Israel Dagg has opened up about his All Blacks journey following the announcement of his retirement earlier this month.
The 30-year-old fullback, hailed as one of the most exciting rugby players of his generation, decided to hang his boots after taking medical advice over a long-term knee injury.
Speaking to the All Blacks Podcast, Dagg opened up on the heavy self-doubt he faced after missing selection for the last All Blacks' World Cup squad, revealing he almost called it quits in 2015.
"I was down, I hated rugby," Dagg said. "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."
Dagg said it wasn't until he was playing for his Hawke's Bay Magpies side while recovering from a dislocated shoulder, that he started to open up and find solace in his friends and family.
"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," Dagg said.
"People cry and need to share their emotions. Everyone has their vulnerabilities and moments."
After a six-month hiatus from the game, Dagg burst back onto the rugby scene in 2016 with a stellar season for the Crusaders.
He was later named in the All Blacks squad for the June series against Wales and went on to play his best seasons with ten tries scored across 12 Tests.
Crediting the support from his loved ones for getting him through, Dagg encouraged anyone struggling to reach out and ask for help.
"Having that close support network to get through those times was crucial," he said. "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.
"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.
"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."
Where you can get help:
If you are worried about your or someone else's mental health, the best place to get help is your GP or local mental health provider. However, if you or someone else is in danger or endangering others, call 111.
If you need to talk to someone, the following free helplines operate 24/7: