Good mates take on TV race challenge

20:23, Jul 31 2014
John Gbenda-Charles and Murray Roeske
BEST MATES: John Gbenda-Charles and Murray Roeske are in the New Zealand team for The Amazing Race Australia v New Zealand.

Old friends John Gbenda-Charles and Murray Roeske are part of the New Zealand team in the reality TV show The Amazing Race Australia v New Zealand.

The pair met in their final year at Nelson College and, now both 35, they are still best mates.

The show starts on TV2 next Tuesday. Murray and John are not letting on what happens during the race. But they say their fitness, skills and ability will hopefully help them to make New Zealand proud. They took two minutes from their busy lives to talk to The Leader.

How did it come about that you became contestants in The Amazing Race New Zealand v Australia?

Johnny: We were asked to, dared to, by a friend in Hong Kong who convinced us that we would love the experience.

You have known each other since Nelson College days - tell us about what you did then?


Muz: We were both very fortunate to receive scholarships and were Fell House rangers.

Johnny: We have been close friends for 19 years now which is pretty good, we boarded at Nelson College together, we were both really into our sport. But we also took ourselves outside of our comfort zone by auditioning and gaining lead roles in the school production with Nelson College for Girls - Jesus Christ Superstar

What else did you do in Nelson?

Muz: We enjoyed a typical Nelson offering, touch, athletics, road trips and water activities with my parents up Nelson lakes. Nola and Brian (aka Mum and Dad) have been host to many friends and family. They are the best. I played for the oldest club in NZ, Nelson Rugby Football Club. I was a GI- ant for the Giants. We got involved and loved every minute.

Johnny: I was at Nelson College on a soccer scholarship from Wellington, I played soccer for Nelson, a national league soccer team and the NZ schools' soccer team before taking up a gap scholarship to the UK to pursue a professional soccer career. I returned as an adult to Nelson to play senior rugby and was fortunate enough to win a Nelson senior men's club rugby championship with the mighty Nelson Marist team. I also played for Nelson Bays and Tasman B rugby representative side which I felt very privileged and honoured to do.

Briefly, what have you been doing since then?

Muz: I made my way to Hong Kong to play some rugby overseas, playing in Hong Kong, UK and finally in the USA where rugby league took my eye and I was lucky enough to make the USA All Star Team and USA Tomahawks - living in White Plains New York, Boston and Chicago.

I returned to Nelson to finish studying then started with DB Breweries in Blenheim before being transferred to Christchurch. After three years I was asked to do recruitment - civil work, and never looked back. I love working with people and Christchurch is a fantastic home away from home.

Johnny: I spent time in London pursuing a professional soccer career. I played professional rugby in Hong Kong, travelled a lot with sport and managed to captain the Hong Kong national 7s team at the 2009 7s RWC in Dubai.

Where are you now and what are you doing?

Muz: I'm in Christchurch, working in civil infrastructure in recruitment. I work for AWF Civil and love it. I still get home to great friends in Nelson as much as I can and of course my true home Nelson Lakes.

Johnny: I am based in Wellington but spend a lot of time overseas as I build an exciting athlete management business. Muzza without a doubt is doing God's work in Christchurch as part of the post-earthquake rebuild.

How would you describe your relationship now?

Muz: It's a great bond with a very "old married couple" brand to it! I look to John for support and knowledge. John looks to me for pick-ups from the airport!

Johnny: It's very special and unique to me, I don't see, hear of or notice many male friends or associates that have such a tight male relationship, rather than a bromance its more of a #manridge.

What can you tell us about your experience in the Amazing Race?

Johnny: It's definitely in the top 12 things we have done together as friends. We had a clear goal in the TV show, and that was to compete and have fun. As long as we could do that we would be happy.

How was the trans-Tasman rivalry?

Muz: There really was never a Tasman rivalry - it was good people working hard and trying to achieve their goals.

Have you done NZ proud?

Johnny: That's for the public to decide when the TV show airs. We are just two very close friends who wanted to showcase our unique friendship and do something outside of our comfort zones as we move into another phase of our lives.

How amazing was the amazing race?

Muz: A free trip with a race dynamic is pretty cool, don't you think? Not sure I was the best with a camera taking notes 24/7. Truly a bizarre crazy amazing experience - I loved it and came out even stronger.

What stood you in good stead for the competition?

Muz: I think our life experiences helped us as I'm sure it did for all the other teams, depending on the hurdle at hand!

How big an incentive is the $250,000 prize?

Johnny: Not at all, we loved the idea of an all-expenses-paid trip for Muzza and I to continue in evolving our unique friendship. The prize money was the sweetener but we are very aware that nothing is given to you for free and we would have to sacrifice something either from ourselves or friendship at some stage to progress or win.

Are you hoping for support from Nelson?

Muz: I hope through our time in Nelson we have some support - I'm picking our "old married couple" relationship will get recognised'. I love Nelson, Nelson Lakes, it's an amazing part of the world to grow up in.

Johnny: We are just hoping to showcase our unique friendship and to highlight that it's OK to have fun, adventure and let loose as "mature" male friends.

Are you planning to be back here soon?

Muz: We get up as much as we can.

Johnny: I love Nelson and travel there at least four to five times per year. I love the Makos, St Arnaud and love eating Chai Yo and drinking Pomeroy's coffee when I am down.

The Nelson Mail