Former All Black wing says he is looking forward to getting back to work after getting new kidney

His mega-watt smile could power the Auckland grid and Joeli Vidiri's skin is back to its normal hue.

Returning to work is next on the list for the former All Black wing, two months after his successful kidney transplant to remedy problems which have bitten into his life for the past 15 years.

Vidiri was taken off a transplant waiting list in 2008 because his mother, Alemeci, had concerns but the pair reconciled and in a nice twist she was visiting her son when he got the call in late May.

"I was asleep about three in the morning and mum was there and she heard the phone beep and said I'd better check it," Vidiri said.


"It was my physician and he wanted me there in about two hours at Auckland Hospital."

Vidiri, who has a rare O+ blood type, and a woman who'd been waiting even longer for a transplant, were each to receive a healthy kidney from an unidentified young man.

"It was so good to hear that. Then they said it was from a youngster and I said, 'doc, that's like putting a 2.8 engine in a V8'. The lady took the left kidney and I took the right."

Vidiri was back in recovery after three hours of surgery. He has had a few minor issues but they were sorted and he is feeling stronger every day.

"When I came to, the pain started to kick in but I was pretty sleepy as well," he said.

VIdiri is walking every day. "I feel the cold now, though," he said. "When I was on dialysis, I didn't seem to feel it but that was probably because of all the toxin inside me. My levels were high, about 2500, and now they are at 500 and coming down to the 60 they want them at.

"The kidney is still small but it is growing and it will be able to do more work while my bladder, which used to be like a hard golf ball, is now like a softball and able to work."

12 Sep 1998: Joeli Vidiri of New Zealand in action. Photo / Allsport
12 Sep 1998: Joeli Vidiri of New Zealand in action. Photo / Allsport

Vidiri is 41 and has lost about 12kg to weigh 106kg. He drinks litres of water a day and his diet has changed to more vegetables and soups to continue flushing his system.


It's been a choppy journey since 2001 when his kidney problem was discovered. That season, Vidiri thought he might have a show of making the All Blacks' end-of-year tour when new coaches John Mitchell and Robbie Deans took over.

He'd played 61 games for the Blues and was playing for Auckland in the ITM Cup when he felt crook after a game against Bay of Plenty.

"That was the last game I played. I went to hospital and they gave me all these tests and discovered my problem," he said.

Life has been erratic because of those health problems but his old Pukekohe clubmate, Dave Littin, stepped up to build better organisation around Vidiri and hired him to man the floor at his Mitre 10 store.

"I love my job. It kept me going when I was sick," he said.

"I'd wake up and it gave me something to look forward to and keep my mind off the problem. Now I can't wait to get back."