By CATH BENNETT - Sunday News
Richie McCaw’s appearance in a new TV series has made him rethink his career after rugby.
Viewers will see the All Blacks hunk in a very different guise on Thursday as the star of the opening episode of Sportstar Insider, which explores the science behind extreme sports.
The 28-year-old explains the intricacies of gliding, which he has had a passion for since he was a child.McCaw told The Buzz, McCaw admits taking part in the Discovery Channel project has made him consider more small screen work in the future.
“I wasn’t sure about TV and, before this, I would have said no (to a post-rugby career in television), but I actually didn’t mind doing it,’’ he says.“I think you just have to do something that you’re really passionate about, it would be hard to do something just because it was TV.
“It is quite hard at the moment timewise but, if it was something like gliding that I really enjoyed and felt I could do, I’d definitely think about doing more TV.’’
Sportstar Insider is presented by former rugby league star Andrew “ET” Ettingshausen who investigates the techniques and secrets of lesser-known sports with the help of insiders like McCaw.
The rugby star’s involvement came after a chance meeting with Discovery Channel bosses, who he began telling about his passion for gliding.
They suggested he sent them some footage and from there he was invited to take part in their show.
At the time he was dating Dancing with the Stars beauty Hayley Holt, who has appeared on a number of TV shows, but he tried not to rely on her too much for advice.
“She’d like to say she gave me tips,’’ he laughs. “But whether I took them on board – well, probably not she’d tell me!’’
McCaw has grown up in the world of aviation sports.
A member of Canterbury Gliding Club, he was flying in gliders around Otago with his grandfather when he was just nine-years-old.
Around five years ago, the former Otago Boys’ High School pupil, whose dad sold his glider when McCaw was 12, decided to focus on learning the art of soaring – using rising air to gain altitude or speed.
“My uncle was still doing it a bit and it was something I always wanted to do, it was just a matter of getting going,’’ he explains.“My dad and I bought a glider together a couple of years ago. It’s a single seat so there’s no fighting over who is in control!’’
McCaw, who has his pilot’s licence and was recently made an honorary squadron leader for the Royal New Zealand Air Force, maintains he is not putting his life on the line by participating in the sport.
“There are risks there’s no doubt but it’s like anything, you can push it and make it riskier or you can be quite conservative, and if you’re conservative it’s no worse than driving a car,’’ he says.“I’m pretty cautious, I’ve only done 150 hours so I’m very much a novice really.
“I certainly don’t go pushing things or putting myself in danger.
“There have been situations where I think, ‘I didn’t expect the weather to be like that,’ but there’s never been a situation where I thought ‘hell that was nasty’.”
McCaw admits that he enjoys escaping from the rugby field to spend time with the glider pilots, among whom he is no longer the All Blacks captain but just another flying enthusiast trying to learn the ropes.
He is hopeful that by taking part in Sportstar Insider, in which he challenges ET to a race in the skies above Oamaru, he will raise the profile of the sport.
“You stand on an airfield and see a glider take off but you don’t actually see what the glider pilots do,’’ he says.“I’m pretty lucky with the position I’m in to have the opportunity to show people that, it was something I really wanted to do.
“Gliding is the closest you could get to putting a set of wings on your back. You’re in a little cocoon and you see some of the best scenery in the world.
“I don’t think a lot of people realise how beautiful the mountains and landscapes are in New Zealand so I’m really lucky to be able to get in amongst it.’’
Sportstar Insider premieres on Discovery Channel, Thursday at 8.30pm.
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