Martin Devlin — who has left the Radio Sport morning gig for the prime ZB slots on Saturday and Sunday — talks to Chris Rattue about snaring his dream job, Steve Hansen, social media, dolphins and penguins, and more.

You once competed against radio sports king Murray Deaker. Now you've got his ZB spot ...

It gives me pride more than anything else. He set the standard, achieved what we in this business all aspire to. His was THE sports radio show ... in excellence, and rating figures. We want to hit the same levels. At the moment, I'm as nervous as all heck. We've just had a meeting and I spent it lying on the floor cuddling a bean bag. It's still like I've wandered into someone else's bedroom at Newstalk ZB.

Social media ... what's the impact on your broadcasting work over the past decade?


It's about how much weight you put on it ... it is ridiculous how much the media lets it influence what they think. Social media is essentially talkback. For a long time, those in the industry on your (written) side of it scorned talkback as the uninformed rabble mouthing off. Now you dive into the cesspool of tweets and social media as if it means something ... explain that to me? Talkback is the only honest form of this type of feedback. It is a hell of a lot easier to sit anonymously at a keyboard ... but when your voice is out there, someone knows who you are.

Are you ageing well?

I've found it very difficult. I'm growing old very disgracefully. It's scary. My old man died at 63. I'm 54 ... I think about that, if I only had nine more years with my sons ... it isn't very long. It's weird ... I used to look at my parents and think 'all you do is talk about people who are dying and sick'.

Do you get approached by the public to talk sport?

You think that not a lot of people know who you are, although of course they do. A guy came up to me while I was wandering around Dress Smart last weekend and said, 'You're that guy.' I said, 'Yes, hi, I'm Martin, how are you?' He said, 'Didn't you do our air conditioning a couple of years back?' I laughed all the way home on that.

Is it tricky being 'up' all the time for radio?

It certainly is, especially for those doing breakfast shows. I used to call it the demon time, when the things you've done wrong, decisions, stupid things you've said, the people you might have burned in your life ... all that kind of stuff comes back. It can be quite a lonely time, especially if you are doing a show by yourself. In terms of your own biorhythms, some days you get to work and you're not quite there. There might have been an argument at home, you're worried about something, some financial stress.

What is the one big interview you would love to snare?

I'd love to interview (former Manchester United boss) Sir Alex Ferguson again. I felt really sad hearing about his brain haemorrhage. My brother had the same thing happen to him during the 2011 Rugby World Cup. We're very grateful he survived and it was down to good luck and circumstance. I interviewed Sir Alex in 2011 at a Christchurch charity gig organised by the late Steve Sumner. I had 12 minutes allocated and we ended up talking for 28. I still remember him talking about how he got all those big personalities to play together. In the end, someone has to be the boss. I know someone from HR will tell us we have to be penguins and dolphins. When you're dealing with competitive men, somebody has to be the top dog. You don't need a seance and incense.

A current sports question: The future is bleak for the Phoenix continuing in the A-League ... from your perspective as a football fan originally from Wellington, what went so horribly wrong?

The thing which really irks me is the way the current owners pumped their own tyres when they took over from Terry Serepisos, yet it has got a lot worse. They are a bunch of businessmen, which is great. But I'm not sure how much love they have for it - I don't think they do. You have to live it.

In an interview nearly a decade ago, you wanted T20 cricket to "fall on its arse" ...

Did I? I've changed my mind. I'm still a grumpy old man who loves test cricket but I understand and respect that the other forms have to be played. It's not as if I don't enjoy them. It's the frivolousness of sport now which gets me. There are so many games ... before you know it, it's the third Bledisloe game with its own sponsor, it's impossible to keep up.

So is there any point in asking you about the Auckland rugby/league landscape?

I went to the Warriors last weekend and it was brilliant. But I don't care about Auckland rugby. I want the Hurricanes to win but the apex of New Zealand rugby is the All Blacks and that's all I really care about. You'd struggle to find anyone who cares about the Highlanders, say, more than the All Blacks. We're trapped in that ... winning the World Cup.

Your favourite recent sports watch was ...

The best sport I've watched in the last few days was (American basketballer) LeBron James doing the buzzer beater with one hand ... and the great thing is the Blues won and the story wasn't about Israel Folau.

Who will win the football World Cup this year?

The Germans. They've got a fantastic side. But the circumstances of playing in Russia are unusual. The tournament could turn into something very different.

You get on well with All Blacks coach Steve Hansen ... but does that cause tricky moments?

New Zealand is so small, you do build relationships. Steve Hansen doesn't fudge his answers, and he does make it clear when he isn't going to answer something. These All Blacks have been much more inclusive with media and fans. The relationship is probably influenced by them having so much success - there hasn't been a World Cup calamity for a while. I'd hope they would approach it the same way if that did happen.

What do you love most about your job?

Working with (producer) Hayden O'Neill. I wanted Matho (the late journalist John Matheson) to come with me when I returned to Radio Sport, but they said we were too alike. Hayden is a great bugger to work with, completely different to me. It would take anyone all of one minute to work that out.

Job dislikes?

Nothing, except I get bummed out if I haven't nailed it. I don't need other people and ratings to know if I've performed. What I keep in mind is that we become part of people's day, people with real jobs, real lives. It's like you are invited into their personal living space or head space. It's a rare privilege.

Your main aim is ...

There are resources at this station I've never had before. Newstalk ZB is the No1 station and that is the buzz. I've aspired to work here and want to make a great success of it.

Martin Devlin starts his weekend 12-3pm show on Newstalk ZB today.