New Zealand Warriors legend Manu Vatuvei has broken his silence for the first time after being released from prison, where he pleaded guilty to importing methamphetamine.

In his first tell-all interview since being released, Vatuvei spoke to the NZ Herald on his release from prison and how his sentence helped turn his life around.

Making his debut for the New Zealand Warriors in 2004, the winger would become a legend for the club, where he played 226 games across 14 seasons on the wing, scoring 152 tries.

Nicknamed 'The Beast', he would also go on to play with New Zealand in 29 matches and Tonga in two games. Alas, during his time as a player, Vatuvei became the club's top try-scorer and was the first player in NRL history to score at least ten tries in ten seasons.

However, following his retirement from rugby league due to a career-ending Achilles injury, his life would take a downward spiral. That spiral would include Vatuvei admitting he was doing things out of character and had thoughts of taking his own life.

“I was a beast on the field and tried to maintain that lifestyle and image off it. I went through a real dark time on and off the field and I ended up making bad choices,” Vatuvei told the NZ Herald.

“Like I said, I was a beast on the field and, because I'm a strong person, I didn't want any help but I knew I was struggling mentally.

“Ending my rugby league career with a ruptured Achilles was tough because my career was ended but not on my terms and that was hard to take.

“Things just spiralled from there. I even had thoughts of taking my own life.

“I was getting deeper and deeper and things just built up. I was doing things out of character and made bad choices and ended up where I was - incarcerated.”

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - MAY 01: Manu Vatuvei of the Warriors high fives with young players after the round nine NSW Intrust Super Cup Premiership match between the New Zealand Warriors and the Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs at Mt Smart Stadium on May 1, 2016 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images)

This downward spiral would come to an all-time low last year when he was sentenced to three years and seven months in prison after pleading guilty to importing methamphetamine into the country. However, after spending 15 months in prison, he was granted early parole in May.

“In prison, it gave me time to reflect on life and reflect on where I was and all my problems I was trying to run away from,” Vatuvei added.

“Being stuck in four walls on your own reminds you. Jail was probably the best thing that ever happened to me because I would have been in a worse position than what I am now.”

"Being incarcerated and then coming back out was tough because in prison there's no judgment. Everyone in jail had made a mistake but outside is different."

“I got back to training and feeling more comfortable around people. I met with Dave and he offered me a role at BBM, and I'm loving it. It's great seeing people on fitness journeys.

“I am enjoying every single moment. It has been an incredibly humbling experience, alongside the foodbank, to see what Dave and his team do.”

Since being released from prison, Vatuvei has returned to the New Zealand Warriors and has taken up a role with the club in a volunteer position, helping counsel young players on career decisions.

HAMILTON, NEW ZEALAND - MAY 19: Manu Vatuvei of the Warriors takes a photo ahead of the round 11 NRL match between the New Zealand Warriors and the St George Illawarra Dragons at Waikato Stadium on May 19, 2017 in Hamilton, New Zealand. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)