By Nexus
Jul 12, 2018

Full Exposure: Damian McKenzie

Interviewed by Backyard Sports Review

We thought it was time to give the “esteemed journalists” of the Backyard Sports Review podcast their big break. It was a foolproof strategy – a local cafe in the middle of St Andrews, and a prodigious talent who also happens to be an All Black and Chief. They had the opportunity to talk to him about the thing that unites all of them, a love of sport. We thought no one could fuck it up, what follows are the key questions on everyone’s mind like “thoughts on halls food?” “Celebrity crush” and “Go to town drink?” Enjoy.

BSR: This year, it’s been a pretty fateful year for you, especially with the All Blacks—do you think you’ve changed something up with your training? Have you done anything different to your approach on the game?

DM: Nah, not really any different. Probably more of a leadership role with the Chiefs than the previous few years when you play number 15, y’know. It has been a good stepping stone for me moving into ABs and getting a crack at number 10; trying to assimilate something like that into that environment. Not much of a change to my training regime, just touching up little areas of my game and just making sure every day I’m trying to improve.

BSR: How is the adjustment from fullback to first five going?

DM: It’s been a big change. You’re more involved in the game—you’re pretty much shot forward and gotta lead the team around the park. I guess a difference from fullback; where you can sort of just do your own thing, running around at the back. So, I guess that’s been the biggest change, being able to lead a team and be a lot calmer and composed in both the 10 and 15.

BSR: Where do you reckon is the worst place to play overseas?

DM: I didn’t play in any place where I’ve been like… oh, probably I didn’t really enjoy playing in Argentina.

BSR: You don’t?

DM: Nah, the crowd was good; they’re pretty frantic. They’ve got cages up the sides and a moat between the ground and the stands—I think it’s more for the football fans. I haven’t had a place where I wouldn’t want to go back though. Apparently, Johannesburg and Pretoria are pretty hostile—you get all the Dutchie Afrikaans guys. I’ve only played in Cape Town for the All Blacks and that was all good. There was a lot of balance to support all the All Blacks, but they reckon if you’re playing in Jberg they’re at the bus—yeah, it’s pretty hostile.

BSR: Do you find you’ve had to sacrifice traditional uni experiences, like drinking, house parties…?

DM: Yeah, I have—I left school and then pretty much [went] straight into rugby. A lot of my mates went down to Dunedin, and you sorta miss out on that uni life. I guess for us, if you have a big night, you’ve gotta go train the next day [whereas] at uni you’re just battling through a day of lectures, so missing out on that was a little bit gutting.


DM: Yeah, 100 percent. You look at how they live down there, and it’s like 'oh it seems pretty fun!’

BSR: Why did you choose, not regarding footy but like Waikato over Otago..?

DM: So, I went to school in Christchurch, and to be fair, it was either stay in Christchurch or come up here, and just up here was just different—a change in scenery, a new challenge, and there was more opening up here in the position I was compared to Canterbury. When I was coming out of school, there was still Dan Carter and a few of those guys, so it was a good chance to sort of get away from home—move away from out of my comfort zone a little bit.

BSR: So, it would be a bit of fresh air coming up here?

DM: Yeah, just a fresh start, I really enjoyed Christchurch—I’m a Southland boy, I grew up just out of Gore, did my full license there, boys. I enjoy going back, but it’s good to just branch out, get to a bigger city. You can come back to some of those places later in life.

Quickfire Round:

BSR: Speights or Waikato?

DM: Ohh… probably Speights. They taste pretty similar, to be honest.

BSR: Celebrity crush?

DM: Margot Robbie—she’s lovely, aye.

BSR: Second favourite Super Rugby team?

DM: Probably, the 'Landers.

BSR: Least favourite?

DM: Crusaders.

BSR: Go-to drink in town?

DM: Maybe like a vodka, lime and soda.

BSR: Rugby idol growing up?

DM: Christian Cullen.

BSR: State of Origin; who do you support?

DM: Queensland.

BSR: Favourite sport other than rugby to play and to watch?

DM: To play – golf. To watch – basketball.

BSR: Thoughts on the hall’s food?

DM: Probably not what I’d eat.

BSR: Would you consider listening to the old Backyard Sports Review after this interview?

DM: Oh yeah, I’ll have to. Yeah, absolutely…I’ve got a mate, old Brad Weber, who’s actually doing those podcasts—Code Trippin. I’m sure yours will be better though, lads.

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