Nehe Milner-Skudder has revealed the mental stress and heartbreak he has gone through with his injury-plagued career, admitting he used to cry on his bedroom floor and consider quitting the game multiple times.
During an honest interview on former Hurricanes teammate Ardie Savea’s podcast, Milner-Skudder said it was his wife Hannah that helped him make a comeback.
"It's been a long, long time working my way back from that. I had my first shoulder [injury] back in 2016, so the last four years have been up and down with injuries – getting back from rehab, getting out on the field with setback after setback," Milner-Skudder said.
"At the same time, as a lot of people say, the adversity you go through in those struggles allows you to grow as a person. I'm not saying it doesn't suck and I didn't go to some dark places.
"I felt the weight and the heaviness of not being able to get out there with the brothers, but I feel like I have come out of these tough times with a better understanding of myself and it's put things into perspective."
Milner-Skudder burst onto the scene in 2015 with speed and footwork on the wing.
His efforts led to an All Blacks debut later that year in which he scored a double against the Wallabies before cementing a spot in the 2015 World Cup squad.
He finished the year a world champion and World Rugby’s 2015 Breakthrough Player of the Year.
But then injuries started to derail his career and after he lost his place in the All Blacks, Milner-Skudder looked to restart his career in France with a lucrative three-year deal with Toulon in 2018.
However, he never made it to the French club due to yet another shoulder injury and that’s when feelings of self-doubt and anxiety nearly brought his career to a premature end.
"There were so many times I was crying on my bedroom floor. I was talking to my wife: 'Babe, I've had enough. I'm going to chuck it all in.'
"She was like: 'Nah. Get up. Get on with things'. There was a balance between that and reminding me why I do what I do."
Now, Milner-Skudder will look to bounce back in a new environment, having announced he will take part in this year’s Super Rugby Aotearoa competition with the Highlanders.
"That's a fresh start, new opportunities and getting excited about what's coming up," Milner-Skudder said.
“I’m really stoked. The Landers club have an amazing culture and awesome set up for me with where I’m at in my career and what’s happened over the last couple of years.
"I’m chomping at the bit to get there and get stuck in.”
The Highlanders face the Chiefs at Forsyth Barr Stadium on June 13 as the curtain-opener of the 10-week domestic competition.