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Mark Richardson on turning 50 and making his mark on the world

The sporting legend and TV star gives us an all-access pass to his life

Turning half a century is an important milestone for anyone, but rather than wanting a big celebration, Mark Richardson has an unusual wish – to learn to relax.

“The second half of my life I need to chill out,” the former Black Cap and TV presenter tells the Weekly as we sit down for a chat with his wife Mary and teenage twins Annabel and Charlie at their Auckland home.

“The problem is that I find it hard to relax because I haven’t reached where I want to be,” he explains. “I’m not far off, but I’m not there yet.

“It would be fantastic to one day be doing my own show that’s a bit like The AM Show or The Project, but it’s mine. In the next decade, I want to do at least three years where it’s The Mark Richardson Show!”

The couple have had even more time together, with Mary losing her job during the pandemic. “There’s nothing quite like being at home with your family,” she says.

It’s exciting talk from the cricketer-turned-TV star, who, in addition to presenting on Three’s The AM Show and holding down a regular spot on news and entertainment show The Project, this month also returns to our screens as the host of The Block NZ. But Mark has always been full of surprises.

As a top-tier sportsman he describes his style of play as “conservative”, but on the airwaves he’s the opposite, often hitting the headlines with his controversial statements.

“A guy once wrote an article about how I was desperately trying to be Paul Henry or Mike Hosking and it’s always stuck with me,” he shrugs. “I’m angry about it because all I’ve ever tried to be is me. I’m one of those people who listens to criticism and tries to make the negative a positive. So, it makes me angry, but I use it.”

Mark will have a low-key celebration of his milestone birthday. His gruelling work schedule means he won’t be honouring the occasion until October with a family holiday.

“I don’t want to go away unless I can take a break from everything,” he smiles. And no extended celebration vacation would be complete without Mary, 50, and the kids, who turned 14 on May 23 – an auspicious date carefully chosen by their parents.

Mary reckons the kids take after their dad. “They have Mark’s focus. They want to get to the top.”

“They were born by Caesarean because one was ‘here’ and one was ‘there’,” Mark explains, pointing to the different ways Mary carried them. “We had a choice of a few days, but we chose 23 because it’s a good sports number. Twenty-three is Michael Jordan’s number and all the greats who think they’re great at sports wear number 23. So that’s when we booked it.”

It certainly seems to be paying off. Charlie is “showing some promise” in running.

“He loves his footy too, as well as cricket,” Mark says.

“He has some genuine natural talent.” As, too, does Annabel, who has a real flair for running, swimming and water polo. “They’re sporty kids and we’ve exposed them to as much sport as we possibly can.”

Despite his own sporting prowess, having represented New Zealand in 38 tests from 2000 to 2004, Mark doesn’t put any pressure on his children, revealing he’s always very quiet when watching from

the sidelines.

“My mum and me are the ones screaming,” Mary laughs. “He’s just not that type of person.”

“No, I’m not,” Mark agrees. “I don’t care if the ref is awful. The only time I get wound up is if I don’t think the ref is managing foul play well enough. But when it comes to the rules of the game, I don’t give a toss, as long as they’re having fun.”

The couple, who’ve been married for 16 years, love to watch their kids play sport and former flight attendant Mary has had more opportunity to do so since, due to the Covid pandemic, she was made redundant from Air New Zealand in December.

“It’s been perfect,” she says with a smile. “It’s really nice and the kids are so busy I wonder how I used to fit work in! There’s nothing quite like being at home with your family. I’ve changed priorities and realised that life is actually short. It’s nice just slowing down and being there. Teenagers need you as well, even though they’re independent and can come and go on their own.”

Level four lockdown last year had already given her a taste of what life without her job would feel like. “At that time, no one had to go anywhere and it was good,” she laughs.

“But it wasn’t the Brady Bunch!” grins Mark, who took to running 15-16 kilometres a day with the twins in tow. He also found himself “spending a lot of time playing PlayStation” with Charlie.

“And I baked!” Mary adds.

With The AM Show co-stars Amanda Gillies and Duncan Garner

Even outside of lockdown, Mark says, “The big thing is to keep them busy in sport to keep away the nasties. They’re still going to be exposed to bad things, but if we keep them into sport all the way through school – at least two or three sports – they’re less idle and it will keep them out of trouble.”

“But they have Mark’s focus, both of them,” Mary interjects. “They both want to be good at what they do. They want to get to the top of what they do, and they’re really focused, whereas I’m all over the place!”

“They’re different, though,” Mark remarks. “Charlie likes to win whereas Annabel is focused on training hard and doing the right thing. She’ll prepare and he’ll just do.”

It’s his daughter’s approach he can relate to more. He says he has a fatalistic attitude towards life but has given himself permission – after some advice from late cricketing great Martin Crowe – to have some fun in his broadcasting career. Something he never let himself do as a cricketer.

“I’m not going to worry about outraging anyone. I’m proud of not actually crossing the line in terms of taste, but I want to get as close to it as I possibly can,” he says, referring to his at-times contentious statements on The AM Show that have caused public outcry.

The star batsman had many career highs

“I don’t think I’ve ever crossed a line. I know people may strongly disagree with the things I have said, but I feel it’s an honest opinion,” he says.

“I’m proud that I’ve been able to be in the roles I have and survived and not had my knuckles rapped by my bosses. People get absolutely crucified these days and there are campaigns where people urge sponsors to pull out.

“Do they realise these people probably have a family and kids at school? You’re wanting to stuff up their life and you think you’re the good person? I get

a little bit frustrated.”

Living on the edge, however, has always been a major driver in his life. During a segment for The Project last year, Mark was tasked with doing a health assessment that included DNA testing as well as a mental health test.

“What came back was off the Richter scale when it comes to anxiety and worry,” he confides.

With his ambitions of dominating the airwaves, the chances of Mark finding time to relax seem remote, but once he’s achieved his broadcasting goals, he says he’s keen to retire to the Hawke’s Bay, hopefully with some friends in tow.

And when he’s turned off his microphone and hung up his headphones, he declares, “You won’t hear a thing from me again!” After a slight pause, he breaks into a wide grin. “I tell a lie. I want to be a cricket commentator until I’m old and senile, and not making any sense – but it will be a holiday gig!”

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