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Jim Kayes' gratitude: What Hilary Barry and Paul Henry taught me

The Paul Henry sports presenter pays credit to his mentors.

Jim Kayes prefers to be the one asking the questions – and it’s quickly evident on his photoshoot with the Weekly that he really doesn’t like posing for photos.

Not that you’d know it from meeting him – the affable sports presenter on TV3’s Paul Henry show is chatty, charming and rather photogenic.

“I have done many interviews, but I’ve never been interviewed in my life,” Jim admits. “I’ve really just been avoiding having my photo taken!”

But he’s got important business to attend to first – lunch, which for this early riser, is at 9.30am. He fishes his toasted sandwich from a paper bag, takes a bite, followed by a sip of coffee and leans back in his chair. Having been up since 3.30am to start work at 4am, he’s looking remarkably bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.

“It’s a great lifestyle,” he says. “I don’t mind early mornings – and it means I’m home in the afternoon to be with my family.”

Jim (46) joined broadcasters Hilary Barry and Paul Henry as a presenter on the morning show at the beginning of last year, after 20 odd years as a sports journalist – 17 of which were spent following the All Blacks around the world.

He’s covered 180 of their test matches, including five world cups. This took him away for three months each year, which was not only hard on Jim, but also on his wife Hiria and their daughters, Olivia (14) and Ruth (10).

TV3’s early starters – Paul Henry, Verity Johnson, Ingrid Hipkiss and Jim.
TV3’s early starters – Paul Henry, Verity Johnson, Ingrid Hipkiss and Jim.

“You miss a lot when you are away so often and that’s tough on your relationships,” he admits. “I loved every minute of it and my wife was outstanding throughout it all, but it was time for a change.”

Now, he is relishing his new lifestyle.

“I love to cook, so I often make dinner, but it’s just being there – rather than ringing on the phone. I’m there to help with homework and give them cuddles whenever they need.”

Like their dad, Olivia and Ruth are both into sports, and Jim is their number one fan.

“They’re good little netballers. Olivia and I coach Ruthie’s school netball team. I love watching them play and going along to watch them dance. Now they’re into surfing – I can’t surf, so I just flop around on my boogie board while they catch proper waves.”

It’s clear the proud dad is also a big softie.

“I think we’re mutually wrapped around each other’s fingers,” he laughs. “Sometimes they get away with murder, but I try not to make it too often.”

The dad-of-two with his former co-host and friend Hilary Barry.
The dad-of-two with his former co-host and friend Hilary Barry.

Like most daughters, they know how to play to their dad’s weaknesses, which for Jim is a sweet tooth. “Ice cream, dessert – they get me every time.”

But as well as the personal aspect, Jim says professionally it was a good move for him.

“It took me out of my comfort zone, but I’m enjoying the challenge of being a presenter on a show like ours,” he reveals. “I have to constantly be on the ball and ready for any interesting topic that may come up – that’s part of the thrill.”

While he admits it’s been a learning curve, he says he had excellent teachers in Paul and Hilary.

“When it kicked off a year ago, none of us really knew how it would go but I’ve learnt so much from them both. They are so good at what they do.”

And although Hilary has since left the show, Jim is full of praise for the beloved newsreader.

“We all take jobs and leave jobs, and she’s moved on. I still love her to bits, I’m still deeply appreciative of all she taught me and we still stay in touch,” he says. “She was a great teacher and it was so reassuring to have her sitting next to me for that first year. Of course it was sad to see her go, but that’s part of life and we’re going great guns with Ingrid [Hipkiss] now.”

It’s this easy-going attitude as well as his warmth and likeability that has helped Jim become quite a hit on the show. It’s also earned him the respect of Paul.

“Paul took a big punt on me when he offered me the job. He didn’t know me from a bar of soap. But now I think I’ve earned his respect – I hope so, at least!” he laughs. “He’s pretty hard-case.”

By all accounts, Jim shares those attributes.

“You know how I told you my job had taken me out of my comfort zone – this is what I mean!” he quips as the Weekly’s photographer sets up his next photo. Following directions, he perches on a chair and smiles into the camera.

“You know, I think I’m actually getting quite good at this!”

Words: Ellen Dorset

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