Rob Waddell ( School 1988 - 92) OC of the Month - August 2021
Friday, 27 August 2021
Rob Waddell

This month we speak with Old Collegian Rob Waddell (School 1988 -1992) who recently returned from the 2021 Tokyo Olympics where he operated as Chef de Mission for the New Zealand Olympic team. This is Rob’s fourth time as Chef de Mission having also operated in this role for the New Zealand team at the 2016 Rio Olympics and also both the 2014 and 2018 Commonwealth Games.

After graduating from King’s in 1992 Rob has gone on to achieve an impressive and varied life as an elite sportsman. He is most well-known for his achievements representing New Zealand in rowing and received an ONZM for services to rowing in the 2001 New Year’s honours, in addition to his extensive and successful career in rowing he has also played rugby union for Waikato and represented NZ as a Grinder on The NZ Team in The America’s Cup 2003, 2007 and 2013 Challenges. As our ‘OC of the Month’ for August we speak with Rob on his memories of King’s College and the interesting work he does today.
OC of the Month Interview
  • When you were at King’s College, what did you want to do for a career after you graduated?
When I finished school, I’m not sure I had a clear direction of what I wanted to do next which I didn’t think was a negative. What I do reflect on is that King’s sparked my enthusiasm in several different areas, the obvious one being sport.  Since then I have been lucky to do things that I am most passionate about, which have been getting to the top of the world in sport, my desire to give back as an administrator and help athletes, and the work that I do with charities and not for profits.
  • What is your best memory of your time at King’s College?  
I learnt a lot about getting on with people through my time boarding which has served me well. In sport, my favourite memory is being told by the Coach of the 1st VIII that if I reached a certain score on the rowing machine, he would put me in the top crew. I worked really hard on this for a long time, and I will never forget the sense of achievement when I hit that score at the Christmas rowing camp and was promoted. I still class this as one of my biggest achievements ever. It was the first time that I had ever set myself a goal, knuckled down and achieved it.

  • Which staff member do you remember most favourably from King's College and why?
A number of the staff were very kind to me, and it is hard singling one person out. There were two staff members that were influential for me, one was Gordon Trevett who created a very exciting future for me in rowing by recognising my drive and determination and also Don McKay who I have the utmost respect for and have enjoyed a friendship with many years after finishing school. I will never forget Don coming down to our farm in the King Country and helping us dag and shear sheep for the best part of a week. Both Don and Gordon were very supportive and encouraging and made quite an impact.
  • What advice would you give to your school age self?
No matter where you are at any New Zealand school, kids can be tough on each other and unfortunately you don’t realise this until many years later when you mature and reflect on how you and others interacted. My biggest piece of advice would be to be kind to everyone around you and look after each other. Life changes and moves quickly, and it is remarkable when you see each other later in life, the things you remember about each other.
My second piece of advice would be to look at all the things that you might be good at but focus on the things that you are brilliant at. Don't be shy about pursuing them. Even if you fall short of your highest dreams, you will never regret spending your time doing something that you loved.
  • Tell us about yourself now and what you do for a career?
I have 4 main areas of work that I am involved in. My wife and I own a farm in Cambridge where we look after thoroughbred racehorses. We would have anywhere up to 100 horses on the farm at any one time. This business is mainly Sonia’s; however, I help where I can. The second thing is an investment group (PE) where we have a reasonable share in a variety of different businesses. I also have my own business which is an agency for charities and not for profits, focused mainly on the sporting sector where we aim to help these good causes be more sustainable. Our landmark project over the last 3 years has been the aggregation of 50+ sports across New Zealand into a bundled set of broadcast rights which sit with Sky TV and was facilitated by Sophie Moloney (nee Taylor) who is the new CEO of Sky TV. I have really enjoyed working with her and her team. The 4th role is most recently I have been the Chef de Mission for the New Zealand Olympic Games team. It has been a privileged role over the last 8 years, and it was amazing being around the team in Tokyo. I am a tiny part of a very capable group of people and have really enjoyed this role. I am excited about the future of New Zealand sport.
  • What does/did your job involve?    
Across all of the roles that I have, a big part is connecting, understanding, listening, solving problems, finding solutions and above all else, helping people and organisations reach their potential. Whether it be on the sporting field, in business or the charities sector, I love seeing an area for growth and working towards that goal.
  • What are the most challenging parts of your job?
My biggest challenge currently is time.  There are not enough hours in the day! What I do is self-inflicted so I can only complain to myself however I do love what I do. All the roles that I am involved in, I’m very passionate about so none of them feel like a job. It is a challenge getting a balance in life and making sure you’re keeping fit, being in the moment with your family and focusing on them above all else.
  • What would you say is your biggest achievement to date?
Sonia and I are very proud of our Kids and have a lot of fun as a family. On the sporting field it is hard to go past winning an Olympic gold medal. It is something that lasts forever, and I will always be proud of this achievement. On the commercial front, the broadcast partnership I did with Sky, I’m really proud of. It is a world first and has never been done before. The project has had a really positive impact for sports that constantly struggle for funding, reach and engagement. It would also be one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life.
  • What is the single thing that would most improve the quality of your life?
Better balance and time. I am currently working proactively on that. With my sporting career and then business and administration, I have gone from the frying pan into the fire and have kept taking on some amazing new challenges. As time flies by, I have a strong desire to better regulate my time and have more choice in that regard. As much as I love my work, I want to ensure that I am in control of it.
  • What are the three objects you would take with you to a desert island?
My first priority would be to take my family (of 5!) for a holiday! I’m currently in MIQ and missing them a lot. It would be great to get away from the stresses of COVID and have some fun!
  • How would you like to be remembered?
    Maybe for the positive impact I have had on the lives of others. Above everything else, I love to help. Realizing someone's potential, being a great friend, helping someone's journey through life, or achieving things in the face of adversity that have made a difference to others.

If you would like to nominate an Old Collegian for OC of the Month please get in touch with Nicola Davies at