How to interview sports stars who are not liked.
Without doubt the best aspect of radio is the guests I get to chew the fat with. But this week came a new challenge: Ricky Stuart. He's done it all in league - played for the Kangaroos and New South Wales, coached sides to grand final victories - but is also perceived by many as being a plonker. So I mentioned to my boss, "Ricky's on the show this weekend - not sure how it will go, because my first question kept coming back to this: why do so many people think you're a dick?" Welcome to the 10-second interview ended by an abrupt hang-up! I don't typically get nervous for interviews but was for this one. I said to him beforehand that it would be about him, the person, the grumpy coach. He responds, "please, no". As it turned out, Stuart was a joy to talk footy with. Yes, he admitted he loses the plot and the fines over the years for sulking over losses have mounted up. But as he pointed out, as a player, he wanted two things: to win and earn respect. Nothing has changed. In one 10-minute chat, Stuart reminded me perception and reality are two different things when it comes to people. This was one interview that will stick with me for a long time.
Who'd want to be a Russian whistleblower?
While the world focuses on the dodgy James Bond-like practices of Russian sport, spare a thought for the scientist who spilled the beans. He's now in hiding in the United States under an assumed identity. There were two things Wada needed to do when they came to their whistleblower: 1) extract information quickly and 2) keep him alive. It reminds me of an interview I did for the Holmes show many years ago with Joseph Pistone, AKA Donnie Brasco. He was the FBI agent who went undercover for two decades, exposing some of the biggest Mafia figures in the United States. When we filmed him in Sydney for the Hollywood movie on his life, his face had to be blacked out and he came with an armed bodyguard. Those measures made sense with a $5 million bounty still on his head. While this Russian scientist has exposed one of the greatest frauds in world sport, he will now be constantly looking over his shoulder. That's the true cost of honesty and integrity.
How do you stop NRL players being 'dickheads'?
Roosters coach Trent Robinson came out midweek imploring the NRL to do more to protect players from extortion. Really? How would that work? Corey Norman and his so called 'sex tape' would never have found its way into the hands of cash grabbers had it not been for the fact Norman decided sending the recording to team-mates was not only a good laugh but also a good idea. Has it got to the point where there's no saving some players? As the saying goes, 'boys will be boys'. But take the NBA and their plan to protect players from their own stupidity. When I spoke to Sean Marks a few years back after San Antonio won a title, the Kiwi said the celebration party was a phone-free zone. All devices had to be checked in at the entrance. I've always believed New Zealand will reach that point, especially around a team like the All Blacks. The only solution for the NRL is to plead with Apple to produce a phone with no photo or video option. Problem solved.
Why Cronulla should win the NRL premiership.
Without wanting to offend every Warriors supporter, because they are my team, wouldn't it be brilliant if Cronulla won the NRL this year? The Sharks have long been viewed as the battlers, but think about what they have been through in recent years: the drugs crisis, which brought the organisation to their knees and led to coach Shane Flanagan being suspended for a season, embarrassing crowds, worse financials and they couldn't find a jersey sponsor. There was talk of moving the whole set-up to Gosford. Yet, here we are talking about a side who can make it 15 straight wins by beating the bottom-placed Knights today. We've all loved the year of the upset, the unexpected in sport. Cronulla would add another chapter if they won their first ever NRL title. No one picked that pre-season.
Steve Tew's tough choice
Finally, talk about conflicted loyalties for New Zealand Rugby chief executive Steve Tew. With the nation now wondering if our sevens programmes are truly on track, Tew also has the added family stress of daughter Ruby competing in the women's eight at the rowing regatta. When I very nastily asked on radio which gold he'd take, Tew eventually buckled, "family first Tony, family first".
Questions of the Week
Is Cory Jane the only Kiwi sportsperson to have mastered Twitter?
Can anyone remember a time when a tweet landed him in hot water?
Did Gordon Tietjens really send Kurt Baker an invitation to a have a team meeting pre-Rio? Remembering Baker missed out on selection.
Has the New Zealand media finally grown up when it comes to publishing leaked naked photos of sports stars?
There is one doing the rounds now but thankfully common sense and privacy has prevailed. Maybe some decent lessons were learned after All Black Aaron Smith was unfairly embarrassed in front of the whole country.
Has this been the most bizarre year in Warriors history? I can't remember anything like it - players released, players picked to sit on the bench, players emotionally spent. We've had it all. Yet somehow this team could still make the top eight.
Was this morning the first Sunday in a long, long time when Kiwi fans opted to watch a live Super Rugby match in South Africa?
Text of the Week from one very proud dad
I got hold of All Blacks selector Grant Fox this week, for once not to talk rugby but to congratulate him on the selection of son Ryan in the New Zealand golf team for Rio. While on holiday in Fiji, Foxy's response was this: "Bula Veitchy. An Olympian in the family, very, very cool!" That's the last time I mention Grant in a story about Ryan, I promise. The poor kid must get sick of being called the son of an All Blacks legend.
Tweet of the Week
"Hello friend! Find the link on my account and i show you nude breasts."
Nigel Owens MBE
"No point u showing them to me my lovely. You could cover them in cream with 100s&1000s & it would make no difference."