Former All Blacks and Rugby World Cup winner (1987) John Kirwan was recognized in today’s Queen’s Birthday Honours.
Interestingly Kirwan was honoured for his work outside of rugby, instead receiving the knighthood for his work as spokesman and campaigner in New Zealand for mental health issues.
The NZHerald reports that after his battles with depression, Sir John became a spokesman and campaigner in New Zealand for mental health issues. He made his problems public to encourage other people to seek help.
“I remember the day they asked me to do the awareness campaign. It was the hardest thing I ever considered,” Sir John said.
“My philosophy all the way through about mental health is that if I can help one person, it will be great.
“If you ask me what is depression, it is the best and worst thing to ever happen to me. But my whole journey has been positive.
“There were scary times because of the stigma attached to depression, but I have tried to break those down because it is an illness, not a weakness.”
When he was asked to accept the knighthood, Sir John requested 24 hours to think about it. He wondered what people would think and whether it was appropriate.
In the end, the 63-test All Black accepted it for his work outside his sporting sphere.
On a lighter note, when Kirwan sat down to dinner with his family and asked for their thoughts about him receiving a knighthood, his younger son, Luca, cut straight to the important bit.
“Does this make me a prince and do I get free stuff?” the 12 year-old asked.
Arise Sir JK… a humble man, rugby great and allround good bloke.
I had the opportunity to interview Sir John about a year ago when, as coach of Asian rugby powerhouse Japan, he visited Hong Kong. Below is the interview and some of the footage I captured: