When it comes to jobs to be jealous of, we reckon Matt Wright’s cornered the market. After a childhood collecting the kinds of snakes and spiders that would make hardened men cringe, and playing with all sorts of native wildlife around the Australian outback and Papua New Guinea; Wright has made a name for himself in the top end as one of the best crocodile wranglers helicopter pilots around. His job, to be specific, swings between four main areas:
- A cattle musterer and helicopter pilot working with stations to move large amounts of cattle to different areas.
- A wildlife conservationist, relocating dangerous crocodiles from areas where they could cause harm to themselves or others rather than seeing them killed.
- A tour guide, providing wealthy punters with a unique outback experience and some crocodile adventures of their very own.
- A TV presenter and star of Outback Wrangler, a documentary style series which follows Matt in his work life.
Jealous yet? We caught up with the man to chat crocodiles, conservation and comparisons.
Vulture Magazine: When did you start mustering?
Matt Wright: Started, oh shit, I was probably mustering when I was about 20 and then with the helicopters when I was about 22
VM: Was that a big step up?
MW: Oh yeah, yep it was a career move, you can’t sit on the back of a horse forever and so definitely changing the career around a bit to fly choppers was a good step
VM: With your show, Outback Wrangler, you sort of seemed destined for American success. The show seems really ready for a US market. Are you ready to change your life from a life on the land to the celebrity side of things?
MW: Oh I don’t think I’d ever change. The only reason the show works is because I do what I do and that’s my job whether it’s catching wildlife overseas or here in Australia. Also it’s never going to be a celebrity, as such, career. It’s just another part of life really, another chapter to it. It’ll be interesting to see how far it goes.
VM: Do you find that doing all the show stuff is taking you off the land and away from your job?
MW: Umm, not really. My job always comes first and the shows work around my work and that’s the way I’ve always worked it.
VM: Have you got lots of people behind you in your corner supporting that or is that something you’re going to have to be really careful of maintaining?
MW: You’ve definitely got to maintain it. The networks can be pretty pushy but you need your realtions with everyone you’ve worked with in the past and in the future. So you do have to manage it.
VM: Have you copped any shit from your mates?
MW: Ah (laughs) yeah, a few times, yeah. Not so much with the show but you get a few plugs here and there with the media and newspapers and magazines and that. Yeah you do cop it a bit
VM: I imagine that Sunday Night one, when was that, 2011?
MW: Yeah with Sam, yeah I copped it a bit over that one.
VM: Do you work in the wet season? Most things shut up shop a bit…
MW: We’re pretty busy doing all our crocodile work, now’s our busy time. Actually we’re just starting to slow a little, we’ve had such a massive season already.
VM:What classifies as a massive season?
MW: Ummm, sort of a big run in a short space of time. So every area, you need to go to every area to collect and every area goes down in one hit. So it’s a race against time to collect pretty much the whole Northern Territory in a short period of time before it really rains and everything goes under water or the eggs cook. One or the other.
VM: Are there other people out there that do the collection as well or is it just your mob?
MW: There’s a few people but not to the extent that we do it, it’s mainly us and our team.
VM: In all of your jobs, you’ve got to put a fair amount of trust in the people around you, do you find that an easy thing to do or is it something you’ve got to work for?
MW: No, it’s definitely not an easy thing. You really want to trust the guys you’re working with. And… the more you know, the more you learn, the harder it becomes to trust people coming in. It takes a while to ear someone’s trust for sure. You’re trusting with you’re life, you want to make sure they’re competent in what they do.
VM: Yeah, you don’t want any young Jackaroos, young guns on the field.
MW: No, no. Well we’ve got a few of them but they’re still learning and you expect them to stay around until they’re up to speed.
VM: There’s a really big difference between adrenaline and fear; even the most experienced stockman can’t escape that adrenaline you get working with an animal that can kill you, which, I imagine, is multiplied when you’re working with a croc. Do you ever feel fear, not adrenaline but fear in your line of work?
MW: I think you’ve gotta have a bit of fear in you, if you don’t you become complacent. You’ve gotta have that fear in you to be vigilant and be careful in what you do. If you don’t have it well, you’re going to get hurt pretty quick.
VM: Can we talk for one second, and you might not like this topic, about being somewhat of a sex symbol in terms of the Australian rugged man type.
MW: Ummm, yeah. I don’t know much about that but I get a few plugs about it every now and again, it’s not…. I did a couple of interviews and a couple of photo shoots for a couple of magazines, more so women’s magazines. I don’t think I’ll be doing that again, it wasn’t… it’s not me and the whole bush and the animals and flying helicopters, that’s what I do and that’s what I’ll stick at doing. Not photo shoots for magazines.
VM: Yeah, this is something I found interesting, in my research of you and the Outback Wrangler show there seems to be a constant stream of women throwing themselves at you that are a bit different to the types that you find on stations, particularly up north.
VM: Does that get annoying or is it a perk?
MW: Oh, it’s all on the social media side of things, women try and contact you but… ah
VM: Yeah I think you’ve got around seven Facebook pages set up by fans?
MW: Yeah, I think, I don’t know how… I’ve got two of my own, one personal and one for Outback Wrangler but it is a bit annoying – you want to keep your own profile but everyone’s trying to open one up for you. It’s like “what the fuck?” Hey, in the work I do and where I am, people can’t really contact me or get near me so it’s not a major issue. The people that are around you, they’re all your mates and don’t give a shit anyway. It’s not a problem.
VM: On the frustrating side of things, I imagine that you’d be pretty used to getting a few really annoying questions. Pretty much every single interview (and I promise I won’t ask you), every single interview I’ve seen asks you something to do with Steve Irwin.
MW: (Laughs) Ohh right yeah
VM: On a scale of 1-10…
MW: Oh, you know it’s not frustrating and it’s going to happen in, you know, anything. You’ve got to eventually make your own mark in an industry, but at the start you get recognized as someone that has been there in the past. And it’s not bad thing with people being “oh do you think you’ll be the next Steve Irwin?”
VM: There’s worse people you could get compared to
MW: Yeah that’s right, if you’re getting compared to that it’s not a bad thing but eventually you want your own profile and not be regarded as trying to be something else. And once the shows come out… Steve and I are both totally different people but we both strive for the same end goal. People soon realize that I’m nothing like Steve.
VM: Are there any other standard shit ones that you’ve got to deal with?
MW: Umm, one that I’m not a big fan of is the Troy Dan one, a few people mentioned Troy Dan and, you know, he had a crack but I don’t rate him as a professional in what we do. That annoys you sometimes, but you just keep on truckin’.
VM: I’m really interested in the touring/expedition side of things. If it were me, I’d be in two minds about opening up such a secret and sacred part of the world to people. How do you see it?
MW: I want to be based here and I’m quite happy, there’s only a few areas that I open up. A lot is the corporate side of the market and it’s not cheap. It’s more so me taking people taking people on a personalized trip but you can’t do everything, you can’t show people everything. A lot of it is just thrills in the helicopter and a few barra.
VM: Are you based up north?
MW: Yeah, I’m based in Darwin now and not doing too much overseas but we’ll see how we go. There’s a bit of a croc problem in South Africa and a few people were asking me to go over there and um help out so I’ll see. I’ve got a month left here and then see what happens toward the end of the month, might shoot off to Africa for a little bit.
VM: Thanks for your time today
MW: No worries at all.
For more information about Matt Wright including how to book a tour with him, head here.
To get the down-low on his show, Outback Wrangler head here.
And finally, to see Samantha Armytage get her swoon on, head here.