Rugby

'I Hated Rugby' - Former All Black Dagg Reveals Mental Health Troubles

'I Hated Rugby' - Former All Black Dagg Reveals Mental Health Troubles

To the casual onlooker, Israel Dagg may seem to be living the sweet life.

After winning the World Cup with New Zealand in 2011, it could have been assumed that the All Blacks full-back wasn't short on confidence. No man, however, is safe from the plight of mental illness. And for all his success on the field, Dagg suffered his fair share of mental agony off it.

In a refreshingly candid interview with the All Blacks podcast, the former international star - who retired from rugby earlier this month - spoke of his struggles to get to grips with his mental health, particularly after missing out on the 2015 World Cup in England.

He said:

I was down, I hated rugby. I was walking down the street and I would look at people and think to myself he's looking at me going 'you're a pussy' and 'you're so useless'. I've had moments when I've cried to my best mates and I've cried to my wife and there's some people out there that might think I'm a pussy and weak, but I don't care.

People cry and need to share their emotions. Everyone has their vulnerabilities and moments. As men, we don't talk and we need to talk. You can't bottle it up and do everything on your own. It is too hard and it will weigh you down. So if there is one thing I've learned it is just to talk to people. It's OK to cry.

Mental health has become a theme that has permeated through the rugby world in recent months. A study by the Rugby Players' Association in 2018, published in the Telegraph, illustrated the serious concerns the game is facing with 62 per cent of players in England admitting to having suffered some sort of mental illness.

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Speaking at the time in response to the report, Omar Hassanein, chief executive of International Rugby Players, spoke of the need to react to the worrying trends:

There is no point in looking at that figure and simply saying it is alarming. As the game grows, and the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France is going to be the most lucrative [World Cup in history], no doubt, then the game needs to find a way to look after the personal side of the athletes, otherwise it is only going to get worse.

So Dagg certainly isn't alone. Indeed, former internationals Joe Marler and Dafydd James, both former British and Irish Lions, have come out in recent months about their battles with mental health. No doubt, more continue to suffer in silence.

If you or someone you know is suffering from mental health problems, you can call the Samaritans on 116 123

Aonghus Ó Maicín

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