Lights dim for Greymouth lad - for now...
"It's been a surreal few days coming to terms with the closing of Radio Sport". Reuben Mama tells McBride Vision.
Reuben Mama reflects.
Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d be asked to go to Burger King of all places during my first week working at Radio Sport. This must be a stitch up for the new guy surely. But, nevertheless I grabbed my microphone and backpack and set out to Henderson in West Auckland in one of the company’s Toyota Corolla’s to see some of the finest athletes on the planet.
Upon arrival there were a few cars and out the front by the entry door a couple of big names were sharing cigarettes, this wasn’t the type of dart I was accustomed to seeing them have in their hands, but hey, whatever gets the competitive juices flowing.
I was at the Burger King to interview the world’s best Darts players ahead of the second running of the Auckland Darts Masters at Trusts Arena that weekend. They were all there, 16 times world champion Phil “The Power” Taylor, “Mighty” Michael Van Gerwen and “The Flying Scotsman” Gary Anderson to name a few.
As I walked in, I thought this was a far cry from the footy fields or basketball courts I’d been told most press conferences would take place at, but if I could nab a couple of chips or even a burger I’d be more than happy. We got directed to the kiosks where patrons would usually gobble their orders and sitting at each one was one of the players.
Star struck, I first interviewed Van Gerwen who told me how he was going to win in his confident manor and then Anderson, who was an incredibly nice guy and made me realise how taxing the sport’s travel schedule is, saying he’d only been home for about 200 days in the past three years.
The Flying Scotsman” Gary Anderson.
Though it’s often frowned upon to ask for photos as a journalist, the wide eyed 20-year-old in me couldn’t help but ask Gary for a snap and he was more than happy. So there we were, big smiles sitting in a Burger King kiosk - what a start to my career.
Phone interviews are very much the norm in radio journalism as one of the advantages we had on our friends in television is all we needed mainly was audio so a quick phone interview was much easier to conduct than trying to get a camera everywhere.
My first interview for Radio Sport was with a very pissed off Scott Robertson. Rightly so, the New Zealand Under 20 side he was coaching had just missed out on the World Championship semi-finals for the first time ever, with Ireland qualifying top of their pool.
I could tell from the moment he answered the phone that he wasn’t too keen to chat but being a professional he answered my questions, before I knew to wrap things up after reminding him they were the first NZ team to fail to make the semi-finals to which he replied “Gee, thanks for the reminder.”
Throughout my almost four years at Radio Sport I was lucky to interview New Zealand’s top athletes from all sports from All Blacks, Silver Ferns, Black Caps and even Black Jacks. (NZ Bowls). I spoke to a lot of our top individual athletes too, which I thoroughly enjoyed, as it was always fascinating to follow their careers and learn the highs and lows that come with that.
I often get asked who my favourite person I’ve interviewed is and who the most high profile person is. My favourite two are a couple of our professional road cyclists - George Bennett and Shane Archbold. George hails from Nelson, while Shane, who’s affectionately known as the “Flying Mullet” due to his flowing locks is from Timaru,so you can imagine the type of personalities that comes with that. George is NZ’s best rider and based in the small European country of Andorra, while Shane’s in Spain.
The thing I loved about speaking to them was their honesty. These blokes are straight shooters and aren’t influenced by any media managers so it made for the best answers and yarns. They were also always happy to chat whenever I got in touch ahead of races like the Tour de France and Vuelta a Espana or even when they were recovering from injury or after a tough result and I learnt a lot about cycling - a sport I previously had little knowledge of due to them being so generous with their time.
From a personal perspective, the biggest name I ever interviewed was without a doubt, Johnathan Thurston. Being a massive rugby league fan, he was like royalty and so much so he now has a statue in North Queensland dedicated to him. I spoke to Thurston during the 2017 Nrl Auckland Nines tournament in the mixed media zone after a game. While it wasn’t the most memorable interview ever, getting to chat with one of the best to ever play the game was a definite highlight.
Being a proud West Coaster it was always special to chat to some of the Coasters who were doing the province proud around the world in their respective sports. I spoke to leading squash player Paul Coll regularly and we’d always talk about when he was next coming to Greymouth, current world sevens player of the year Ruby Tui was head girl at John Paul II High School when I was in one of my last years of primary school and she was stoked to know she was speaking with a fellow Coaster. Same with Slade Griffin, who I yarned to when he was with the Melbourne Storm. All of these athletes have never forgotten where they came from and that’s awesome.
While there were many highs, I also had some embarrassing moments. The most memorable was in 2017 when Steve Hansen had named his first squad for the year, with most of these players likely to feature when the British and Irish Lions arrived in a few months time. Jordie Barrett and Ngani Laumape were two of the new faces after stand out Super Rugby seasons with the Hurricanes.
There was a press conference with Hansen at the Heritage Hotel and I went along for the station. It was my first time at an All Blacks presser so I wanted to make sure I asked a couple of questions. Without thinking, I asked Hansen “With a couple of new players coming in, how important is it for them to control their excitement behind closed doors before they get out onto the field?” To which Hansen swiftly replied “Well I think it’s always important to control your excitement when you’re behind closed doors.” Which resulted in an eruption of laughter from fellow media and I couldn’t help but laugh too despite feeling embarrassed that Steve Hansen had hit me with his wit. I’ll take it as a badge of honour though.
One night stands out above all as my favourite opportunity through Radio Sport though. Standing on the sidelines commentating when the Kiwis beat the Kangaroos 26-24 at Mt Smart Stadium in 2018. There was only just under 13,000 fans there that night and nobody gave the Kiwis a chance as is the case most times we play Australia. The atmosphere when that final whistle blew was electric and like something I’d never experience before. I remember Shaun Johnson walking over to the crowd on my side and pumping them up, before I walked onto the field and past an emotional Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and Marty Taupau embracing and saying to each other “How good is this!?”
And then interviewing Kiwis debutant Brandon Smith on the field, who had scored a try on his test debut and was absolutely buzzing. I’ll never forget it.
Reuben remains in Auckland where he shares a flat with another ex Coaster, Connor Kilkelly. McBride Vision will continue to monitor the movements of his career.