FORMER Saints Challenge Cup winner Keith Mason has launched a comic to coincide with Super League’s #TackleTheToughStuff campaign.

Rugby Blood aims to shed light on some of the mental health problems faced by professional sportsmen.

The story is loosely based on the 37-year-old’s own life. Since his retirement in 2013, the 2004 medal winner has encountered depression, debt and homelessness.

‘Rugby Blood Origins’ will feature several high-profile Super League players, including Saints centre Mark Percival.

Mason said: “I wanted to feature current and ex-players, not only to raise their profile, but to raise awareness about the real struggles athletes go through.”

“I wanted to highlight to people that when one door closes in your life, you have to work hard, dedicate yourself and make the right sacrifices to open a new door.”

After an extensive playing career at the top level of rugby league, Mason found himself at a crossroads.

It was 2013, his time with Wakefield Trinity, Melbourne Storm, St Helens, Castleford Tigers and Huddersfield Giants at an end.

Depression, debt and homelessness followed.

Mason said: “What I didn’t anticipate was the struggle I’d ultimately go through after retiring.

“I’d devoted my life to it – but I ended up questioning my whole existence.

“I was struggling – and all that led to depression.

“I lost two houses and found myself in massive debt. I lost my driving licence and I was struggling to see my kids.

“It came to a point where I knew it was time to give up or reinvent myself.”

In the latter part of his playing career Mason had started acting. He played the character Steiner in A Hitman in London, alongside his friend, Mickey Rourke.

The 37-year-old was also asked to go and speak to a fellow former player in a similar situation.

For that person the struggle became too much, and it was ultimately his death that motivated Mason to change and want to help other players. Rugby Blood was born.

Rugby Blood centres around David King, a professional rugby league star and entrepreneur who is thrust into a deadly game when his family is kidnapped and held for ransom.

Mason added: “It started as a film script, but I wanted it to be bigger and to have more of an impact.

“I decided to find an artist who could help me create the first ever rugby comic, so together with Paul Roper we brought the story to life.

“I wanted to use real players to be able to connect with the audience and make the players stars.”