It was April 2010 when as a struggling university graduate in Wellington attempting to make a breakthrough in sports journalism, I received a surprising and life-changing email from Martin Crowe, the New Zealand cricket great.
At this time Martin was head of programming for the Rugby Channel. He offered me a job, albeit a small one.
I did not believe it; I thought it was hair loss spam! I cover drove the correspondence into the recycle bin without even opening it!
Twenty minutes later I received a phone call from Keith Quinn. Keith was a former neighbour, a mentor, a second father. He asked me if I had received an email from Martin Crowe. Keith was horrified to hear I had deleted it!
Martin offered to pay me $75 a week (under the table). I was to provide an email that documented brief information about each schools’ broadcast on the newly conceived Land Rover First XV programme. I did not even have the Rugby Channel !However on Keith’s recommendation I got the channel and took the task very seriously.
Eventually I saved enough money to pay my way to the National Top Four in Rotorua and I stayed in a backpackers’ across the road from the Millennium Hotel where my Sky colleagues resided.
In 2011 Martin offered me the chance to run a Sky website and social media page on College Rugby. Although I had no experience at all in this field, with Martin’s guidance and plenty of trial and error, I have managed to build an audience and make an enjoyable living for myself for at least six months of the year.
Martin was a boss for whom I held enormous respect .He was intelligent, honest, passionate, generous, accessible and driven. He did not expect one hundred per cent, he expected one hundred and ten per cent. Martin resented slackers of any kind.
His feedback was constant,constructive and fair. This is something that is often absent in the narcissistic business of television.
Martin was receptive to new ideas.
Towards the end of 2011 I wrote Martin a letter suggesting that I do a road tour of New Zealand to research the history of First XV rugby. I wanted to become a credible authority on the subject. Crowe said yes!
I travelled from Whangarei to Gore. I documented feats of greatness in schoolboy rugby. I not only made some great friends, but also liberally spent on taxi chits and hotel mini bars. There is no chance I would get such a scheme past the pen-pushers now!
The statistical pop ups you see on all rugby coverage is something that Martin and I dreamed up. They are hardly revolutionary; they are a subtle difference that make the coverage of the game a little more interesting.
For two years and in a break with traditional, the National Top Four final, instead of being played at a neutral venue two days after the semi-finals, was played a week later at one school’s home ground. This fabulous idea was conceived by Martin. He believed the final should be a showpiece event played at a venue with relevance to the two competing schools.
In 2013 Hamilton Boys’ High School hosted St. Kentigern College. At the same time Auckland was playing Waikato in the ITM Cup at Waikato Stadium. More people attended the schoolboy game than the professional game. Unfortunately the grand final idea was discarded by the New Zealand Secondary Schools Rugby Council.
Martin built a great camaraderie with the commentary team. He shouted drinks and food and at the end of the season, presents. I have a signed copy of Sir John Graham’s book in my collection as proof.
On one occasion I shouted Martin a ticket to a Roger Water performance of The Wall at Vector Arena. He loved Pink Floyd; he hated the Oxygen Seats. This might explain the pay rise I received not long after the gig.
Occasionally Martin could be a hard and unpredictable taskmaster. One day I received an email in large font that simply said FIX IT! I had no idea what he was talking about. I made a phone call to find out and received a torrent of abuse about trivial infractions followed by a sudden dial tone. A week later I was offered an expenses paid trip to the Grammar vs King’s match in Auckland. I often watch the games on TV.
In 2012 at the Top Four, Land Rover supplied a most extraordinary sponsor’s vehicle. It was an ostentatious jeep. With a press of a button the jeep parked itself! One night after a few ales, we discovered the GPS system could repeat almost anything we said in multiple languages. In good nature of course I was ridiculed in Italian, French, Spanish and maybe Hebrew. I thought it was hysterically funny so I tried a wisecrack myself. I asked the GPS to say ‘caught Tillerkaratne bowled Ranatunga’ the combination that foiled Martin when on 299. Bad mistake! You could hear a pin drop. Back at the hotel Martin stormed off to bed. The next morning he shouted me breakfast. Martin was very sensitive, but his heart was always in the right place.
Martin it was a pleasure to bat on your wicket and share a small partnership with you.
Martin you are an inspiration.
Martin I raise my bat to you.
Rest in Peace Boss.
By Adam Julian
College Sport Media is dedicated to telling the story of successful young sportspeople in New Zealand