When he walks through the door of the Christchurch home he shares with wife Bridget and their two adorable daughters, Elle (5) and Eden (4), All Black captain Kieran Read’s thoughts are a world away from rugby.
Often, in a flurry of pink tutus and a lot of dancing, he will be quickly transformed into either a frog, a prince or even Ken, Barbie’s husband.
He knows every word to Frozen – Bridget (31) assures us a video of Kieran singing along to Let it Go exists somewhere – and he’s proven himself to be quite good at making fairy wands.
“Ah, well, you’ve got to be prepared to be silly with them,” Kieran (30) shrugs. “Spending time with the girls is the best – it’s how you get that really cool bond. And I do like arts and crafts…”
Balancing rugby and family has become a little more challenging since taking on the captaincy following Richie McCaw’s retirement last year, admits Kieran. And life is about to get even more chaotic for the Crusader, with the happy news he and Bridget are expecting baby number three!
“We’re really excited,” Kieran says with a grin. “We’re stoked. It’s a great way to finish the family. I think, this will be it.”
“We think,” adds a glowing Bridget with a sly smile.
“It will be!” Kieran exclaims. “It was hard enough to convince Bridget this time around!”
It’s certainly been an incredible 12 months, from winning the Rugby World Cup at the end of last year, through to Kieran’s elevation to captain, leading the team to his first Bledisloe Cup victory in the role, and now, their third baby.
“There’s been so many good times at once, it’s been awesome,” he nods. “As you get a bit older, you appreciate different things more, I think. You appreciate the rugby, but the family, that’s why you do it. It’s an amazing time of our lives.”
Looking absolutely radiant at the 20-week mark, Bridget smiles in agreement.
“We get that we’re fortunate to be having this ride,” she says. “Our day-to-day is pretty normal, but we have a lot of opportunities that we wouldn’t if Kieran didn’t do what he did.”
Still, the decision to have a new baby took a bit of planning – especially after Eden’s arrival came mid-rugby season. Kieran missed her delivery by a mere 10 minutes as he was in Wellington preparing for an All Black test.
“This pregnancy wasn’t a shock, it was planned,” he tells. “It happened relatively fast, just like the two girls.”
“Kieran backs himself,” Bridget laughs. “I gave him six months – if it happened, it happened. If it didn’t, it didn’t. We were perfectly happy with the girls, and while Elle was a dream baby, Eden was more full-on.
"She was hard work at the beginning and I struggled a bit. I did have to be convinced, but it was now or never! And the baby is due in January – far away from any rugby.”
As she did with her first two, Bridget had a gut feeling very early on that she was pregnant and promptly took several tests to confirm her suspicions after only a few weeks.
“I got back from training and there were four pregnancy tests on the bed,” tells Kieran. “I was so stoked – it’s the coolest feeling.”
“And,” interjects a laughing Bridget, “he was pretty proud of himself.”
“Of course!” he replies.
Bridget had a rough first trimester, with almost constant nausea through weeks five to 13.
“I was away for most of that,” admits Kieran guiltily. “I was getting texts saying, ‘What have you done to me?’”
“Yeah, I was thinking, ‘Whose bright idea was this?’” Bridget gripes. “That’s probably when I declared, ‘Never again.’”
Needless to say, Elle and Eden are very excited about the new baby, though they change their minds about wanting a brother or a sister.
“They were wanting a boy because then they’ll have someone else to fill the prince role in their games,” explains Bridget. “I have brothers, so I don’t know how realistic that expectation is. Now they’ve said they want a girl too.”
Their daughters are the absolute lights of Kieran and Bridget’s lives, with their own distinct personalities and interests, though they both like the rough and tumble of sport, as well as their princess dresses and Queen Elsa costumes.
“They’ll be out on the lawn tackling each other in tutus,” a proud Kieran nods.
“They definitely don’t conform to any stereotypes,” agrees Bridget. “Elle’s quite pedantic and particular, which is probably a bit more like me. Eden’s a bit more chaotic and has so much energy.”
“She’s definitely got her own mind,” grins Kieran.
With an age gap of only 20 months, the girls are best mates and they quite clearly love their dad, even if they don’t quite understand what he does for a living.
“Elle kind of gets it,” he says. “But it’s a bit different dropping your kid at school. All of these kids come up and have a high five and that’s cool, so she gets that.”
