on the road on Friday when he rides from Mambray Creek to Clare, via Crystal Brook.
Zane’s aim is to raise $50,000 for the Breakthrough Mental Health Research Foundation. To make a donation go to gofundme.com-zane-kirkwood