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Sam Hayes’ secret celebration

The inside scoop on the news presenter’s memorable TV date
Samantha Hayes

It’s been a big year for broadcasting star Samantha Hayes. Not only has she bagged one of TV’s biggest jobs, but she’s travelled the world and bought her first house too. So it’s no surprise perhaps that the stunning newsreader almost forgot a certain somewhat momentous milestone.

“It kind of snuck up on me,” Sam tells us as we catch up to celebrate her 10 years at TV3. “A reminder popped up on my diary and I thought, ‘Whoa, a decade!’ I still can’t really believe it’s happened.”

Sam, 32 – who took over as newsreader on the 6pm Newshub bulletin after Hilary Barry’s shock exit in May – rang in her anniversary with afternoon tea surrounded by her “work family”.

“It was actually really humbling,” tells Sam. “A few people I’ve worked with for a long time made speeches and said some lovely things. I was surprised by how tearful I was. The whole newsroom had gathered around, and I realised this is my family and 10 years is a huge milestone. I’ve grown up there and I’m so lucky I still love turning up to work there each day.”

Sam was just 22 when she landed her first job at TV3 as entertainment reporter on the former Nightline. “I was definitely a bit rough around the edges,” she laughs as she remembers her strong South Otago accent. But she loved it and in the back of her mind, she always hoped that one day she would end up reading the flagship news.

“I think subconsciously, I was always thinking that it would be cool if it happened,” she tells. Sam, who grew up in rural Milton, near Dunedin, quickly became the network’s golden girl, and she’s worked in both presenting and reporting roles.

The past year, however, has seen huge changes for Sam, both professionally and personally. She broke up with her boyfriend Hayden Aull – “It just wasn’t to be” – travelled to Hawaii, Japan and China on a journalism scholarship, and farewelled many close colleagues in the tumultuous times under controversial ex-CEO Mark Weldon.

“I lost a lot of my dear colleagues when 3D and Newsworthy finished. It was really hard going for a while there.”

She admits there were brief moments where she considered leaving too, but ultimately, TV3 is her “second home”. Plus, she adds, there was the looming milestone to consider.

“I think perhaps in the back of my mind, I knew the 10-year anniversary was coming up. I liked the idea of making it. But the newsroom at the moment is a fantastic place to be – there’s a new momentum and energy. Things have definitely settled down.”

Samantha loves the newsroom buzz and working with Mike (above) has taught her “not to panic if things go wrong”.

She counts herself lucky to work alongside broadcasting legend Mike McRoberts, 50, who has read the news for 11 years. “He’s definitely my best work buddy,” she says. “He’s such a great person to sit side by side each night. He’s such a calm person and I think that’s rubbing off on me a bit.

I’ve learnt not to panic if things go wrong. He’s the first person I go to if I have a question about a story, but we’re also really good mates.”

While Sam has earned nothing but praise since taking on the top job, she’s modest when it comes to her talents. “Newsreading definitely isn’t rocket science. I mean, we’re not curing cancer. There is a certain skill to it, but I think I am living proof that anyone can do it if they put their mind to it.”

Showing off her figure in a series of fab outfits, statuesque Sam looks to be in amazing shape. But she insists staying slim has got harder since turning 30. She loves going on bush walks and tries to get to the gym four times a week.

“I’ve really had to commit to going to the gym and once I’m there, I have to work harder,” she tells. “But I do think doing a little bit of exercise makes me feel good.”

And she can barely stop smiling when she tells us about her recent big news – she’s finally bought her first home. “It’s taken many, many months to make it happen. It’s rough out there!” she says, referring to Auckland’s notorious housing market.

“I can’t tell you the number of times I wish I was buying in Dunedin.”

She’s looking forward to getting stuck into DIY, proudly telling us she has her own toolbox and a “lady-sized hammer”. And she’s thrilled to have a spare room so her parents can visit from Milton, and she can host sleepovers for her nieces and nephew. She’s also expecting her former flatmate and colleague David Farrier to be there a lot too.

“He often just turns up at my house. It’s OK, though, because I love him to pieces.”

Sam says that despite all the change of the past few months, life in her 30s is fantastic. “I had a fabulous time in my 20s. I got to go to some incredible places and did some amazing stories. But there’s something about being in my 30s – I feel a bit more comfortable in my own skin now. In your 20s, you’re still trying to figure out who you are and what you believe in. But now I’m more certain of those things.”

So with this anniversary under her belt, is Sam hoping for another 10 years on TV? “I can’t imagine a world where I’m not a journalist,” she asserts. “I don’t know where I’ll be, but I hope I’m still working in the news. I learn something new from every story and almost everyone I get to meet.

“On the personal front, I’d really love to have a family. And the country girl in me still dreams of having a bit of land somewhere, a Shetland pony and a Border Collie. That’s not too much to ask for, is it?!”

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