John Kirwan is Face-to-Face, Matty Johns, rugby union, All Blacks, Warriors

All Blacks legend and former Warrior Sir John Kirwan KNZM MBE has opened up about his incredible career in an open, tell-all interview with Matty Johns.

The World Cup winning All Black appeared on Face-to-Face with Matty Johns on Fox League on Tuesday night, detailing his career in rugby union playing for the All Blacks, his struggle with depression and the ongoing work he’s doing for other battling with mental illness.

Johns jumped dived straight into the deep end, asking Kirwan about his latest program Groov which he is currently promoting in Australia.

“My story starts with me wanting to jump out of a window one night.” Kirwan replied.

“I was on an All Blacks tour and I never planned my own suicide so for that I feel eternally grateful but I had suicidal ruminations and they used to scare the s ** t out of me.

Watch Matty Johns go face to face with Sir John Kirwan in the Fox League at 7.30pm on Tuesday!

“I’d have an anxiety attack and then I’d be shaking in bed and I’d sort of talk about when you’re unwell in this space, a minute feels like an hour, an hour feels like a day and a day feels like a week.

“I was on a tour in Argentina with the All Blacks and the window was open and I was looking at it and the curtain was fluttering and I said ‘I’ve had enough mate I can’t fight this anymore I’m going to run and jump out. ‘”

Kirwan’s roommate Sir Michael Jones was the man who saved Kirwan’s life that night, telling his teammate that he had a good heart.

After learning more about his mental health, Kirwan became the face of mental health in New Zealand, spreading awareness and helping where he could.

“I became the face of mental health in New Zealand and I had an anti-stigma campaign and then we had a hope campaign.” Kirwan said.

“Five years ago I woke up and read in the paper that our suicide rates had gone the wrong way and by the end of today in New Zealand a New Zealand male will be dead by tomorrow night two males and one female.

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Kirwan represented the All Blacks on 63 occasions over ten years. Credit: Russell Cheyne / AllsportSource: Getty Images

“If I could create a world class, world changing digital program to go into the workplace that’s going to look after you as a worker then you’re going to take that home.

“So that’s how Groov was born and after reading those articles. I wanted to create something that’s going to actually talk about prevention.”

Johns later asked Kirwan about a try he scored against Italy in the inaugural 1987 Rugby World Cup, considered one of the greatest World Cup tries of all time.

However, Kirwan’s response revealed the consistent pressure he put himself under, something he considered was imposter syndrome.

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“Hated it, hated every second of it because I was still back in my ‘not good enough’, my imposter stage.” Kirwan answered.

“After the game I thought I was going to get dropped on Monday, I didn’t think I was good enough.

“I had an imposter syndrome, so when I finished that try I came off thinking I should’ve changed the ball from that hand to that, when’re the coaches just going to realize that I’m lucky right.

“A lot of people have impossible syndrome I just didn’t think it was a thing. A lot of people in the business space, a lot of minute managers are thinking when am I going to get found out.

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“So I had that and when I came off the field it didn’t matter what I did and so a lot of my sharks the imposter syndrome.

“When I scored that try I came off the field and I was never good enough, I’m waiting to be dropped and I’m worried about will people like me, there was a lot of different stuff going on.

“We’ve got to make this normal mate, like it needs to be normal. There’s absolutely no way any first division rugby league player can not be suffering from some sort of anxiety, performance anxiety whatever you want to call it. ”

After going through a rough stint with his mental health the rugby union winger set his sights to rugby league, joining the newly formed Warriors as one of their marquee signings.

Kirwan joined a number of other rugby league greats that year including Mark Ellis, Denis Betts, Greg Alexander, Phil Blake and Sean Hoppe.

“I was probably ok mentally, I was coming through. I was still on anti-depressants probably until 1995 when I was starting to transition and starting to be way more confident in myself. ” Kirwan conceded.

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Kirwan spent 16 years as a professional coach that took him around the world. (Photo by Hannah Peters / Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

“I didn’t want what if in my life and it was the greatest couple of years I’ve had. I just had such fun. ”

Kirwan also admitted that the lure of a professional contract was exciting after ten years of playing for his country, he was never once paid a cent.

“I had such a good time and I got paid! I never got paid to play rugby union.

“I spent ten years as an All Black, never got paid and I’m going to training every morning and someone’s putting money in my bank, good money.

“At the end of the month I couldn’t believe it mate, at 30. I’m going‘ how good is this s ** t ’. I was s ** t at rugby league but I had a great time. ”

After playing rugby in Italy, marrying an Italian and coaching the Italian national rugby union side, Johns began to realize that Kirwan had a love for the country. The legendary winger admitted that he had learned a lot throughout his time playing and living in Italy, both lessons on and off the field.

“The Italians taught me to be emotional, they taught me to be me, they taught me that it’s ok to be angry as long as you get it out and there’s no negative side to it.” He revealed.

“They told me that it’s ok for males to cry, to be a little bit feminine at times and the rugby for me was this pressure of expectation but it was just a game for them, but they loved doing it.”

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If you need someone to talk to, call:

Lifeline is 13 11 14

Kids Helpline is 1800 551 800

MensLine Australia has 1300 789 978

Suicide Call Back Service is 1300 659 467

Beyond Blue is 1300 22 46 36

The headspace is 1800 650 890

QLife has 1800 184 527

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