Melodie Robinson is a former Miss Canterbury who became a Sky rugby presenter and commentator after 18 years in the Black Ferns. She has two sons named after favourite sports stars Jenson (Button) and Fred (Couples)
1. How did a beauty pageant winner end up playing rugby?
I always loved rugby and after watching David Kirk and his team win the 1987 World Cup I played everything with the boys at school lunch breaks and I wanted to play rugby as a teenager. I didn't have the opportunity until university because there weren't any schoolgirls' rugby teams back then. I saw an ad at (Otago) uni for girls to try out and about 60 of us showed up. I remember someone saying "where's Miss Canterbury, I'm going to smash her" and I kept quiet. I actually quit my part-time modelling during my first year of university because I had too many bruises.
2. Were you always destined for beauty pageants?
Oh no. I was a tomboy. Pretty rough and ready. All of that. When I was 14 mum put me through a deportment course which was really good for me. It taught me grooming and manners and the beauty competitions were part of that. I was quite innocent and naive as 17-year-old girls are, and didn't really think of the sexualisation of girls or that sort of thing. It did give me a platform to launch myself from though, gave me confidence to be ambitious about where I was heading. In today's world, if I was 18, and knew what I know now, I definitely wouldn't enter one. There's so much more you can do as a girl.
3. How would you describe your childhood?
There wasn't a lot of sport. My dad worked two jobs and mum worked from home making fur coats, and then owned a bridal hire company. As the second oldest I got to spend a lot of time looking after my brothers and sisters who were 8, 10, and 12 years younger than me. We had a huge backyard and basically played out the back all the time. When mum and dad split, he took the boys and it was only myself and my sister Celia at home so I was like a street kid round Christchurch walking everywhere and hanging out at the square. I had a lot of love from my parents though, and they both taught me the values of working hard.
4. What did your dad do?
Dad's a great character.
He was a fireman and a carpenter but he was also in the Devils Henchmen gang, mostly in Timaru. It was just hanging out, I think, a social group and when he moved to Australia he became a policeman. He's obsessed with rugby. My grandfather and great-grandfather were Maori All Blacks.
5. What did your parents teach you that you would never pass on to your own children?
Mum was very much into the church and I'm not. So I guess [my kids] won't get the religious upbringing that I did. I went to Koinonia Christian School in Christchurch which taught in the American Christian Education System which basically meant learning a lot of American history and a whole lot about the Bible. When I hit 14 I started thinking (religion) wasn't really for me. But I didn't tell my mum. Her faith was so strong that right up until she died she thought God was going to cure her. There was no point in having a debate (about religion). I valued my relationship with her too much.
6. Did she die recently?
She died this year of cancer. She was such a hard worker. She worked her fingers to the bone to pay off the mortgage and buy a farmlet then had two years of a great life before the cancer came. That made me rethink everything. You realise life is short and that's the reason I spend all my time with my family. Work stresses just don't seem to matter so much now.
7. Is there still sexism in sport?
Of course. Male sports get the majority of corporate funding. Unbelievably the ANZ netball championship struggled to find a broadcaster last year in Australia.
8. How about in television?
That's a can of worms. In terms of management and decision making in sports TV yes, because it's still predominantly male sports we cover and that's a hard boundary to crack. With mainstream TV and news providers in New Zealand, women get a really good crack. But female presenters in sport, particularly, have to be good looking and male presenters don't.
9. Have you fought against that?
If I had tried to fight the fight from the start I wouldn't have lasted. I've always had the philosophy that I get in, do the job, make myself a piece of the furniture and one day they will turn around and hopefully I will be in a decision-making position. That's a plan. There have been some amazing women who I have worked with in power positions in television. Tui McKendrick was head of sport for years at Sky, Andrea McVeigh was head of rugby programmes and Adi Rikihana is one of our main producers in rugby and has just started directing. There are exceptional women who are getting there.
10. You are married to a golfer: what's the key to mental toughness in your opinion?
A never-give-up attitude, resilience, self-belief and having great people around you. Marcus [Wheelhouse, a former pro golfer turned coach] was ranked number one amateur golfer in the world at one stage, he was in the Eisenhower Trophy team the year after Phil Tataurangi won it but he had a terrible ear infection. That gave him doubts later on when he went pro and that's tough on a golfer. The great thing now is he's an amazing coach.
11. Do you talk to your sons about mental toughness?
It's more by osmosis I think. When we play sports it's real rough and tumble. I tackle them and don't let them win, though I might let them get a try. I always think "set an example and through osmosis they'll want to work hard".
12. What's the most difficult thing about interviewing All Blacks?
Don't ask them the same thing they are asked a million times. They appreciate interviews that are original and respectful.