When Mike McRoberts’ former colleague and close friend Hilary Barry announced she was leaving Three after 11 years anchoring the 6pm news together, the broadcasting icon lamented that it felt like the end of a long marriage. But when we catch up with him and his new “work wife” Samantha Hayes, it’s clear the popular presenter has had no trouble moving on!
“My second marriage is going very well indeed,” Mike, 51, laughs, as he settles into the make-up chair at our Woman’s Day shoot. “I still catch up with Hilary and I’m sure we’ll be mates forever, but I’ve moved on. Everything’s good.”
A year has passed since Sam, 33, stepped into Hilary’s rather large shoes, but she insists that after a few weeks of settling in, things are now “relaxed, comfortable and easy”.
“It almost feels like we’ve been doing it forever,” says the striking redhead. “And fortunately, the wheels haven’t fallen off and there have been no major disasters!”
Despite their almost 20-year age gap, it’s clear the pair have a lot more in common than just reading the news. In fact, when we catch up with them, they’re still buzzing from a recent weekend away, where they ran the Waitomo Trail Run and tackled a caving adventure, joined by Mike’s children, Ben, 17, and Maia, 15.
For running fanatic Mike, who achieved his dream of a sub-four-hour marathon in Christchurch this month, the trail was something of a breeze. Sam, however, who went for the 11km run as opposed to Mike’s 22km option, admits there were moments when she feared she wouldn’t make it.
“It was really hard!” she tells. “We were running through shoe-swallowing mud. You’d be sliding and falling all the way down, trying to grab on to trees!”
She jokes that while “normal people” might have rested after the intrepid event, they headed into the iconic Waitomo Caves. Though Mike claims to have a genuine fear of heights, Sam says there was no sign of that as they abseiled into a 35 metre-deep abyss.
“Well, my kids went down first with no problems, so I didn’t have much choice!” he laughs.
Broadcasting legend Mike has made no secret of how hard it was farewelling his news colleagues during the tumultuous time at the network – not to mention seeing his wife Paula Penfold lose her job when investigative show 3D was axed. But 2017 is turning into a goodie, he says.
“I’ve really got nothing to complain about,” he smiles. Things have settled on the work front, journalist Paula is loving her new role at online news service Stuff, and Mike is grateful his working hours mean he spends plenty of time with Ben and Maia.
“I still make the kids’ school lunches, the lazy buggers! And I’m there for breakfast with them, which was always nice when they were smaller because they’d be in bed by the time I got home from work. I’m really lucky that I’ve been able to be at their sports and school events.”
With the children growing up, the family now eats dinner together every night, which he often cooks before he heads off to the studio each afternoon.
Mike tells, “I love nothing more than pottering around in the kitchen. It’s a great way of unwinding and even better if there’s a glass of wine in my hand while I’m doing it.”
He even gave his vegetarian sidekick Sam a cookbook for her 33rd birthday last month.
“His daughter Maia is a vegetarian so he totally gets it,” smiles Sam, who gave up meat at age 10 thanks to raising pet lambs at her family farm in Lawrence, near Dunedin.
She tells us that working alongside Mike has inspired her to increase her own fitness – she’s even agreed to run the Tauranga Half Marathon with him in October. And Sam recently completed her friend Claire Robbie’s No Beers? Who Cares! challenge, where participants avoid alcohol for three months.
“I had a few chardonnays on my birthday, but other than that, it wasn’t actually too hard,” she recalls. “It got me really thinking about how much I was drinking and whether it was actually necessary. So I’d go out for dinner and instead of instantly ordering a glass of wine, I’d have a ginger beer or a soda and it was fine. I definitely feel a lot healthier.”
While Sam’s not keen to talk about her love life, Woman’s Day understands her romance with Rhythm and Vines music festival founder Hamish Pinkham has ended. But she says she’s happy with life right now – she’s got several reporting projects on the go and loads of good friends, and she loves hanging out with her little tribe of nieces and nephews. Her Otago-based parents are regular visitors, even popping up recently for a working bee at Sam’s house!
Watch: Mike McRoberts farewells Hilary Barry on Newshub. Article continues below.
“They were amazing – they did all the stuff around the house that I’ve been putting off, like hanging pictures, the gardening and fixing the barbecue.”
Mike tells us he’s grateful that he has “all the chemistry and rapport” with Sam that their job requires and they always make sure there’s time for a final cup of tea before going on air each night. Asked if there are any secrets they could share about the other, Sam bursts into giggles.
“He seems to get incredibly hungry and often while we’re reading the news, I can hear his stomach start to grumble,” she says. “I hope he doesn’t mind me telling you that!”