Match Fit: Sir Graham Henry wants returning Three show to inspire men to prioritise their physical and mental health

Sir Graham Henry and Sir Wayne 'Buck' Shelford.
Sir Graham Henry and Sir Wayne 'Buck' Shelford. Photo credit: Warner Bros Discovery

Sir Graham Henry saw his second stint guiding a group of former All Blacks back to match fitness as an opportunity to belt out an all-important message: blokes, look out for your health.

All Blacks legends Sir Graham and Sir Wayne 'Buck Shelford' have for the second time assembled a team of former players to bring them (almost) back to full fitness for Three's award-winning Match Fit series, which kicks off at 7:30pm on Wednesday.

The series tackles the challenges and realities that middle-aged men and their families face in Aotearoa, particularly around health and wellbeing.

Before the series went to air, former All Blacks and Samoa star Va'aiga 'Inga' Tuigamala - who competed in the show - sadly passed away. 

Now, former All Blacks coach Sir Graham, 75, has revealed to Newshub that Tuigamala lost 40kg during the filming of Match Fit.

"The boys miss him, we all miss him terribly," Sir Graham said. "I've known him for 35 years and he's just one of those characters that makes the world a better place."

The second season of Match Fit will be largely dedicated to Tuigamala, whose story will be shared alongside the rest of his former All Blacks teammates to continue the important discourse around men's health. 

It's a conversation that's close to the hearts of both Sir Graham and Sir Wayne.

"The programme's obviously about men's health; physical health, mental health, personal challenges by a group of ex-All Blacks and how they've handled them - how they've handled them badly initially and how they're trying to resurrect that, and just trying to inspire other men to do the same," Sir Graham told Newshub.

"I guess the biggest thing they have done is worked as a team and when you work with your mates, and you've got good mates and you've got similar challenges and you work together, that's hugely helpful.

"Hopefully that becomes part of what they do every day and that's the idea; it just becomes part of your life, being physically and mentally healthy, and that's the message of the programme."

It's a message Sir Graham wanted to convey to all New Zealand men.

"You've just got to look after yourself, you need to talk about it; what your challenges are, share the challenges, work together to solve those situations.

Sir Graham Henry.
Sir Graham Henry. Photo credit: File

"These guys are no different from other men in this country or men around the world, to be frank."

And Sir Graham isn't immune - he's faced his own challenges, as well.

During his time as an international rugby coach for the All Blacks and the British and Irish Lions - and Wales before that - there was "always some adversity you have to handle", he admitted.

Meanwhile, Sir Wayne, who Sir Graham described as "one of the toughest All Blacks of all time", has also encountered his fair share of hurdles - including a cancer diagnosis in 2007. 

"It's good to be able to talk and share and hopefully other people can learn from those experiences," Sir Graham said.

"I just think it's an example to all men in this country, whether you're 45 or 55 or, in my case, 75; you can always lead a better life if you look after yourself - and that's the message."

Former halfback Piri Weepu was among those who returned to the show and was joined by midfielder Eroni Clarke, prop Kees Meeuws and loose forwards Ron Cribb and Charlie Richelmann.

Lock Brad Mika, hooker Corey Flynn and outside backs Glen Osborne, Rico Gear and the late Tuigamala were the show's new contestants.

Made with 'NZ On Air' funding, the second season of Match Fit airs on Three at 7:30pm on Wednesday and will be available to watch on Three Now.