Being friends with famous people

16:00, Feb 16 2013

Richie McCaw and I are pretty tight. Sure, it's been six years and when we met the other day he called me Hamish but, hey, that's nothing. When you are old friends, you let those minor mistakes slide.

I have actually spent a weekend with Richie McCaw. It was 2007 in Omarama in the middle of the South Island. Every day he went gliding for hours and hours and I waited on the ground with my camera crew drinking milkshakes.

I learned a few things that weekend.

The first is that Omarama has surprisingly good milk products considering the nearest cow is hundreds of kilometres away.

The second is that a glider can stay in the air for a really long time.

The third is never have a cooked breakfast before going in a helicopter. A helicopter is not a car; if you get motion sickness you can't open a window or pull over when you feel like having a spew. The pilot told me to take my shoe off and make full use of it. That's all you need to know about that.


Richie McCaw is pretty much as you see him on the telly. He's a genuine bloke, pretty relaxed and doesn't like a big fuss being made. While my camera crew and I stayed in Omarama's nicest hotel, he bunked down with his uncle in a caravan. Richie and I shared fish and chips one night on the bonnet of a car. It was great.

Richie's parents were there and they are the salt of the earth. I invited myself back to the McCaws' house in Canterbury last year and Mrs McCaw made scones. They were baked from premade scone mix but she told me that's what all the farmers' wives were doing these days. I wouldn't have known if she hadn't told me.

The McCaws are proud of their son, but also aware rugby isn't everything. Richie's mum hopes he gets right out of rugby when he's finished. I think he'll end up gliding and drinking milkshakes in Omarama.

In journalism you meet a few famous people. They are fleeting encounters you remember for a long time and they forget the moment you walk out the door. I had a massive man-crush on Ken Rutherford as a young man. He took me for a coffee, once. I was a sports reporter and he was selling his book. I could hardly say a word and definitely couldn't tell him I didn't like coffee.

I've also had my fair share of fame. My wife and I were once introduced over the PA to the crowd at halftime in a small-town ice hockey match in Canada. The locals were stunned we were honeymooning in Comox, population 2000. Look it up if you have a moment. It's like honeymooning in Huntly, but with a skifield.

I've also signed autographs for kids at primary schools. They thought I was Simon Dallow. I have quite a scribble so it will be many years till they figure it out.

Fame is funny.

We are a bit obsessed by it, but I think if you ever achieve it, it gets boring very quickly. I can attest to this; there's only so long you can be Simon Dallow before you start getting hand cramps from all the scribbling. I should really leave that job up to him.

The Dominion Post