Brisbane Broncos great Sam Thaiday has shed light on a 2008 sex scandal that left him "absolutely terrified" and threatened to destroy his relationship with wife Rachel.
Thaiday has been laying bare some of the darkest chapters of his life as part of a four-part podcast series called We Are Human - released this week as part of mental health month.
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The former Kangaroos and Maroons legend admitted that he'd struggled with depression throughout his life, and confessed to having suicidal thoughts as a lost teenager in high school.
In the latest episode of the series, Thaiday opened up on the 2008 toilet tryst that led to allegations of sexual assault while he was at the Broncos.
Thaiday, Karmichael Hunt and Darius Boyd were investigated but not charged over the incident involving a woman, at a Brisbane nightclub.
The players had been on a long drinking session that started at lunch, following a finals win over the Sydney Roosters.
While no charges were laid against any of the players involved, Thaiday and the two others were fined $20,000 each for bringing the Broncos club into disrepute.
"I found myself in a consensual experience with two other players and a young lady in a toilet cubicle in a nightclub," Thaiday said on the podcast.
"Next morning I got a call from our team manager who said there had been allegations of sexual assault and we had to go to the club to be interviewed by police.
"I can remember being absolutely terrified. I knew I had to make phone calls to my parents and close friends. I knew it would be headline news for a month. I was so scared and terrified what was going to happen.”
Thaiday and his wife Rachel were not romantically involved at the time, but the pair had been best friends after finishing high school.
Telling Rachel ‘tougher’ than parents
The Brisbane legend confessed that admitting his mistake to her was possibly the hardest part of the sorry saga.
"I called my mum... the disappointment in her voice cut me," Thaiday said.
"I called Rachel – my best friend to whom I spoke to about everything... that was probably tougher to tell Rachel than my parents."
As fate had it, Rachel and Thaiday ended up getting married three years later in 2011.
However, she says her friendship with the rugby league star suffered as a result of the scandal.
"I did not want to speak to him. I could not bare to see him or speak to him,” she said.
“You are my best friend but at the same time I don’t associate with men like you.
"I felt so sick for him because... we had been friends forever. It was kind of like opening a part to your friend and you think I would never have seen coming."
The two were eventually able to patch up their relationship, thanks in large part to a "heart-wrenching" discussion over lunch.
Thaiday and his wife Rachel now have two daughters together, as well as a family dog.
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