By Mary Maidiotis

St George Illawarra Dragons second-rower Joel Thompson is keen to make his return from injury against the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs at ANZ Stadium, Olympic Park on Monday.

Thompson, 26, was ruled-out of the match against the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks last round due to a slight hamstring injury, but affirms he is fully fit and raring to go this weekend.

The State of Mind Ambassador also admits that it was an honour to be selected as one of 14 players speaking out to remove the stigma attached to mental illness.

“Preparation has been really good, I’ve been in rehab ticking all the boxes and doing what I had to do to get back in the team, I feel really good,” said Thompson.

“I’ve never hurt my hamstring before so it was a little bit different and I could have probably pushed to play against the Sharks but we’ve got really good staff here that look after us and they did the best thing by giving me that game off and I’m back into it this week.

“It’s the first game I’ve missed in a while so it was good to see the passion from the bench and to sit there and listen to the passion from the crowd.

“It definitely hurt me watching as I wanted to be out there but that’s the way it goes and I’m ready now, feeling fresh and looking forward to Monday.

“It’s a testament to the squad and the depth we have, to have Will Matthews come in and do a really good job.

“I thought he was one of the best players and he’s a guy who has been training well and he pushes Tyson and I in every training session.

“We’re very lucky in that our entire squad is made up of first-graders so for all positions, any guy that comes in will do an excellent job.

“I’m staying calm as I don’t want to get too excited early on but it’s going to be our toughest game of the year and they’re full strength so I’m looking forward to the big battle.

“We’ve trained well and we know we have to do everything to the best of our abilities to beat the Bulldogs.

“Every session is important and getting the best out of them by doing the video and everything else right, especially by looking after ourselves, leaves us with no excuses come Monday.

“It’s a great honour to be a part of NRL State of Mind and Dan and I are very proud of it.

“I think it’s something good that we can do and it’s one of the most important things the NRL are conducting and it’s great for us to have the opportunity to speak and create awareness in order to break down that stigma which is preventing people from putting their hand up.

“People are scared to put their hand up because they think they’re going to be judged or looked down on and while that stigma exists, people are going to be dealing with these issues by themselves.

“Depression is a silent killer so the more discussions we have and the more people in our community like NRL players are talking about it, the better, so I’m very grateful and looking forward to speaking about it.”