Akira Ioane talks mental health and how close he was to moving away from the Blues

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Ioane featured on Savea’s podcast last week ahead of the Blues win over the Hurricanes in the capital.

 

The 24-year old came out of school at Auckland Grammar and straight into professional rugby, playing for the All Blacks Sevens under Sir Gordon Tietjens. Since 2014, he has played for the New Zealand Under 20s, Maori All Blacks and played one game for the All Blacks against a French XV. He’s also played 47 games for Auckland and notched up 67 caps for the Blues.

 

He told Savea that for the first couple of years out of school, he was loving his rugby, but things started to go south in recent years.

 

“2018 and 2019 were big for me mentally. I wasn’t enjoying playing rugby at all. I was trying to impress too many outside influences and I just got so caught up in trying to please people that I forgot what I was good at and why I played the game. I was in a bad spot for all of the Mitre 10 Cup last year.”

 

Ioane admits he never used to buy into the mental health conversations.

 

“I thought mental health was all bulls**t and that people blew it up and out of proportion, so it was a real reality check for me that it can happen to anyone and everyone goes through it at different times. Last year and leading into this year was my time.

 

“I used to think I had all that outside noise on lock and that I didn’t listen to the media or outside influencers online. I have learnt to not care what anyone has to say or think about me. They are sitting at home behind a keyboard and don’t know what they are talking about. I’m shutting it all out and the boys (Blues) are going mean this year and that’s all I want.”

 

 

Ioane told Savea that things hit rock bottom during and after the Mitre 10 Cup campaign with Auckland. He ended the Mitre 10 Cup season at 118kg and returned to the Blues 10 kilos heavier, after an off-season of eating, drinking and little exercise.

 

“It (mental issues) all built up over time and I thought I could go back to Mitre 10 Cup and be sweet, be the same old Akira that loves to run the ball, but I got a rude awakening when I jumped on the scales. I was like, I have really f***ed up here and I didn’t play most of the Mitre 10 Cup season, I was getting pulled off at halftime. My coach would ask me if I wanted to play this week and I would say no, because I didn’t believe in myself.

 

“I was trying to find my love for the game again”.

 

His family and teammates were his close circle during his dark days. He credits his parents, Rieko and his sister as well as guys like TJ Faiane, Taleni Seu and Sam Nock.

 

“I had really open conversations with my family and they told me what they thought. I was cut by what they said, but it was honest and real. I knew I was obviously in a bad spot. But I needed to knuckle down, so TJ and I became training buddies and I slowly started to find my way back and I’ve found my love for the game again. I came into the Super Rugby season happy and I’m now in a good place.”

 

Savea questioned Ioane about whether he was close to moving away from the Blues during his tough times.

 

 

“I’m die hard Auckland, but last year I wanted to go somewhere else, not because I didn’t like Auckland or the Blues, but because I thought change would be good for me. I’m in my sixth year with the Blues, so if I moved franchises, I thought I would get the best version of me. It was a big decision for me because I have lived at home all my life. I went to my close circles, and I went to the Hurricanes and did everything but sign the dotted lines.

 

“Staying at the Blues was the best move for me, and I still think it is now. I’m enjoying my time and I’m putting in the work behind the scenes. It’s all part of the journey and I know it’s not always going to be sunshine and rainbows. I was close to moving, but I’m a Blues boy at heart.”

 

Ioane says he has now started thinking about life after rugby and he would love to be a teacher and work with kids, giving back. He is talking with his personal development manager to make his dream come true after rugby.

 

He’s also keen to get his motorbike licence, so he can weave in and out of the Auckland traffic.

 

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