Former Māori All Black rebuilds career in Italy

John Akurangi, or Axe as he's known, was a rugby cult hero in the '90s.

The former Auckland player was the hardman on the field. He won the inaugural Super Rugby title with his beloved Blues, and went on to play for the Crusaders and then the Chiefs.

In 2002, he had secured a lucrative coaching contract in Japan - but overnight his world came tumbling down. He was convicted of cultivating cannabis.

His coaching contract was torn up and he was on the outer with NZ Rugby as well.

"I went into a state of depression for a little bit there… but you learn from that, you become stronger from that."

Since then John has been rebuilding his life and his reputation offshore.

He now lives in Italy with his partner of seven years, and is sharing his love of rugby to the locals. John has a new nickname in Italian rugby circles too - he's now known as Mr Fix-It. He's helped out six rugby clubs and his latest is Dalmine, a young club based in Bergamo.

In three short years John has transformed the club from the bottom of the pack to the very top. Their top team has advanced to the next grade and their membership has grown from 13 to 200.

"We're building momentum and we're developing really well, so I'm very happy for the club."

Akurangi says, after his personal and professional ups and downs, he's now loving life in Italy.

The Hui

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