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Recap: The Return of the (Mike) King in Maori TV’s World Forklift League

Calum Henderson goes forking mad for the latest competitive sport to hit Maori TV: furious forklift driving in The World Forklift League.

Proof that mad genius is alive and well in Aotearoa New Zealand:

1. Somebody came up with the idea of forklift driving as a competitive sport
2. They then packaged that idea as the World Forklift League and pitched to Maori Television
3. Somebody – probably multiple people – at Maori Television agreed to film and broadcast it

There’s a lot of people involved in this process. Seemingly at no point did any of them stop and say: “Hang on. This is mental.”

So now we have a new sport, with one of the best trophies the world has ever seen.

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What exactly does competitive forklift driving involve? The inaugural season, which started last week, sees five of the country’s top forklift drivers going head to head in a series of skill and speed challenges. ‘Forklift golf’ looks like an instant classic, where drivers race to pick up Swiss balls spraypainted to look like golf balls and carefully position them on tees.

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The show isn’t just about the sport though – we get to know the competitors and their support crew throughout the show and learn some highly relevant te reo while we’re at it.

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Graphics play an increasingly big part in sports coverage and perhaps unexpectedly the World Forklift League has some of the highest quality visuals this side of the America’s Cup. As the eye takes time to adjust to watching a whole new sport, they play an important part in holding the show together.

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As with any televised sport its broadcasters play a vital role. The League has made two excellent appointments in Mike King as the face of the franchise and Dale Husband as the main commentator, the pair bringing much-needed gravitas to the sport. As a former forklift driver himself, King knows quality forkmanship when he sees it. Husband meanwhile seems set to become the voice of forklift driving in the same way Peter Montgomery is the voice of sailing or Ray Warren is the voice of rrrrugbyleague.

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While it’s still early days, Tony Rowe looks like the driver to beat. Not only does he have the most rugged hat in the comp, the Placemakers veteran absolutely breezed through the ‘Shifting gears’ challenge at the Dunedin Gasworks Museum (confession: I’m from Dunedin and had no idea we had a gasworks museum). His hometown advantage can’t be underestimated – Tony looks very comfortable with Dunedin’s chilly climate and low sun.

Penny Yurjevic – the only female driver in the League – stands out as an early crowd favourite. The mother of three plies her trade at the Cadbury factory in Dunedin and showed great spirit in two narrow defeats in the first episode. She doesn’t deserve to be at the bottom of the table at the end of week one, but the underdog tag fits her well. It’s a long 11-week season, and if anyone can make a comeback, Penny can.


The World Forklift League airs Thursdays, 8pm on Maori TV

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