“He’s saved lives. There’s no question about that.”
Sir John Kirwan’s life is what you might call a game of two halves. From his dramatic first-class debut and subsequent high-profile career as an All Black, Sir John was to many the quintessential Kiwi bloke: strong, quietly confident, hard-working and supremely talented.
However Sir John’s biggest battle was happening off the pitch. He became one of the country’s few major figures to speak openly about the illness of depression. In multiple books, including All Blacks Don’t Cry, Sir John became an ambassador for Kiwis fighting depression in their own lives, and is responsible for bringing the illness out from the shadows for many.
In 1989, he was appointed as Member of the Order of the British Empire, for services to rugby. In 2007, he was appointed as an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to mental health.
In 2012, he was appointed a Knight Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit, for services to mental health and rugby, as well as being inducted into the New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame.