A Few Minutes with the Man in the Button-Up: Malakai Watene-Zelezniak

Meet the NRL player subbing out his jersey for a smart shirt in our latest street shoot

He’s a winger for the Penrith Panthers, father of two, watch brand owner & one of the biggest legends you’ll ever meet… & he didn’t even pay us to say that. You’ll pretty much never see the guy without his dimples out and pearly whites on display.

We caught up with Malakai on our latest “Back to Business” shoot to ask him all the things… Mal tells us about everything from the perks of quarantine, to who has the best guns at the Panthers… he even lets us in on his secrets to the perfect date night cook up… we’ll give you a hint, it’s chicken flavoured and can be plated in two minutes!

Without further ado, enjoy a few minutes with Mal.

What was the best thing about quarantine?
Spending so much time with my 2 Kids and having a lot of time to work on the business (WZelezniak Watches).

What was the worst thing about quarantine?
Not being at training amongst the boys and sticking to your training schedule.

What was your favourite isolation snack?
Cookies & Milk

What TV series got you through quarantine?
The Sinner & Money Heist.

What is the best thing about being back at work?
Being back with the team and the comradery.

What is the worst thing about being back at work?
Missing the kids.

In your team (the Penrith Panthers) – who do you think would win in an arm-wrestling match?
James Fisher-Harris, because he has cannons for arms!

Tell us your biggest career highlight (other than modelling for Tarocash of course)
(Laughs) Other than modelling for Tarocash, it would have to be representing Tonga in the 9’s and Maori All Stars. I was able to represent both cultures on my Mum and Dad’s side.

Malakai Mal with his kids Mylee & Kai
Malakai Mal with his kids Mylee & Kai
Malakai Mal playing for the NRL Maori All Stars

Malakai Malakai & brother Dallin both wearing Tarocash
Malakai Malakai & brother Dallin both wearing Tarocash

At work, what are you known for?
The watch man… and TikTok guy (laughs)

If you weren’t playing footy, what would you want to be doing?
Running my own business and increasing our stockist lists.

How did you describe your job to your kids, Mylee & Kai when they were little?
I haven’t really had to explain my job because they were both brought up watching Dallin and I play footy, so it has become a big part of their life… A little side note, my daughter had her first game of soccer on Saturday, and she said right before the game…“make sure everyone knows to watch my game on TV” (laughs)

NRL goes a while back in your family history – tell us about that!
Yeah, we have a deep and rich heritage in rugby league. Our great Grandfather Steve Watene paved the way for Dal and me. He was the first Maori to captain the New Zealand Kiwis and later on went into parliament. My brothers and I started playing footy at the age of four in New Zealand as my Koro Tuhoea Watene (Steve Watene’s Son) lived and breathed footy.

Who’s the person you most look up to?
My dad, he was always someone I wanted to grow up and become like. He showed me the meaning of hard work and sacrifice.

What inspired you to start your watch brand, WZelezniak?
I’ve always wanted to start and run my own company, and always loved watches growing up so I thought it would be awesome to start my own watch brand and wear my own designed watches. I always found myself reading about start-up companies like Apple, Google, Amazon and how they started working out of their garages to becoming huge successful businesses and thinking that I would love to achieve something similar.

What’s the best thing about working with your brother, Dallin?
Our relationship grew stronger and we could talk about our business in our spare time in and around training.

… and the worst thing?
Having to carpool with him every day and having to smell his morning breath (laughs)

What’s your favourite watch in the collection?
PYRITE from our Chronograph range.

If you were to cook up a date night meal for you & your wife, what would you make?
(Laughs) Ahhh… two-minute noodles or if I’m feeling fancy Mi goreng noodles… Joking I only really know how to cook spaghetti bolognaise so it would have to be that.

You’ve got a few tattoos – tell us the meaning of your favourite one.
My favourite tattoo would have to be the two lion cubs on my bicep, representing my kids.

We all know you can rock both, but do you prefer yourself in a jersey or a button-up?
Why, thank you. Definitely a jersey, I still get a kick out of it every time I put one on.

Malakai Malakai cooking up some spaghetti on set in the Bayder slim textured shirt (we’re not going to tell him the stove top isn’t actually on…)
Malakai Malakai cooking up some spaghetti on set in the Bayder slim textured shirt (we’re not going to tell him the stove top isn’t actually on…)

You can spot Mal on the field this NRL season or in our latest Winter shoot, donning some sharp shirts & winter warmers. Follow us on Instagram & Facebook to check him out in the latest Winter range

VARIOUS IMAGE CREDIT: Malakai’s Instagram


Get 20% Off

Sign up for our newsletter and get 20% off your next order. Pretty sweet, we know.