Regional | Gumboot Friday

Ian Jones: New Zealand is blessed to have a guy like Mike King

Former All Black Ian Jones and fellow Mike King team member Ric Wells on the Due Drop Hope Challenge. Photo / Supplied

Champion ex All Black Ian Jones says the physical exhaustion he and others face as they run, cycle and swim their way from Cape Reinga to Wellington for Mike King’s charity, is nothing compared to what those suffering from mental health issues go through every day.

Jones, who celebrates his 56th birthday today, might get a cake at the end of that day but that’s not until he, mental health advocate King, former triathlete Ric Wells and ex NRL and Kiwi star Richie Barnett have huffed and puffed their way to the Bay of Plenty.

The Du Drop Hope Challenge team set off from Cape Reinga on Monday April 11 and plan to be at the steps of Parliament by Wednesday April 26.

Jones, who played 79, All Blacks tests, said he has nothing but his admiration for King, and the work he is doing.

“He is inspirational and he just loves connecting with people,” Jones said.

“This journey is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me for two reasons. Firstly the physical strength required to complete this journey but also the admiration I have for Mike King as a human and the advocating he is doing for New Zealanders.

“Everywhere we travel we are hearing stories of whānau who have mental health issues. Mike King is giving these people hope and I’m just happy to play my small part for a big cause.

“Some days are hard physically for us but not as hard as what these people go through with uncertainty and a belief there’s no end in sight but Mike gives them hope that Gumboot Friday is an option.”

Gumboot Friday gives young Kiwis free and fast access to qualified counselling. This service relies on the continued generosity of many New Zealanders.

Jones said the Du Drop Hope Challenge is completely different to preparing for an All Blacks test.

“I have always kept physically fit and this challenge helps me with my mental fitness,” Jones said.

“I have to do some form of exercise and get out with nature because that’s how I balance my life.

“I was always fit as an All Black and every day there are consequences for your actions because you are representing your country but when you become an aging athlete like me, it’s not as much pressure,” Jones laughs.

The challenge is can they keep on track? Image / Supplied

“But it’s not just our kids. We are talking to entire families and I’ve always been a great believer that all our kids deserve opportunities.

“If they are struggling, through whatever reason, they deserve support.”

“New Zealand is blessed to have a guy like Mike King. His relentless drive and determination to help every single person - no matter your race or financial status is admirable.

“I am in awe of the guy.”

The team land in Pāpāmoa today and will head to Whakatāne tomorrow.