Sir John Kirwan Visit June 1st 2021

We throw the term “legend'' around quite loosely these days, however, on Tuesday the 1st of June Ōtorohanga College welcomed a true New Zealand legend into the assembly hall. Sir John Kirwan, an All Black, a World Cup winner, an Auckland Warrior, an Auckland Blues, Italy and Japanese coach and a man knighted for his services to New Zealand Rugby and Mental Health arrived to an emotional pōwhiri. One that we would learn would touch the soul of one of the great New Zealanders. The words from the haka of Whakahaware and Toto Wera raised the hairs on the back of the necks of all those in attendance. Head students from other schools in Te Rohe Pōtae, members of the community all joined us in attendance. Robbie Neha set the scene with his expert korero on behalf of the tangata whenua. This was well supported by a full hall waiata of “Haere mai ki ahau’. When Sir John Kirwan responded he surprised a lot of the hosts with his newly learnt Te Reo and informed us of his new found journey of learning Maori. He also demonstrated his expertise in Italian and Japanese. It was then we would truly confirm how inspirational this great man is. Referring to himself in his son's words as him being an “Old G”, Sir John captivated the audience from the beginning. It takes a lot of bravery to share such personal details with complete strangers. Nevertheless, Sir John bared all for the Ōtorohanga College community as they began to understand the extreme personal challenges and battles he has had to manage and overcome. He was able to turn his korero in an instant from very funny to serious with flawless ease. The focus on mental health took us on a journey of learning, discovery but most importantly...hope. It was then he would touch our young ones and give them strategies to deal with anxiety, depression and pressure. In the question and answering session the Y12 and 13 Health students asked thoughtful questions around mental health that Sir John responded to superbly.

With our time coming to a close he was even able to help advise our business students with an upcoming venture. Now looking at Sports, Sir John shared the secret most of the older members in the audience wish they knew at the young age of the students “how can a talented young athlete become a professional sports player” Sir John was asked. He then explained “there is so much talent around, in every school, team and organisation we have talent”. To take the next step and become professional, Sir John explained the need to “marry that talent with hard work” and a work ethic that only the top few percent are willing to commit to. He went on to say that many talented sports players do not make the step up because they won't put in the work required and on the flip side less talented players will exceed expectations as they will put in that extra work. It was valuable words for our young ones to hear who were soaking it all in.

Year 13 and 1st XV rugby player Osyris Morgan said it was inspiring having Sir John Kirwan speak at Ōtorohanga College. “He showed us that he is just a normal and humble person who suffered through some mental health challenges. I liked what he said about achieving your goals if you work hard”.

Head boy Rawiri Taane Edwards said “it was really cool to hear what he had to say and inspiring how he dealt with it. As someone who has experienced a bit of anxiety in my younger years it was awesome to hear about the real strategies that young ones can implement and use”

Ava Ritch said that “even though I'm not a sportsperson, I found it very encouraging. I know that if I needed to speak to someone there are people out there can help”

Naeshian Selway is a soccer player in Year 13 who found the visit motivational. “I learnt more about the experiences of both Mental Health and life as an All Black. We need to prioritise looking after our Mental Health”

There have been many great days at Ōtorohanga College throughout the years. The 1st of June 2021 will be remembered as the day Sir John Kirwan came and gave us all a precious experience. One that will be remembered for the laughs, experience and the journey of the great New Zealander, but most importantly he gave every single person hope. Sir John Kirwan #legend

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