New Zealand’s newest national champion is a 10-year-old named Ted from Kerikeri.

Ted Keen has just been named the winner of Aotearoa’s Next Top Mullet, after a landslide public vote in which he collected more than twice as many votes as his closest rival.

The competition is run by the Mental Health Foundation as part of an annual awareness campaign called The Mullet Matters.

Ted said success did not come overnight but was the result of a long-running effort.

He started growing his hair out more than three years ago, inspired by a cousin’s “business in the front, party at the back” hairstyle.

To be eligible for the coveted title, he had to submit a photo of his mullet and raise money for the Mental Health Foundation.

All proceeds from the competition go towards providing free mental health resources in schools, workplaces, and health centres.

Ted managed to raise $840, a sizeable sum for a 10-year-old.

A panel of experts whittled hundreds of entrants down to 30 frontrunners, based on the quality of their mullets, and put the final choice to a public vote.

Ted said mullets were practical as well as fashionable.

“In summer basically I don’t have to put sun block on my neck, and in winter it just keeps me warm.”

His hairstyle had another, somewhat unexpected, effect.

“A lot of ladies on the road, they give me the side-eye,” Ted said.

As well as being the owner of a winning mullet, Ted excels in mathematics, swimming, jiu jitsu and rugby.

RNZ caught up with him on training night with the Kerikeri Rugby Club Under-11s, and couldn’t help but notice his coach also sports a carefully tended mullet.

Tom Cook said the hairstyle gave him an advantage, both on and off the field.

“I’ve had it since I was 16 and never really cut it off. It’s taken me a long way in my own personal rugby career, and I hope to take all these boys further with their rugby career as well.”

Cook was not surprised by Ted’s win, given the calibre of his mullet.

“It’s pretty mean. He’s taken a couple of years to grow that out, definitely given it his all and got that mullet looking pretty fancy,” he said.

Proud grandfather Dave Keen, a well-known Kerikeri business owner, said Ted planned to donate his hair to a charity making wigs for cancer patients once he decided to cut it off.

“It’s great for a young fellow to grow his hair like that, and stick with it, especially with the rugby and swimming that he does. But hey, it was for a good cause, mental health, and Ted’s very into that sort of thing,” Keen said.

Ted encouraged everyone to enter the contest because it was important to raise money for mental health, and to let people know someone had their back if they were feeling lonely or sad.

He also had some advice for anyone thinking of growing a mean-as mullet like his.

“Just grow it and don’t let people be mean to you and say it’s a bad haircut, when really it isn’t. And no matter how many old ladies give you side-eye on the road, just ignore them.”

Far North Mayor Moko Tepania, another fan of the mullet, will visit Kerikeri’s Riverview School next month to talk about mental health and congratulate Ted in person.

Ted is not the only famous mullet grown in Northland.

In 2019 All Black centre Jack Goodhue from Kawakawa, claimed, possibly in jest, that scientific evidence showed his mullet made him go faster on the footy field.

This year’s The Mullet Matters campaign has raised just under $175,000 so far.