The All Black whose kidney problems ended his career is loving work after a life-giving transplant.

Working nine-to-five shifts every day is a chore for many people - but not former All Black Joeli Vidiri.

It is just over a year since Vidiri received a kidney transplant, with the life-saving surgery coming about 15 years after a debilitating kidney illness ended his playing career.

Speaking to the Herald On Sunday this week, the 43-year-old was basking in his freedom to do what many people take for granted - working a full-time job.

"With the transplant now, I am able to go there and do full-time work. Before, I had to come back from dialysis and only worked maybe three or four days.


"I wish I was still 16 years old," he said, laughing.

The former wing, who lives in Pukekohe, works at the local Mitre 10 Mega store.

Asked what he did there, he proudly explained he was a frontman of the store - working at an area customers first see when they walk in.

"It is the seasonal area. In the summer, there's all the summer furniture and barbecue [gear]. In the winter there are fireplaces and all that."

The job keeps him moving and is good exercise, he says.

But he is now getting ready to go back to the gym.

Vidiri received his new kidney at the end of May last year.

It came after more than a decade of being on the waiting list, after he was diagnosed with kidney problems at just 27.

The wait was hard at times, he says, but getting a second chance at life was incredible and he wanted his donor and their family to know that.

"At the moment, I don't know [him] because we're not allowed to know."

But he said he was very thankful the donor came forward.

"For me, I'm just cherishing every moment that I'm still breathing and doing what I love."

The transplant had also led him to lend his weight to getting out an important message among Pasifika and Maori communities - to donate.

"That's one thing I want to encourage especially us Pacific Islanders and Maori, to come forward to do that.

"We see now, in our communities, a lot of us are waiting [for an organ transplant], but we don't understand what's going on."

Vidiri acknowledged that many within those communities tended to shy away from the practice of organ donation - or receiving another person's organ - because of religious or cultural beliefs.

"What we have to know is that we keep another person alive to pursue what they want."

He often thought about his friend and former All Black great Jonah Lomu, who died last November after a long battle with kidney issues.

Joeli Vidiri on the field for New Zealand in 2005. Photo / Greg Bowker; Jimmy Joe
Joeli Vidiri on the field for New Zealand in 2005. Photo / Greg Bowker; Jimmy Joe

Vidiri continues to give back to his community through coaching rugby at the Pukekohe Rugby Club and his old stomping ground at Counties Manukau.

He is also linked to Kidney Kids and the Manukau SuperClinic in South Auckland, where he is often found answering patients' questions about getting a transplant.

"I'm very grateful for all the prayers and the support.

"I'm also very thankful that I've come to know the change that a transplant brings to your life - it's all so incredible."