During a decade long run at TV3, Hamish McKay spent time as rugby editor, sports news anchor, and sometime commentator, including for the 2007 and 2011 Rugby World Cups. Summarising his career thus far in 2016, McKay called it “a bloody good innings that started nearly quarter of a century ago with an old brick cellphone covering Saturday afternoon sport in the Manawatu.”
McKay grew up as a country boy with a love of rugby on a Manawatu farm, before moving to Palmerston North. There he trained as a journalist and obtained a Bachelor of Education and Teaching Diploma at Massey. He also took a six month journalism course at polytech and tried repeatedly to get a media job. In a 2001 interview with Massey magazine, he described his practical experience as commentating “into an empty jug at the Fitz for years”.
After a single day of relief teaching, McKay applied for a job at local radio station 2XS (now known as More FM). He was assigned to commentate rugby matches, first locally, but moving up to the provincial level after only a few weeks. During his three years at the station he eventually became news editor of the station’s small two-person newsroom. He rated the experience highly, advising young journalists in Massey magazine — “Get a job in the provinces because you get to do everything.”
By 1995 McKay was heading overseas to provide radio commentary for the All Blacks tour of France and Italy. He funded the trip himself in order to boost his profile as a radio personality and sports commentator, a move that would eventually pay off.
McKay took on his first television role in 1996, when he joined Petra Bagust, Marc Ellis and Matthew Ridge on Touchdown travel show Time of Your Life. McKay called his 66 episodes “the best OE in your own country anyone could ever have”. The timing was strange: he had originally auditioned for the show a couple of years before, and finally heard he had the gig just three weeks into starting a job at world sports service WTN in London, prompting him to return home. (McKay and Bagust would later co-present two-hour special The Great Kiwi Driver's Challenge, which saw a 300-strong studio audience answering questions about being on the road.)
In 1998 TV3 invited McKay into their newsroom, where he became a sports reporter and began commentating for television. Confident in his abilities, McKay’s first major commentary for TV3 was the final of the 1999 Hong Kong Sevens. Since then he has commentated over 70 test matches, most significantly TV3’s free to air coverage of the 2007 and 2011 Rugby World Cups. When commenting in 2016 on his time at TV3, McKay stated “I think the greatest time was the 2007 Rugby World Cup. The lead commentator and sports news anchor for the free-to-air exclusive broadcaster — it was almost a time to pinch myself.”
When the role of sports anchor on primetime bulletin 3 News became free in September 2006, McKay began sharing the role with fellow reporters Shaun Summerfield and Michelle Pickles. He took on the position full-time in January 2007, adding to his prior role as rugby editor. By the time he announced that he was leaving TV3 in April 2016, he had been in the role for 10 years, and become one of the country’s most recognised sports broadcasters.
As a presenter McKay was always known for his easy-going attitude, which was evidenced (and taken advantage of) on TV3 skit show Pulp Sport. The show featured a weekly segment called 'McKay-ver', a parody of US show MacGyver, in which hosts Bill (Jamie Linehan) and Ben Boyce would pull pranks on the unsuspecting McKay. One famous prank left his car impossibly stuck in his backyard. On constantly being the show’s victim, McKay said “I think people appreciate if you can have a bit of a laugh at yourself and you certainly have to with those boys.” He would eventually have his revenge in Pulp Sport’s final series, covering their production van in astro turf, graffiti-ing it, and abusing it on a driving range.
Profile written by Simon Smith
Joanna Hunkin, 'Hamish McKay TV3’s new sports presenter' - The NZ Herald, 29 November 2006
Unknown Writer, ‘The Sports Man’ - Massey Magazine, November 2001
Unknown Wrter, ‘TV3 sports presenter Hamish McKay quits after 10 years’ - The NZ Herald, 15 April 2016
Unknown Writer, 'Newshub sports presenter Hamish McKay quits, seeks new challenges' - Stuff website. Loaded 14 April 2016. Accessed 15 April 2016
‘Hamish McKay’, TV3 website. Accessed 15 April 2016