The toughest opponent to fight was never the one squaring up to him in the ring.
It was the enemy within that nearly ended the life of world champion boxer and former NRL player Joe Williams.
Raised in Wagga, the infinitely talented sportsman played in the National Rugby League for South Sydney Rabbitohs, Penrith Panthers and the Canterbury Bulldogs before switching to professional boxing in 2009.
But depression is an illness he struggled with since he was a teenager and in 2012 he tried to take his life.
Instead of allowing that frightening time to define his future, Joe turned his attention to transforming both his own life and the lives of others through his work in the area of mental health and suicide prevention.
Joe will be among the line-up of speakers at this year’s Albury-Wodonga Winter Solstice for Survivors of Suicide event on June 21.
He will be joined on stage by journalist and social commentator Tracey Spicer along with Professor Jane Burns, who led the youth agenda for beyondblue and was the founder of the Young and Well Co-operative Research Centre, which explored the role of technology in improving wellbeing.
Joe is no stranger to the Border and in 2014 was in Albury for the launch of his short film, The Enemy Within, which documents his battles with depression and suicide.
“For as long as I can remember I have suffered with depression and anxiety,” he told TheBorder Mail.
“It’s a long time to battle something in your mind while trying to play professional sport.
“When you put expectation on yourself and you don’t live up to it, that’s when you start to get down on yourself. It got to the point where there was a suicide attempt.”
In 2015, Joe was named Wagga’s Citizen of the Year in 2015 for his work within the community, mental health and suicide prevention sectors and was recently involved in filming international documentary Suicide the Ripple Effect from director and fellow advocate, Kevin Hines.
Joe now wants to inspire youth and individuals through his charity, The Enemy Within, where he has worked with disengaged youth in primary and secondary schools, drug and alcohol rehabilitation centres and gaols. Through his workshops, he openly delves into the private pain and dealings with depression that drove him to the very brink in a bid to help others get through the tough times.
“Joe talks adversity, dealing with struggle, resilience, improving your attitude by 1 per cent, positive energy and how small steps lead to something greater,” his website states.
The father of four says he now accepts there will be bad days but he also accepts that things can get better.
“It doesn’t have to be as tough as it is,” he said.
That’s the message he will bring to the Border on the longest night of the year to help shed light on the silent grief of suicide with the free event to be held in Albury’s QEII Square from 5pm to 7pm.