It's been just over a month since Mark Richardson learned he wouldn't be returning to his role as a presenter on The AM Show – and he's surprisingly philosophical.
"It wasn't totally unexpected," confides the world-class cricketer-turned- broadcaster as he sits down to chat to the Weekly. "We've been together for five years and we've had a damn good run. It's disappointing because I love the job – it really is fun. But there's another chapter yet. I don't know how it's going to go, but that's exciting at the same time."
As a self-confessed worrier, the former Black Cap admits that despite being well aware of the topsy-turvy nature of life in the media, the news has been unsettling.
"I don't like uncertainty," he explains. "That's probably my nature – I was like that as a sportsperson when I had a massive workbook with all of my preparation documented and how I was going to approach my innings with everything in place so when I had anxiety, I wouldn't have to worry about it.
"Now it's a similar scenario where the future is a little uncertain, but it is still a chance to move forwards."
Mark, with his characteristic cheeky grin and raw honesty, was initially brought onto the show, along with host Duncan Garner and Amanda Gillies, to read the sports news and "tell a joke every now and then", but says this soon changed.
"One thing The AM Show did was light a fire in me when it comes to news and current events broadcasting. So that's the resumé I'm looking to build," shares the dad-of-two.
"When I was doing sports radio, people would just want me to get on and growl at the Black Caps, which is fine, but growling at politicians who are trying to avoid being held accountable I found refreshing and more interesting!"
He says he loves the political sparring on the show, but also relishes meeting interesting people in other roles, including his weekly spot on news and entertainment show The Project.
"One of the things I like on The Project is you meet a superstar every now and then. They are ordinary people doing extraordinary things. You grow – your general knowledge grows."
While he also works as a cricket commentator and host of The Block NZ, the latest season of which finishes next week after two years in the making, Mark's big dream is to have his own programme.
"It might not be like the Holmes show or Hosking – it might have a more entertainment slant to it. The ultimate goal is to have a large say about how you want the show to look."
Things started to change for the popular morning show at the beginning of August when Duncan was suddenly off-air. Duncan isn't just one of Mark's colleagues, he's also a mate. Last year, they shared with the Weekly how they had helped each other through 2020's level 4 lockdown – a time they both struggled with for different reasons. But Duncan's surprise absence from the show worried Mark and he was saddened when, on August 23, the announcement came he wouldn't be returning.
"It was a shock," Mark tells. "I was just disappointed and sad because I really do like Duncan and I consider him a friend."
Duncan released a statement saying the "brutal hours" contributed to his decision, adding, "This place has been my home for 20 years and it's bloody hard to say goodbye, but I have to. I have a few important family and personal things that need my attention, and now is the right time to go."
Shares Mark, "If the job and the hours were starting to get on top of him, it's a shame I wasn't able to help him with that. He had become so good at what he did that every time he sat in that chair, he was on fire. But when we stopped recording, things were starting to weigh him down.
"I was disappointed to lose him as a colleague, but sad that he must have been struggling and I wasn't overly aware of that. As you know, nowadays us blokes are meant to open up and talk to one another. It's sad that I wasn't able to help in that regard."
While the pair aren't in touch at the moment, Mark says they will be in the future.
"He loves broadcasting and he loves helping people. I think that's what made him become a journalist in the first place and hopefully our paths cross again. It won't be in the same capacity, obviously, but my door is always open to him. For now, everyone's just allowing him the space to re-energise and get back into it."
Duncan's exit meant Mark began to worry about his own role. Three had been purchased by international media giant Discovery and he wondered if there might be more changes at The AM Show after five years on air.
It wasn't long before Discovery announced a new look for the show for 2022, and Amanda and Mark wouldn't be returning.
During his huge professional upheaval, Mark, like 1.4 million other Aucklanders, was thrust into level 4 and then level 3 lockdown.
"It just wears people down," he says of the weeks since midnight August 17.
His children, 14-year-old twins Annabel and Charlie, are studying from home.
"The kids are realising that they actually like school. It's a crazy scenario," tells Mark, who has been married to Mary for 17 years. "They're missing the social aspect of being at school.
"But I've also noticed with Charlie being a boy, he's struggling more with learning online and not being able to play rugby with his mates at lunchtime. Now he's playing online games because he can do it with his mates, whereas Annabel's better at socialising on Zoom or whatever."
And while last year in lockdown the trio spent a lot of time running, Mark admits this time around, he can't keep up with his son.
"Charlie's definitely too quick for me now," he says. "I can do the long runs with Annabel, because she'll get out there and run an hour-and-a-half, but to be honest, I can hardly keep up with her either. Charlie will go and run 5km as fast as he can. He's left to his own now!"
Mark has a very special reason for keeping his fitness levels up – to raise money for Hospice. For more than a decade, he has taken part in the Coastal Challenge on Auckland's North Shore. He started doing the event for both his mental and physical health when he hung up his Black Caps shirt, and says it "saved my life in a way".
The race sees participants running, scrambling over rocks and wading through water across multiple beaches and bays, and this year its length has increased from 33km to 50km.
"A friend of mine runs a business called Total Sport," explains Mark. "His mother died at the age of 50 in hospice and he turned 50, I'm 50 and a lot of his mates are 50, so we thought we'd raise a minimum of $50,000 for Hospice."
When he's not working or training, Mark confesses he has another goal in sight.
"I've just about clocked Gran Turismo!" he says of the simulated car-racing video game. "I'm well into the professional leagues there!"
But jokes aside, and his next career move uncertain, it begs the question: Will he enter politics?
"Not right now," he says. "I don't think people should go into politics for a job, but because you want to make a difference. Going into it for a job is the wrong motivation. For me, it's about having a passive income and not needing the political income, so you don't have to toe the party line if you disagree with something."
While he's not in that position right now, things may be different in a few years' time when the kids have moved out, and he and Mary have downsized.
"Eventually, it'd be nice to have that opportunity," he muses. "I've said I wouldn't mind running for Parliament, so if I got there, that would be great."
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