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Opinion: No Sir John Kirwan, you didn't fail the Blues - they failed you

After reading Sir John Kirwan's comments about his ill-fated stint as coach of the Blues yesterday, I can't help but feel like there's a rather large elephant in the room that needs to be addressed.

Writing for 66 Magazine, Sir John stated that he considered himself a failure after a disappointing three-year spell at the helm of the Blues, unable to see the sleeping Auckland giants return to the summit of Super Rugby.

"I worked all my life to get my dream job and I failed," were his exact words.

Sir John Kirwan's time with the All Blacks ended in 1994, two years after I was born. I never knew him as an athlete, I only ever knew him as the man from the mental illness ads.

I'm not a Blues fan, but when he took the job of replacing Pat Lam in 2013, I was excited.

Excited because a man that I admired beyond all belief was given a chance to show that people affected by mental illness could actually achieve anything in life.

I willed him to succeed at the Blues, I wanted to see nothing more than Sir John Kirwan be hailed as the man to make them champions once again.

Sir John Kirwan was my hero.

I never knew him as a player, but Sir John Kirwan was the man helped me through my darkest times with his work in aiding those battling depression and anxiety.

Having battled my own demons since my teens, Sir John's book All Blacks Don't Cry showed me that what I was feeling was normal - that the way I was feeling was down to a chemical imbalance in my brain, not because of who I was.

In getting treatment for mental health, you are often exposed to a waft of content around self-improvement and self-reflection. As a natural cynic, I rejected a lot of those.

How could someone who didn't know me even possibly stand a chance to help me with a few inspirational phrases?

But not Sir John. Without his words, there's no way I'd be where I am today.

A few players that I knew from school within the Blues' setup spoke of the change Sir John bought to the dressing room, of the mana that he carried as a former player for club and country.

In the time since Sir John's departure, the Blues have struggled to even get off the bottom of the New Zealand Super Rugby conference, never mind lifting a first title since 2003.

Tana Umaga has struggled after him, the same way that the likes of Pat Lam and David Nucifora did before him.

It wasn't the coach that was the problem then, it still isn't now.

The Blues have shown over and over again that regardless of whoever is in charge will need something seriously special about them to see the glory days return.

The problems at the club are just as bad off the field as they are on it, with a number of promising young players turning their backs in favour of switching to rugby league (Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Albert Vete and so on) or moving to other sides within New Zealand.

Rieko Ioane was punched by a teammate in an event described as "play fighting" following an embarrassing loss to the Melbourne Rebels.

Chairman Tony Carter has even stood down after an equally disastrous time in charge of the organisation.

To read that my hero was so badly affected by his "failure" leaves me heat-broken, and it leaves me angry.

Maybe Sir John Kirwan wouldn't have been able to get the Blues back to where they feel they should be. Maybe he should have been given more time.

Ultimately though, the fact of the matter is that one of the side's all-time greats deserved better from a club and region he'd given so much to.

Simply put, Sir John, you didn't fail the Blues at all, they failed you.

Blues coach Sir John Kirwan. Source: Photosport


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