Nehe Milner-Skudder made his World Cup debut with the New Zealand Rugby Team at last year’s Rugby World Cup in England. There was a lot of interest around how this exciting young winger would perform. Sadly though, his first game was mostly remembered for him dropping a crucial pass that otherwise would have resulted in points for his team.
Appearing at the after match press conference, I was curious to know how Nehe would respond to the obvious question under the glare of the cameras and the scrutiny of the international media.
Part of me wanted him to defend himself by criticising the quality of the offload or deflecting the focus onto others in the team who hadn’t performed well.
Nehe however, simply declared that the pass was good and that he dropped it. He was obviously disappointed with himself and was keen to improve his game. No excuses. Just taking responsibility. Nothing more to be said.
I reflected afterwards that had Nehe played the ‘blame game’ in response to the media, his coach would have been justified in dropping him from the next match. What coach would be happy with a player not taking responsibility for their actions or poisoning team morale by pointing the finger at other players?
I was pleased that Nehe was selected for the next game, scored twice and set up another try beautifully. In fact he played to such a high standard that he was named man of the match. Afterwards he was asked what it was like to receive that honour after only his second World Cup appearance for the All Blacks. His response: “I’m just glad that I held my passes.”
His single focus in this second game was to work on the one area that failed him in the first. The accolades came merely as a bonus to a man who chose to professionally take responsibility for his own actions. Interestingly he went on to top all other players for metres gained in the tournament and was named World Rugby’s Breakthrough Player of the Year.
Why is it that when I’m under the gun for failure, my natural instinct is to run for cover by pointing the finger at others? This pathetic grab at status may fool some people but, for the discerning, all I ever achieve by taking this path is a sad declaration and display of my own insecurities.
They say that confession is good for the soul. Being real and taking responsibility for personal failings may at times limit our future prospects but in my view it is a much healthier option to take.
In Nehe’s case it was a choice that led to significance.
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