Home' The Wellingtonian : June 7th 2012 Contents 12 THE WELLINGTONIAN, JUNE 7, 2012
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Norm Hewitt's new mission
Norm Hewitt talks to Joseph Romanos about being
an All Black, Dancing With the Stars and vulnerable
Norm Hewitt: ''Professional sportsmen don't have other jobs and have to learn how to manage their lives.''
You work hard trying to com-
bat violence towards children.
How does that tie in with the
I ve been working with the
SPCA for seven years, in a pro-
gramme called One of the Family.
All the research that has been
done states there is a strong core-
lation between cruelty to animals
and violence in society.
What years do you aim at?
Years 7 and 8. We ve been in
front of 70,000 kids all around the
country. There s a comprehensive
review of our progress being pre-
pared now, and the feedback has
been very positive.
What about the Green Paper
you've been involved with?
It opens the conversation
around vulnerable children, what
needs to change and who should
be involved to change the horrible
statistics. I was one of three
champions , along with Sandra
Alofivae and Murray Edridge. We
travelled around the country
facilitating community meetings,
asking people their views about
the Green Paper and what needs
to change. There were more than
9000 submissions, which was awe-
What came out of it?
Three things: there are too
many organisations competing for
the same amount of funds, too
much money is being wasted on
bureaucracy, and poverty is the
biggest issue for vulnerable chil-
dren. I m hopeful that work will
result in some good government
policies being put in place.
Are you recognised these
days more for being an All
Black or winning Dancing
With the Stars?
Possibly the dancing, though it
was a few years ago now.
I understand you use the
dancing in your presentations.
Yes, it helps to break down
stereotypes with some of the
tough youngsters. We run a video
that shows my confrontation with
Richard Cockerill during the haka
[at Manchester in 1997] and the
paso doble from Dancing With the
You had a tough upbringing,
to judge by your biography.
Yet you're a million miles from
that now. What's brought
about the change?
In 1999 I was at a crossroads
with my behaviour and had to
make some key decisions. One
was to stop drinking. The other
was meeting Arlene [Thomas, now
his wife] -- she gave me hope and
that s all I needed at that point. I
will be forever grateful to her.
Rugby can be a tough
You re telling me! If I m honest
I was a real arsehole at times and
treated people with disrespect and
arrogance. Sometimes back then I
didn t care if we won or lost. I just
wanted to hurt people on and off
the field. There were some good
role models in rugby, but I wasn t
ready to heed the message before
You were reserve hooker to
Sean Fitzpatrick for years. Do
you ever think how today
you'd have played more than
Sure. Under today s substi-
tution policies I could have played
75 tests, but I m pretty happy
with when I played. I played
alongside some great players, like
Wayne Shelford, John Kirwan and
Michael Jones, and in my early
days Graeme Higginson and Mark
How much better a player
would you have been with
your outlook today?
I was a good player, but if I d
applied the disciplines I ve learnt
since, I might have been a great
You must sometimes blink in
wonder at the path you've
taken in life.
Thirteen years ago was a
moment when I made some
changes about which way I
wanted to go. I m very blessed
that Arlene was there at that
moment. Now I have two wonder-
ful children and a wonderful wife.
It has certainly been a different
Dancing With the Stars was
big, wasn't it?
It was life-changing for me. It
was the first year of the pro-
gramme. I could have treated it as
a joke, but I took it really
seriously, 100 per cent. I was
lucky with the dance partner and
teacher I had [Carol-Ann Hick-
more]. I told her I d do whatever it
took to win, and she fully
What about rugby these
I don t watch a lot. I m very
choosy. However, I did some
broadcast work for Maori Tele-
vision during the World Cup and
was very proud of the All Blacks.
How do you view the All
I still see the All Black brand as
a leader in the world of sports, but
don t totally approve of the direc-
tion of the professional game.
There s too much rugby and I see
stadiums not full for test matches.
I don t like things like selling our
jersey to a sponsor, though I
understand the need to raise
money. It would be nice to think
the Rugby Union is controlling the
All Black destiny, not sponsors.
Are you contacted by rugby
players going through the
sorts of struggles you went
Yes, surprisingly often. It s not
easy sometimes. Professional
sportsmen don t have other jobs
and have to learn how to manage
their lives. I tell them what I did,
what changes I made. Some
respond well and some say, Nah,
that s too hard . It can be tough
when you re used to being given
free travel, free clothes, free food,
big pay packets and so on. You can
get caught up in the moment and
you have to realise how damaging
that can be.
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