Former All Blacks wing Nehe Milner-Skudder has opened up about the mental challenges he has had to endure during his injury-plagued career.
After what he described as one of the most difficult years of his life, Milner-Skudder – who has not played any rugby in 2019 – spoke about going into ‘dark places’ following his latest injury setback.
According to RugbyPass, the 13-Test All Black spoke at the opening of New Zealand’s first Suicide Prevention Office as an ambassador for Headfirst – an organisation which provides mental-health help and wellness to rugby players.
‘For me, personally, this has been one of the toughest years in my life, my career to date,’ said Milner-Skudder on Wednesday. ‘Some of you may have noticed I haven’t taken the field at all this year. To not be able to do something or to do what you love doing … I really struggled.
‘Out of all the injuries I’ve suffered, the many setbacks I’ve had in my career this was by far the hardest to digest. I’d built up in my head what this year was going to look like and I watched it shatter in pieces right in front of me and there was nothing I could do about it.’
Having burst on to the international scene four years ago, after brilliant seasons for both Manawatu and the Hurricanes, Milner-Skudder played a key role in the All Blacks’ run-in to a third World Cup title. Known for his dazzling footwork, the 28-year-old scored the first try in the World Cup final victory over Australia at Twickenham, but has since seen his career hampered by injuries.
After scoring eight tries in as many Tests during his debut year, the inaugural World Rugby Breakthrough Player of the Year only featured on five more occasions for the All Blacks, with his last appearance coming during the 69-31 victory over Japan in November 2018.
Having had the resources to aid him in overcoming his troubles, Milner-Skudder said that he wanted to help others struggling with similar issues to have access to the help he was afforded through the Headfirst organisation.
‘My rugby career has taught me we all feel pressure and anxiety and we all get down at times, it’s easy to bottle things up. I’ve seen the negative effects that can have on myself and my teammates.
‘Through this work I’ve discovered a lot about myself, and also realised things need to change around the stigma around mental health, masculinity in society and rugby. Being part of that change has been bloody important to me.’
Milner-Skudder is set to join World Cup-winning lock Eben Etzebeth at French club Toulon in December.
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