Merchant 1948 Tastemakers | DJ Forbes

Introducing the Merchant 1948 Tastemakers

A series devoted to our local heroes, champions in arts, sport, media, music and beyond.

Meet DJ Forbes

From captaining the AB sevens to championing NZ athletes at the Olympics, DJ is a proud father, husband, athlete and gold medalist. We sat down with DJ to discuss his career, fatherhood, the Olympics, and got to know the man behind the legend.


NZ Sevens player of the year, World Rugby Sevens Player of the year, All Blacks sevens captain, Olympian, Commonwealth gold & silver medalist, father, husband, friend, teammate and now working for the NZ Olympic Committee, is there one title you are most proud of?

I think becoming a dad is always a special moment. For athletes, it’s quite easy to get consumed by sport and having your life revolve around training and competition but having a family brings a different appreciation to your world and from that moment every decision you make is with them in mind.

Being the captain of the All Blacks Sevens has seen you play in over 80 tournaments and win six sevens titles along with gold and silver in the commonwealth games, so many career highlights! Is there one moment that sticks out for you?

I think the friends and memories created along the way are always a highlight of sport but if I had to name one I think our Haka in Hong Kong in the Black rain after winning the final was a pretty iconic moment.

Father, athlete and now currently working for the New Zealand Olympic Committee - can you tell us more about life after playing professional rugby?

Well after rugby I got into coaching and started up my own satellite academy ‘Game of Sevens’ coaching sevens around the globe. After a year of that the time away was similar to playing so as a family we decided that wasn’t the ideal scenario. Around that time a new role was created at the NZ Olympic Committee and it felt like the perfect opportunity for me to learn some new skills, still be involved in sport as well as be closer to home. I still have the desire to train and work hard so I have taken up crossfit to keep me active. With two young kids, I try to get to their school events and want to be involved as much as I can. In my spare time, I enjoy hanging out with family and friends and doing a bit of DJ'n for fun.

Winning a Commonwealth medal is a huge achievement, can you tell us more about this moment? What did it mean to you?

To be honest, the first time winning gold at the 2010 Commonwealth games was a relief. The team had never lost a Commonwealth games so there was a lot of pressure. Now when I look back, being involved with the NZOC has given me more of an appreciation of medal moments and probably the bigger picture of who we are representing during a Commonwealth or Olympic Games: the wider NZ team.

Best piece of advice you were given?

Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard. 

Favourite place you have played in the world?

So many to choose from… what about if I say Rugby has allowed me to go to places like Mauritius and the Cayman Islands. If you’ve been there or seen photos… unreal.

If you could play against one person who would it be and why?

Michael Jones, childhood hero…

Dressing for the field is very different from dressing off, what's your go-to look when stepping out?

I’m stuck in between casual and smart casual. I like being comfortable and don’t like the fuss over dressing up so you would usually find me in some nice shoes, jeans/chinos with a tee or shirt and cardigan/jacket optional.

Who is your favourite teammate of your career?

Tomasi Cama was always a pranksta so I enjoyed his company during my career and on the field he was a magician, so he was a pleasure to watch and play alongside.

Who inspires you?

Everyday people beating the odds. There are so many stories of people out there doing good things for the less fortunate which always reminds me to try to do my bit when I can and to remember how fortunate we are.

Advice for a young player starting their journey?

You’ve got to be passionate about what you’re doing
Need the right attitude (growth mindset)
Your discipline will be tested when your motivation isn’t there
There will be some sacrifices along the way

You work for the New Zealand Olympic Committee as the Athlete engagement manager, can you tell us more about this role? What does a typical day look like? 

In the office, I’m working with the NZOC to see how we can best empower, educate and engage with athletes in their sporting careers pre, during and post a Commonwealth/Olympic campaign. At Games time I’m involved with the athlete support team which is basically front of house and in charge of making sure the athletes are comfortable and feel welcomed in the environment and are an extension of the operations and logistics team. We help drive the team culture and connect all the athletes as the wider NZ Team. 

What do you think are the greatest challenges facing athletes today?

Mental health and wellbeing is right up there and a constant challenge for most. I think self-awareness and the identity piece plays a part in this so trying to ensure individuals realise they are more than just athletes is crucial. Also having that balance and not relying solely on sport creates a safe space and time away to decompress from the pressure of competition.

What does your daily routine look like?

Training first thing in the a.m then to work. Following work, I rush home to try to help get the kids to their after school activities. I usually do the cooking at home so dinner then get the kids to bed. 

Here at Merchant 1948 we pride ourselves in being champions of local, how important is it for you to champion local and emerging sporting talent?

I think it’s critical for development and connecting people to the community. You would also hope that if they are supported correctly and do go on to higher honours that those individuals would come back to the sport or area and help the next generation. It creates a cycle to help build a bigger talent pool.

Favourite local travel destination?


We love your Merchant Edit! Can you tell us why these styles stood out for you?

Love the look of the boots and I know I can dress them up or down. Definitely what I would be seen out in and would recommend to others.