Career

Why Kiwi comedian Hayley Sproull is in Saudi Arabia teaching Oman's Royal Guard how to march

''It sounds like an elaborate lie when I tell people what I'm doing,'' laughs The Great Kiwi Bake Off host.

By Amy Prebble
As one half of The Great Kiwi Bake Off's dynamic hosting duo, Hayley Sproull keeps the bakers on their toes by telling them exactly how much time they have left before their creations are due with the judges.
As it turns out, the talented comedian is uniquely qualified for the job.
Precision and perfect timing have been drilled into her during her 20 years as a marching girl and her team – Lochiel – is the most successful New Zealand team in the sport's history.
Hayley (29) and Lochiel give up a couple of nights a week to train and every Saturday to compete, and their prowess hasn't gone unnoticed.
Hayley's currently in Oman teaching the country's female Royal Guard how to march like Kiwis.
"It sounds like an elaborate lie when I tell people what I'm currently doing," she laughs.
"To cut a long story short, Lochiel performed at the Oman Military Tattoo in 2014. The military loved what we did − it's not like any other style of marching around the world, especially since it's all female – and reached out to my coach, Colleen Pobar. They asked if she would be interested in going to Oman for three months and teaching 24 of their female military how to do the Kiwi style of marching."
Hayley and her team have traveled as far as Edinburgh to perform
Colleen travelled to the Gulf nation a few years later with Lochiel's leader Nicole Adamson and now it's Hayley's turn.
"I'm over here with Nicole getting the ladies of the Royal Guard of Oman ready for a performance for the Sultan himself!" she says incredulously.
For Hayley, it was inevitable that she got into the sport.
"My grandfather was a marching coach in the 1970s, and my mum and her sisters all marched growing up. Then my mum was a coach when I was in her tummy, and I grew up running around the marching field while she was coaching her team."
In fact, her mother Patsy (59) still marches for a leisure team called the Rimutaka Steppers.
"Once a marching girl, always a marching girl!" declares Hayley.
The presenter is passionate about marching and admits she is saddened by its waning popularity.
"Marching used to be a booming sport in New Zealand with hundreds of teams! Now it struggles, which breaks my heart. Marching is a huge commitment − it's more of a lifestyle than a sport − and I think that can be off-putting... I've seen lots of great teams fall away due to dwindling numbers."
Even Hayley had this season off marching, due to her television commitments, but she's had a blast being part of The Great Kiwi Bake Off.
Hayley's role on The Great Kiwi Bake Off is her dream job
She describes the hosting role as her dream job.
"When a job like this pops up on your radar, you don't let it pass without a fight! Food television is one of my guilty pleasures, so much so I even made a fake cooking show for TVNZ OnDemand called Hayley's Kitchen, but I've always hoped I'd get to host a real one."
When she's not on The Great Kiwi Bake Off, Hayley appears as a panellist on Kiwi comedy institution 7 Days, and also writes for various shows, with her one-woman comedy performance Just a Phase winning favourable reviews at this year's New Zealand International Comedy Festival.
She also has a documentary on polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), which she has been diagnosed with, airing on TVNZ OnDemand. Hayley says she was given little information about what having PCOS actually means.
"This very common women's health issue is shrouded in mystery and can really take over your life as you search and search for answers. I wanted to make something that was light-hearted and fun to help bring the conversation forward in a way that isn't as daunting as so much of the information out there. PCOS doesn't have to control your life and talking about it has been so helpful for me."
Hayley (pictured with her grandparents) comes from a family of accomplished marchers
While she's enjoying her stint in Oman, she is missing her partner, theatre director Aaron Cortesi (37), and their rescue cat Rolly.
The Auckland-based pair met when he was doing his Masters degree in directing and she was doing an acting degree at Toi Whakaari.
"We went on a date together and eight years later we're still on it! We're very good at living together and looking after each other," she says.
Aaron enjoys a few perks from her Bake Off job too – judge Sue Fleischl had the couple over for dinner a few weeks ago. So is Sue her favourite judge?
"I can't answer that!" she exclaims laughing. "There's only two of them! But that definitely gives her some epic points... step up, Dean!"

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