But, he says, the part Elle finds difficult is when the big kids stop her while she’s playing to ask if Kieran is her dad. She complains that by the time she’s talked to them about it, her friends have run off and she’s missed her game.
“So I just told her to keep running,” he laughs.
“They do get a bit confused about the promotional stuff, though,” adds Bridget. “If they see Kieran in an ad for Plumbing World, they’ll think he works there too. My dad and brother are both plumbers, so they think that’s hilarious.”
If Kieran’s been away for a while on a tour, Elle and Eden will want nothing more than playtime with Dad. He says it does force him to change gears from “Kieran Read, All Black” to just “Dad” pretty fast, but it is a welcome distraction from rugby.
“You just kind of switch into that mode, it takes your mind off things. If I’m home, they want me around.”
“Which is actually really nice,” says Bridget. “I’m not as fun, I’m more practical. They just want to be tackling someone.”
The couple aren’t fussed over the baby’s gender, Kieran saying he loves his relationship with his girls.
“There’s a lot of women in this house, which is fine by me. But in a few years’ time, getting the remote might be tougher! I’m in the middle of sorting out my games room so I can watch test cricket in peace,” he says, gesturing to a half-finished room where rugby jerseys in frames sit propped up against the wall, ready to be hung. “I’m looking forward to that!”
Finding time for just the two of them might prove to be a little trickier when the newest Read arrives, but the pair, who have been together for 14 years and married for seven, say they’ll do their best to make time for date nights.
The couple first met when they were at high school in South Auckland. Bridget was in seventh form, while Kieran was a sixth former.
“I love that she’s always older than me,” he jibes, looking at Bridget with a cheeky grin. “We were at a bonfire party and she snatched me up.”
Bridget remembers that it was Kieran’s impressive afro that first drew her attention, as well as his “op-shop chic” fashion style.
“We’d seen each other around before that, but everything went from that party,” she tells. “Fourteen years later, here we are!”
The couple packed up their entire lives into Kieran’s little car and moved from Auckland to Christchurch in 2005 after he was picked by Canterbury. Bridget remembers crying on the drive to the Bombay Hills, but they say they absolutely love living in the Garden City.
“We have grown and experienced all of the things you do in your adult life together,” says Bridget. “But we’re definitely not afraid to bring each other back down to earth – more so for Kieran. Head in the clouds, you know, being an All Black,” she teases.
“We do have a great relationship,” he agrees. “We don’t take each other too seriously. And yeah, she certainly keeps me grounded!”
As for Kieran, he reckons it was “the whole package” that first attracted Bridget, describing himself as “funky, a little geeky and cool”.
He had an off-beat fashion sense back then, wearing lots of T-shirts over shirts and granddad cardies. He says his tastes could still be described as “eclectic”.
“He even reads Harry Potter,” reveals Bridget. “I don’t, I have no idea what he’s on about when he’s talking about it.”
“She’s a Muggle,” whispers Kieran. “There’s a few of us who are right into it, actually. I’m definitely a Gryffindor.”
Shaking her head, a slightly bemused Bridget continues.
“Kieran’s never been afraid to be who he is, which I admire. He likes keeping up with fashion, though he did get a bit of stick for his new pink boots. He’s just bought a new hat too.”
“Bloody hell, we can’t be telling yarns about hats,” he mumbles, looking embarrassed. “But yeah, you do have to be yourself. I have my certain style... I got this one here when I was 16, so it must be good.”
Showing his personality is important for Kieran, especially when it comes to his new captaincy role.
“You don’t want to be the straight-up-and-down rugby cliché, which can be quite hard to do sometimes, with the questions you get asked after a game. But certainly, at home I’m different, more relaxed.”
Since taking up the mantle, Kieran says it’s been a surprise at how much he is recognised and stopped.
“You thought they already knew you, aye?” Bridget ribs, a huge grin on her face.
“Nah... I just mean there’s been a lot more selfies taken!” he replies.“But I’ve been loving it. I’m really enjoying the responsibility.”
Of course, even more of that will be coming soon, but both Kieran and Bridget are ready to tackle it head-on, and can’t be more excited to welcome their new addition in the summer.
“It’s a very exciting time,” says Kieran. “And, this time, I’ll be here for it!”