A New Zealand rugby legend’s saddling up for charity next year and preparing to become reacquainted with the hurt locker.
Sir John Kirwan, a 63-cap All Black who was knighted in 2012 for his services to mental health and rugby, was in Queenstown on Wednesday meeting Westpac staff, in his capacity as the bank’s ambassador, on a tour of Southland and Central Otago to talk to farmers about mental health.
But, most of the chat in the resort was about the 10th edition of the Chopper Bike Ride, from Queenstown to Invercargill, being held next May – which Kirwan’s confirmed he’ll take part in.
The non-competitive ride, covering just over 240km, will have about 100 entrants next year, all of whom will raise money for the annual Westpac Chopper Appeal, where money raised locally, stays local.
In the past nine years the event’s raised a total of $550,000.
In our case, money raised in our post codes goes to the Lakes District Air Rescue Trust (LDART).
This year’s Chopper Appeal raised $1.26 million, of which $75,417 went to LDART, which flew 260 missions last year, from a national total of 7347.
Kirwan tells Mountain Scene it’s a no-brainer to support the charity.
“The most inspiring thing for me, when you meet people that have used the helicopter, is it just saves lives.
“The thing I like about this charity, and the chopper, every dollar you give, you’re going to [help] save a life.
“You know when that thing flies over, someone’s in need.”
But, it’s fair to say Kirwan’s got some reservations about the bike ride itself.
He’s previously done one similar event – from London to Canterbury, Kent, at the start of last year – organised by ChildFund and World Rugby’s combined charity ‘ChildFund Pass It Back’.
It raised money to help children from developing communities in Asia learn essential skills, and help with emergency-relief efforts in disaster-affected areas in Japan ahead of this year’s Rugby World Cup there.
That was a 130-odd-kilometre jaunt, and Kirwan says it was “horrendous, to say the least”.
“A, I look ridiculous in lycra and, secondly, I didn’t particularly enjoy it. I didn’t read the memo properly – I thought it was 80km. But it was 80 miles [128km].”
Helping to convince him to enter next year’s ride, though, was a bit of bribery from Southland’s Murray Heath, a Chopper Ride guru, who’s offered to have oysters and crayfish waiting for Kirwan at the finish-line.
“It’s going to hurt,” Kirwan says.
“I’m going to look stupid in lycra, but, at the end of the day, [I] think about someone risking their life to save someone else’s.
“That’s an easy thing to sup-port.”
The charity bike ride’s being held on May 8.