Maddie Studdon is one of the NRLW's finest half-backs and one of the major reasons her St. George Illawarra Dragons are tipped (by us at least) to win their first title against the everstrong Brisbane Broncos in Sunday night's showpiece.

But the 24-year-old Jillaroo has far more distressing things on her mind. Her 19-year-old cousin tragically suicided in the lead-up to the Grand Final; a horrible blow, left all the more inexplicable by the pair's mental health campaigning together.

"Rugby league has been my escape to help and recovering," Studdon tells

"There was a time I didn't want to play, it was just after it happened and we were preparing for a semi-final clash with the Sharks at club level and I just didn't want to be there.

"Koo was a talented young girl who loved her footy. She supported Souths and always loved watching me play. I coached her in touch football and she often messaged me words before a game.

"As a family, we did not see it coming at all. Nobody did and we've been left devastated."

Rather than resort into isolation, Studdon has bravely chosen to discuss the ordeal in the hopes of using the sport's high profile at the present time to encourage those needing help to seek it.

"You wouldn't wish it on anyone and no one should go through the pain and suffering that my family is going through right now," Studdon continued.

"As players and people we have a lot of down time and it's very tough on our mental state of mind to speak out and message friends.

"But it's not that hard to message people. Eventually in time I'll be happy to go out there and help other families and help young kids who are struggling to speak up no matter what is happening."