Career

Toni Street, Jenny-May Clarkson and other TVNZ stars dish on their sporting highs and lows

Sports-mad stars are put to the test ahead of this year's Commonwealth Games.

From Eliza McCartney soaring over the pole vault bar to Tom Walsh smashing incredible distances in the shot-put, New Zealand is in for a treat at this month's Commonwealth Games!

All the action will be brought to you on TVNZ, so we gathered their brave band of broadcasting recruits to dish on their own sporting prowess – both impressive and not-so-impressive childhood memories, and of course, the gossip on each other!

Who's the most valuable player (MVP)? Who's the weakest link? And who gets the nod as the fearless leader? Read on to find out.

Jenny-May Clarkson

Whanau is everything for me.

I became quite upset a few weeks back when it dawned on me that I'd be away from the kids for two weeks – I'll be on the Gold Coast commentating the opening and closing ceremonies, being a roving reporter, and commentating for the netball semi-finals and final. So my husband Dean and the boys, Te Manahau and Atawhai (2), will travel to the GC for the final week.

My first sporting memory is playing in an oversized red netball skirt at the local courts in Te Kuiti, a 20-minute drive from my hometown Piopio. I can still remember how excited I was travelling on the bus!

With her parents Paddy and Waka in the early 2000s.
With her parents Paddy and Waka in the early 2000s.

From the age of 10, I knew I was going to be a Silver Fern – that's the power of belief. Years later, I represented New Zealand as a Silver Fern at the 2002 Melbourne Commonwealth Games – my own personal sporting highlight.

I feel very proud when I see Kiwis performing so well – pohu kereru au [puffed up with pride]! I know the amount of work that is put into each performance. When an athlete or a team performs, that not only makes me feel so proud their work has paid off, but also that they are representing me and our country.

If I could be on any New Zealand sports team now? I'm still a Silver Fern, through and through! And if TVNZ had a sports team, I'd pick P-Willy [Peter Williams] as team captain. Experienced, knowledgeable, empathetic and kind. As for who I'd least like to have on the team? That's mean! I admire all of my colleagues.

Toni Street

If we were all in a sports team, I'd definitely want Jenny-May Clarkson as my teammate. She's fierce and I know her extremely well! I'd probably least want to have Andrew Saville – he'd spend the entire time sledging me! And Peter Williams would have to be team captain, obviously. He's the oracle!

I'll be hosting the primetime coverage of the Games from here – I'm lucky I can still pick my kids [Juliette and Mackenzie] up from school each day. I hope they'll be sporty. I think sport is essential to a well-rounded upbringing and it keeps kids out of trouble! The girls are only five and two, and we already have tennis, rugby, soccer and swimming.

My own first sporting memory was being face-down on the black Taranaki sand at East End Beach, competing in beach flags when I was about three or four.

Toni, aged 10 with a swimming trophy.
Toni, aged 10 with a swimming trophy.

I idolised the Silver Ferns growing up and I made the tournament team at the New Zealand under-19 netball tournament when I played for Taranaki, which I was thrilled by at the time! I also played against Australia for a New Zealand Academy cricket invitational side.

I either wanted to be a Silver Fern netballer or a White Fern cricketer until a career in sports journalism came calling.

I'm so excited for 10 days straight of sporting action and getting to be right in the thick of it is such an honour. I also can't wait to see Eliza McCartney again in the pole vault – and you can't miss the women's and men's shot-put!

Andrew Saville

My twin boys turn six in May and they're already sporty. I always say to them, if you're not having fun, then don't do it. It's all about the fun. School education is number one for me, but I do think team sport is important. I grew up with that and I still have mates from then who are mates now.

I had big sport dreams, but not in a huge way. I wanted to be a cricketer – Martin Crowe and Sir Richard Hadlee were two big heroes of mine. Unfortunately, my limited prowess slightly hamstrung me!

My highlight was probably making the Aranui High first XI in Christchurch – for people who know that school and read this, they wouldn't have even realised we had a cricket team!

Missing my kids will be the hardest part of travelling to the Gold Coast, but I'm looking forward to the warmth!

I'm very proud of our athletes because having done stories with a lot of them over the years, including rugby players, you realise how much hard work they put into what they're doing. People don't see a lot of that behind the scenes. To reach that level, all of them have worked really, really hard, whether it's with a lot of funding or on the smell of an oily rag.

When it comes to the TVNZ team, my MVP is probably Streety because she's got a good Taranaki left hook on her! I'd probably least want to have [Sam] Wallace on the team – he always goes on about his body! And given his vast experience, Peter Williams would be captain.

Melissa Stokes

When I was younger, I had high hopes I was the female John Walker. Unfortunately, a severe bout of glandular fever – and then a keen interest in the sport of socialising – put paid to that.

Later in life, being part of a TVNZ indoor netball team was a revealing look at my colleagues in the sporting arena!

If we were all in a team now, I'd most like Andrew Saville as a teammate. I'm pretty sure I could always coerce him into taking a break in training for a snack.

There's no weak link, though I'd be worried about Sam Wallace and his pre-game rituals, which I'm sure would involve him taking off his shirt, and we'd be co-captained by Jenny-May Clarkson and Toni Street.

I've just started to learn how to sail, so the sailing team and Team New Zealand should watch this space!

In my photo, I'm running in the Waikato crosscountry championships in 1992 – I realise now this was a good way of keeping me out of trouble.

I'll be guiding you through the action from 12 to 6pm on TVNZ 1. Fair warning – almost every time I heard the national anthem when I covered a sporting event as TVNZ's Europe correspondent, I would get tears in my eyes. Weirdly, even before
I had kids, I was thinking about how their parents must be feeling.

As for my own kids, who doesn't hope their child is destined for greatness in some field? I've realised it's all about managing my expectations. So far, Hugo (6) is an expert grass picker at football and four-year-old Freddie did win a recent race at the athletic club champs. And yes, I cried.

Peter Williams

I'm really looking forward to a swag of gold medals for our athletes! Because we're in the Lucky Country, I guess we'll have to put up with many playings of Advance Australia Fair, but I reckon there'll be plenty of success for the silver fern.

Of course, I had dreams of making it as an elite athlete – what sports fan didn't? But I like to think I was smart enough at about the age of 14 to realise it wasn't going to happen. Being in the sports media has been a very privileged alternative.

My role in the team is broadcasting the opening and closing ceremonies, and reporting from a variety of venues. I reckon I'd nominate Toni Street as the TVNZ team captain – natural-born leader, head girl – and I'd most like to have Jenny-May as a teammate. She's a serious competitor who doesn't put up with rubbish.

Andrew Saville, on the other hand...can we trust him to have done the training?!

As for my own sporting career, I've won a few golf tournaments – my photo is me playing at the Tata Iti golf course north of Auckland.

It's one of my best ever golf experiences – I hope Barack Obama enjoyed it too! But finishing a marathon at the age of 60 and a half ironman in my mid-fifties were more satisfying. Never again!

I'll miss my wife when I'm on the Gold Coast, but she's coming over after the Games for a holiday and my daughter will be in New Zealand from her home in London before I head away. We'll have a great time over Easter!

If I had to pick just one event not to miss, it would have to be the women's pole vault. Go, Eliza – let's get to 4.90 again!

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