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For a long time depression and mental illness has been a subject swept under the carpet.

Dogged by stigma and stereotypes, the condition has never been properly discussed and a lot of people have suffered in silence as a result.

It's a tragic situation that's slowly changing thanks to initiatives like the beyondblue Cup, a match between the Newcastle Knights and Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs designed to encourage people suffering from depression or anxiety to take action.        

The Knights and the Bulldogs will battle for the fifth annual beyondblue Cup at ANZ Stadium tonight and for winger James McManus the game is particularly close to his heart. 

"I have a lot of people close to me that have been affected by depression," McManus tells Knights TV.

"It’s something that we’ve got to talk about and we’ve got to make a lot of people aware of its presence, not only in the football community but the wider community as well.

"It’s a big issue, particularly among men so this beyondblue Cup is a great idea from the NRL, Knights and Bulldogs.

"If we can help some people out by making them a bit more aware of depression, then we’ve done our job and it’s one we are more than happy to do."

ABC broadcaster and proud Novocastrian Craig Hamilton is one of Australia's leading Mental Health advocates. 

After being diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder in 2000, Hamilton decided to become a voice for depression and anxiety by travelling the country and sharing his personal story.

As an official Ambassador of beyondblue since 2005, he couldn't be prouder to see the Knights and Bulldogs come together to play for such a meaningful cause.   

"I didn’t think it (depression) could ever impact on me and it did," Hamilton says.

"So since I’ve recovered I’ve wanted to make a difference and increase awareness and decrease stigma.

"I think this initiative that the Bulldogs and the Knights have taken on is a good one."

Hamilton spoke at the first ever beyondblue Cup at ANZ Stadium back in 2010 and is thrilled to see the concept continue today.      

"I think it’s important that more people from across the whole spectrum of the community get involved," he says.

"Because depression affects so many people, it really does.

"And it impacts on a lot of young people who are very vulnerable from early teens through to early 20s.

"They are the ones that need to know, ‘hey it’s ok, it’s tough but you’ll get through this’."

Hamilton is pleased that rugby league is leading the way with a proactive stance on depression via initiatives like the beyondblue Cup.

He has no doubts the concept is helping to make a difference in people's lives, whilst also ensuring the wider community understand the serious nature of mental illness.  

"I know the AFL do something similar, but it has been a rugby league initiated drive with the link with beyondblue," he says.

"It’s just another thing that the game does that’s very positive in the community.

"Everyone wants to write bad news stories.

"The game is dominated by bad news stories and controversies, but there are plenty of good things that the NRL does and this is one of them.

"I’m happy to support it in my role as an ambassador with beyondblue and through my role with the ABC.

"Depression is a serious issue, but initiatives like this help brake down the stigma and that's when we'll start to make a real difference."