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“It’s okay to ask for help” – Israel Dagg

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Monday, April 15, 2019    allblacks.com    Getty Images

From the jubilation of winning the Rugby World Cup in 2011, to the crushing low of missing selection for the 2015 tournament and suffering a serious injury soon after, Dagg had no choice but to fight back from adversity and self-doubt to take his place back in the All Blacks. 

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Speaking to the All Blacks Podcast following his retirement from rugby, Dagg revealed the deep trough he fell into following his All Blacks omission in 2015 and how friends and family got him through.

“I nearly retired in 2015. 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 was like, nah I shouldn’t be feeling like this.”

Recovering from a dislocated shoulder suffered while playing for his beloved Hawke’s Bay Magpies, Dagg found solace in his friends and family who helped him rediscover his love of the game.

“Having that close support network to get through those times was crucial. 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 okay to cry,” Dagg said.

“It’s okay to share your feelings with people because they want to help you, but if they don’t know then they can’t help. 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, so let you friends or family know if you are because people want to help.”
After almost six months out of the game, Dagg returned with a new-found passion for the game in 2016. After a standout season for the Crusaders, Dagg was named in the All Blacks squad for the June series against Wales and went onto have one of his best seasons in the black jersey with ten tries scored across 12 Tests.

Dagg credits the support of family and friends for helping him through the dark times and has a simple message for anyone out there who maybe struggling.

“Just talk. Men and women. Just let it out. In New Zealand we are stubborn and strong. ‘We’ll be right’ seems to be the way of life. But we won’t be alright, just talk.”

New Zealand Rugby Education and Wellbeing Manager Nathan Price applauded Dagg for bravely sharing his experience with the rugby community.

“Israel has set a really great example about how important and effective it can be to just reach out and ask for help. It’s great to see our influential players standing up and saying it’s ok to be vulnerable, it’s ok to cry and it’s ok to talk about how you’re feeling.”

Price encouraged anyone in the rugby community wanting more information on mental fitness, mental health or wellbeing, to head to the HeadFirst website www.headfirst.co.nz 

For those struggling or needing someone to talk to, the free to text and call 1737 number is a great option for extra support.