John Kir­wan

CAPS 63

NZ Rugby World - - Outside Influences -

John Kir­wan scored a lot of tries. He scored a lot of good tries and had a huge in­flu­ence in help­ing the All Blacks of 1987-1990 be­come one of the great­est sides in his­tory.

Kir­wan was a rel­a­tively huge wing back in the day. At 1.93m and 90kg, there were plenty of loose for­wards that weren’t his size and yet he had pace, agility and aware­ness.

He was a great All Black who scored great tries and such were his gifts that he en­cour­aged a greater em­pha­sis on ball in hand rugby through­out his time in the team.

It’s prob­a­bly true that at some level his abil­ity to score tries due to his power and size sparked the big wing revo­lu­tion.

Af­ter Kir­wan came Inga Tuiga­mala and Jonah Lomu and, to this day, the All Blacks and many other in­ter­na­tional sides are still look­ing to select big, big wings.

For all that he did on the field, it is per­haps what he achieved o it that has been the great­est in­flu­ence. Kir­wan has been a self­less and re­lent­less cam­paigner for rais­ing aware­ness about men­tal health is­sues.

He fought his own bat­tle against de­pres­sion which was at times in­tense and de­bil­i­tat­ing. He has been brave enough to speak about this trou­bles and make hun­dreds of thou­sands aware that poor men­tal health can a ect any­one and ev­ery­one.

There he was, a star All Black hav­ing been picked when he was just 19, fa­mous, ta­lented and seem­ingly with ev­ery­thing that he wanted, yet he was bat­tling away in­side.

He was de­pressed. This big, tough, world class All Black was men­tally frag­ile. He couldn’t just ‘har­den up’ the way some peo­ple ad­vised him to. In­stead he sought pro­fes­sional help and sub­se­quently has cam­paigned for oth­ers to do the same.

He has touched many peo­ple’s lives, giv­ing them hope and com­fort and ul­ti­mately the strength to seek help.

One of his most pow­er­ful projects was the in­spi­ra­tional book he wrote called All Blacks Don’t Cry – A Story of Hope. He ad­mit­ted he felt lonely, vul­ner­a­ble and afraid at the height of his fame and so de­pressed he of­ten had to strug­gle to get out of bed.

“As I be­gan to get bet­ter,” he wrote, “I be­gan to be able to say to my­self, ‘This will pass, you’ll get through this’.”

Ul­ti­mately, the mes­sage he con­veyed was that ask­ing for help is okay no mat­ter who you are.

GREAT IN­SPI­RA­TION A bril­liant All Black, John Kir­wan has also been an in­spi­ra­tional cam­paigner for men­tal health.

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