For a politician who most people have never heard of, NZ First MP Darroch Ball's fingerprints pop up a lot on the Government's work.
"I think we need people who are quite show-boaty and quite out there, extroverted," Ball says, sitting at a table under a large Winston Peters puppet in Wellington's Backbencher pub.
"But you also need the people who work behind the scenes."
The 38-year-old former solider and teacher is quietly spoken, picks his words carefully and almost winces when asked to talk about himself.
Ball also says he doesn't smile if he doesn't mean it.
"I'm not a fake person. I don't smile because I think should."
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According to members of the NZ First caucus, it was Ball who convinced his party colleagues to demand a referendum on major abortion reforms being driven by the Government.
While a plebiscite is unlikely to happen, the last-minute demand blindsided Justice Minister Andrew Little after months of negotiations with NZ First, and raised the spectre of yet another decision for voters at next year's election.
Ball – based in Palmerston North – also took the reins when NZ First announced it would oppose legislation on pill testing at festivals, as floated by Police Minister Stuart Nash.
It drew the ire of those looking for reform and put Ball at odds with his party's own youth wing at their annual conference. The Government is now funding more research on the subject.
When the Drug Foundation commented on the issue in September, its statement read: "Darroch Ball needs to get out of the way".
Ball's portfolios - law and order and social services - have also covered NZ First's blocking of Little's bid to remove three strikes sentencing legislation, and the party's initial support of National MP Simeon Brown's bill cracking downing on synthetic drugs.
His bill calling for mandatory sentences for those who assault paramedics passed its first reading before Christmas.
For all that, Ball insists he's just been handed the right job at the right time, and that he is just a single vote in his party's caucus.
"I've got just as much influence as another NZ First MP. They're just huge portfolios. My job isn't to be a thorn in the side, it's just to represent NZ First's positions," he says.
"I'm not doing it to get headlines or put my head above the parapet at all."
NZ First MP Tracey Martin – who supports the abortion reforms and was caught awkwardly in the middle when her party called for a referendum – admits she and Ball have had a few "really intense" debates in past.
"We come from two completely different poles … But actually, Darroch and I get on really well," she says.
Martin puts Ball's influence in the NZ First caucus on him doing his homework and focusing on detail during party discussions.
"His voice is no louder than anybody else's. But he comes fully prepared," Martin says.
She also means that literally.
"I've never ever seen Darroch raise his voice. The more intense he gets, the quieter he gets."
Originally from Auckland, Ball came to politics at age of 30, after spending his 20s in the Defence Force as a logistics officer.
He says his problem there was talking about politics too much.
"People didn't like it. They thought I was crazy," he says.
"I was still in the army when I joined the local electorate committee … I thought, I could be over-opinionated and annoy the hell out of my mates in the mess or I could step up and give it a go."
Ball carries a photo of his dad in his wallet and say the loss of his father to cancer at 17 left him drifting.
"I didn't get into trouble with the law or anything, but some of the decisions I made, it wasn't the easiest time to take. It was more a lack of guidance," Ball says.
He himself became a dad at 19, spent four years finishing a three-year science degree and says the army eventually served as a rock to give him direction.
"It was really, really tough … It wasn't your typical sort of student life. But I learned of a lot of life lessons. I wouldn't change it for the world," Ball says.
"I've been on the sole-parent benefit, I've been on the student allowance, I have walked into Winz offices and had to stand in line. I've had that experience and the struggle it is."
The time also served to shape his conservative politics.
"One of my main philosophies is personal responsibility. That doesn't mean you kick them to the kerb and tell them to figure it out themselves," he says.
"But it also means taking responsibility for yourself, helping yourself out and helping your family out."
But Ball is most animated when he talks about his time working with at-risks youths in the army, and subsequently the YMCA. His subsequent career in teaching high school was cut to just six months after he entered Parliament in 2014.
"It really showed me that the importance of having someone like my dad. Looking back on it, that's where I really started appreciating what some of our young people go through their whole lives not having someone like that," he says.
"That really ignited something in me."