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'I was sworn at for wearing my jacket around my hips': Black Fern stands up after facing mental ordeal

By Sam Smith
(Photo by Simon Watts/Getty Images)

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Black Ferns hooker Te Kura Ngata-Aerengamate has shared details of her ongoing battle with the coaching staff in a brave social media post that bared her mental struggles following a number of incidents in the rugby environment.

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At the end of the Black Ferns recent end-of-year tour the hooker revealed she had a breakdown in front of her teammates after struggling with whether to speak up to negativity aimed at her by the coaches that led to anxiety and even hyperventilation over an eight year period.

She wrote on her Instagram account: “One week post tour and the emotions are real. The should I speak up or should I stay quiet runs through my mind a thousand times. Never would I have ever thought that I would become mentally ill in a sport that I loved so much.”

“I didn’t perform the way I wanted to this tour. And the way I have been playing the last few years hasn’t been my best.

“Over the past 8 years that I have been in the Black Ferns, I have struggled mentally and finally let it all out on the most recent tour.

“Yes, I had a mental breakdown in front of everyone.”

Ngata-Aerengamate had been subjected to comments from coaches over the years that she says led to her ‘going crazy’. She listed out some examples that included being told she did not deserve to be in the team, that the coach ‘was embarrassed for her’, even being ‘sworn at for wearing my jacket around my hips’.

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Recently she says she was told that she was ‘only picked to play the guitar’ in the team environment.

She detailed the dark spiral of her mental state that consumed her where she would replay the comments in her mind over and over while training.

“I had to do anger management counselling, I had discovered anxiety & hyperventilating for the first time in my life, I could hear these comments in my mind as I threw the ball,” she wrote.

“My confidence and self esteem was so low that it made me play like I was walking on egg shells and was constantly too scared to express myself. I invited self doubt and insecurities; some being unbearable to look myself in the mirror.”

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“The reality is that I had been defeated and it was so dark that I could no longer see my WHY. I had forgotten about the 5year old girl who started playing rugby with her cousins 25 years ago.

The Black Ferns veteran ended her post on a reflective note and a positive message for anyone going through a similar situation, and said she deserved to be treated with respect as a person.

“I let the words over the years get to me, the words became the flesh.

“Lesson is, never let anyone dim your light. Be proud of who you are. If you are treated unfairly, hit them up unapologetically because at the end of the day it’s your mana on the line.

“I know I’m not everyone’s cup of tea, but I’m still a person and at the very least deserve to be treated with respect.”

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