The man behind Southland's All Sport Breakfast
Nick Jeffrey once dreamed of following in the footsteps of Wads, Quinn and Nisbo.
Unfortunately, his sports broadcasting career hit a significant snag directly out of high school when he fell in with a bad crowd*.
“I fell out of high school and was offered under minimum wage to work at the fledgling Hokonui Gold by Lee Piper and Jamie Mackay. I think I was paid something like $13,000 per annum, working every hour that God sent. But they were great years,” Jeffrey recalls.
“I’d dreamt of being the next Bryan Waddle and following the New Zealand cricket team around, or following the All Blacks like Grant Nisbett and Keith Quinn.”
Instead, Jeffrey would earn his stripes following one of the more collectively colourful Southland rugby teams home and away, as part of another colourful outfit dubbed the ‘Scream Team’.
Fresh from winning the 1994 second division championship, Southland threw itself into the rarified air of the first division, going winless but earning bonus points for getting close in six of their eight games.
“That 1995 team was a great team. They should’ve beaten Auckland down here. They were playing all these teams which were stacked with All Blacks.”
A baby-faced Jeffrey roamed the sideline, with Piper and Mackay in the commentary box, tugging a roll out cord behind him because wireless microphones hadn’t even been thought about at the time.
“They were amazing scenes at the end of games. I’ll never forget the Counties game down here and you had Jonah Lomu, fresh off the back of the World Cup, and Joeli Vidiri, and them getting absolutely mobbed.”
On Sunday mornings, from 9am to 11am, Jeffrey would attempt to coax some sense from a panel made up of Messrs Piper, Mackay and Roger “Podge” Macpherson.
“They weren’t at their best on a Sunday morning at 9am after we’d done live club rugby and been very well hosted the day before,” Jeffrey said.
“Some of the interviews we did in those days - we didn’t know any better so we just rang guys up. I remember interviewing Nick Price, who was the number one golfer in the world at that time. After about three weeks of tracking him around the world we got him at his home in Florida and we talked about trout fishing and golf.”
Like many young men in the 1990s, Jeffrey was caught up in the exploding popularity of Australian rugby league and rattles off the interviews he was able to do during that time - Lewis, Meninga, Langer, the great Ray Warren.
“I was a Queensland fan, so there weren’t too many New South Wales players, to be fair.”
The reason we are taking this stroll down memory lane is that Jeffrey is back at it.
Old mate Piper has given him another job talking Southland sport, this time from 7am to 9am on Saturday mornings.
He’s already completed one dark winter of early morning starts and is bracing himself for another.
“It’s not quite as loose as we were back in the old days. Some of the subject matter that was talked about on the radio 25 years ago we wouldn’t get away with these days.”
Surprised, but not surprised, Jeffrey has enjoyed the compelling nature of the stories on offer, finding no difficulty in filling two hours on a Saturday morning.
“You might worry about the sustainability, but there’s been no problems. The only challenge has been doing justice to everything you want to get through on a weekly basis. We have room for 10 or 12 chats and there hasn’t been one week where I’ve struggled.”
While talking about the feats of Southlanders on the local, national and international stage makes up the bulk of the show, Jeffrey has most enjoyed the more surprising angles.
“It’s been a good time to do it because we’ve had the Southland cricket team doing what they did, the Southern Steel and Southland Sharks winning national titles.
“I reckon, not underating those efforts, it’s those personalities which poke up - like the woodchopper Bobby Dowling, who is a superstar, and Hannah Morgan, the Foveaux swimmer - not just for the physical achievement, but at 21 years of age what she has done for the mental wellbeing cause, has really struck me.”
Jeffrey has been involved in the sports sector in management and governance roles and understands the struggle for codes to remain relevant.
As a result, his tone is upbeat, focussing on the positive and shining a light on the stories which could otherwise go untold.
“If you use the example of the Southland Stags, who had a challenging year in 2018, there is some great work being done in rugby at all levels. Everyone in sport is there for the best of reasons and they are passionate about it.”
To listen to the Southland All Sports Breakfast, tune in on Newstalk ZB, 864am from 7am-9am each Saturday, or check out our link.