Blues' pivot Piri Weepu's teammates will be tackling the Waratahs on the rugby paddock in Whangarei today but he arrived in town early to tackle a far more serious opponent - the issue of suicide.
The All Black halfback was in Whangarei this week to be welcomed as an ambassador at the launch of Lifeline Aotearoa Northland.
He was joined by fellow Blues' players Frank Halai, Tom McCartney and Ofa Tuingafasi at the Manaia Health PHO on Rust Ave.
Weepu made an impassioned plea for those "feeling low" in Northland to seek help.
"Talk to someone you can trust. If they can't help, find someone else who can," he told the gathering which included Manaia PHO head Chris Farrelly, school principals, Whangarei Deputy Mayor Phil Halse and Labour MP Shane Jones.
Weepu said since losing a friend to suicide many years ago, his attention focused on helping others who could not cope with personal problems in life.
He said it was worth talking to someone about one's problems because the country was losing a lot of people to suicide each year.
"It's hard to open up at first and I've been to counsellors and sworn at them until I found one who connected with me, who spoke for two days while I didn't say a word.
"One also has to understand changes people go through [in] their lives at home but it's difficult to pinpoint whether it's boys or girls who need help most."
Mr Farrelly said the site where Manaia PHO building was located was one of three sacred sites first discovered by settlers and where the sick were brought for healing.
He said professional sportspeople such as Weepu were role models in society.
He also acknowledged Blues' coach John Kirwan's contribution to overcoming depression.
Weepu has previously fronted up for an anti-smoking campaign.
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