Craig Dowd, the longtime All Blacks test prop, says the early rugby professionals were easy targets for "scumbags" and "parasites".
And Dowd has turned the blowtorch on the rugby players' association and its head Rob Nichol, suggesting they are most interested in superstar players.
Dowd's comments come after revelations concerning George Leaupepe, the 37-year-old former Samoan and Super Rugby player who has been in court for cannabis cultivation. Leaupepe - who played for the Highlanders, Hurricanes and Chiefs up until 2001 - blamed a lack of post-rugby support for his struggles.
Nichol says the Leaupepe story highlights the need for the players' association, which he has headed since its inception in 1999. But Dowd intimated that it might be time for the association to seek a new head.
Dowd said post-career support was not New Zealand Rugby's responsibility. That was the job of the players' association, which is funded by contributions from the players' wages.
"I think he's (Nichol) been there 20-odd years...even Barack Obama can't sit for three terms," Dowd told Radio Sport's D'Arcy Waldegrave.
"It needs to be a contestable position, needs to be some accountability. We have things in place but I'd like to see them work.
"The only time you really hear from the players' association is when Richie McCaw or Dan Carter farts, or something like Jonah Lomu (financial problems) happens.
"Look at what happened to George Leaupepe - they did nothing for him. The players' association have got a big role to play here and they need to be actively showing what they are doing."
The 46-year-old Dowd, who played 60 tests, said he was fortunate having worked eight years as a builder before professional rugby arrived, something that prepared him for life after the game. It was still a bewildering transition, he said, from earning $4.95 an hour to signing a contract worth a few hundred thousand dollars.
"Everyone was learning on the go as much as people tried to bring in business mentors and all the rest of it," he said.
"It was mind blowing stuff and we weren't ready. At the same time a lot of scum bags came out, a lot of businessmen who wanted your buck. I tell you, there were plenty of parasites out there who would take it off you and promise the world.
"A lot of guys lost a lot of money, myself being one of them, through people who were introduced through those rugby connections. It's a sad story and a lot more of them will come out of the woodwork."
Dowd said there was a "massive scrap heap of players who were discarded as they weren't needed".
"Players or past players won't come forward to ask for help because they feel like failures. You are dealing with a very macho world - they aren't okay but they won't admit to it," he said.
"What scares me now is that a lot of these guys are coming straight out of school. These are young men at heart not skilled for business or life. Rugby takes away a really important learning stage for most people.
"I'd love to get Rob Nichol on the phone and hear what he is doing for these players these days. I'm sure they (players' association) went through a learning process themselves."