We review the entire country and culture of New Zealand, one thing at a time. Today: Calum Henderson plugs into the All Blacks’ new official podcast.
Some All Blacks news: the all-powerful New Zealand men’s rugby team now has its own podcast.
Something about this is extremely funny to me, but I can’t quite put my finger on why. After all, the All Blacks logo is on everything these days – no one raises an eyebrow at All Blacks breakfast cereals or sugary sports drinks, golf balls or 4WD spare wheel covers these days. The team is a global megabrand. We get it!
Also, every man and his dog has a podcast these days. Any new media guru will tell you a pod is a must-have in your content arsenal; it’s almost weirder that it took the All Blacks until February this year to get one. In some ways having a podcast is the most normal thing NZ Rugby has done in ages.
Still, it’s funny. Seeing ‘All Blacks Podcast’ alongside ‘Hamish & Andy’ and ‘My Dad Wrote a Porno’ is funny. Imagining Steve Hansen and Kieran Read in a little podcast recording booth with headphones on chatting away is funny.
Of course, the All Blacks themselves don’t literally make the podcast. It’s done by a couple of rugby-mad Wellington lads called JP Tocker and Andy Burt, the latter of whom is the digital content editor for allblacks.com while the former just seems to love both rugby and podcasting.
The lads are not expert broadcasters – in fact, bits of the pod are rough as guts. But that’s a big part of what makes it so enjoyable. After years of intense media training seemingly sucking every last drop of personality out of the All Blacks it’s a welcome change to hear a guy like Dane Coles talking candidly and at length, like a normal bloke, in the first episode.
To be fair the first seven minutes are a bit of a slog. The hosts’ lengthy preamble is like being at a barbecue with a bunch of people you don’t really know and everyone’s just talking footy because it’s the default topic of conversation. The other Kiwi default conversation topic – the weather – also gets a decent amount of coverage too (shit summer in Welly this year).
But hold the phone! It turns out the guy who’s hosting the barbecue is mates with Dane Coles, everyone’s favourite All Blacks hooker, and he’s only gone and shown up at the gate with a tray of meat rissoles and a six pack of 440ml Tui. Suddenly this is a conversation you definitely want to eavesdrop on, right?
“What are you up to at the moment?” they ask him. “I’ve come to meet you mate,” Coles deadpans. Classic. Just like that, we’ve got a good podcast on our hands. As a loosener they put him through a quickfire round of ‘Try or No Try’: Guns n’ Roses? “Try.” Sparkling water? “No try.” Man buns? “Definitely no try.”
“What about Cory Jane,” the hosts ask, “does he get grief for having a man bun?”
“Yeah he does, anyone who has a man bun in this team get’s pretty heckled eh,” laughs Coles. “They’re terrible.”
This is cool. What’s also cool is that in the three subsequent episodes they don’t talk to a single other current All Black. On the second episode, the lads chat to New Zealand broadcasting legend and rugby romanticist John Campbell over a ropey Skype connection. JC’s enthusiasm easily overcomes the poor audio quality; he speaks with warmth about going to games at Athletic Park as a kid, and his successful campaign to get the All Blacks to play a test in Samoa (“one of the most special experiences of my life”).
Black Ferns and New Zealand women’s sevens player Selica Winiata guests on the third episode, then out of left field, Jessica Pimentel, the actress who plays Maria on Orange Is The New Black is the special guest on episode four. One of those surprising international celebrity All Blacks fans, Pimentel was in the country on tour with her partner’s metal band (Meshuggah) – why not?!
It’s a welcomely diverse range of guests and the hosts’ casual, unpolished style results in some surprisingly enjoyable interviews. I expected the All Blacks official podcast to have the charisma of Steve Hansen reading out the All Blacks end of year touring squad in a hotel conference room, but it’s just about the exact opposite. It’s worth a listen.
Good or bad? Technically quite bad, but that’s what makes it good.
Verdict: Years of All Blacks press conferences have led us to believe our elite rugby players have had their personalities stolen by the vexatious ghost of amateur rugby – this podcast could be the exorcism.
The Spinoff Weekly compiles the best stories of the week – an essential guide to modern life in New Zealand, emailed out on Monday evenings.