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Roadie to Russia

It was like this, see. Just an innocent road trip to watch the All Whites smash Peru. Hamilton to Wellington, watch the Intercontinental World cup playoff, have a catch up with old mates in the earthquake prone city and indulge in liquor consumption off the Richter scale. And in a perfect world the All Whites will progress to Russia. Lovely.

Then I got the offer to purchase a pair of tickets for the Friday night NZ Football award dinner and the prologue, the NZ football media awards at Westpac Stadium. Couldn’t turn that down. All was looking rosy. But Enzo’s editorial finger waggled and suggested I follow up Bruce Holloway’s last year’s media awards report with one on this year’s awards.

Follow up Bruce’s report from last year? That’s like being asked to scribble up a quick sequel to The Great Gatsby. I remember thinking at the time what a terrific piece of journalism it was. I didn’t bother re-reading as it would have had me running for the nearby Wellington hills. Bruce has a way with words that makes us mere mortals feel rubbery fingered and operating at a third form English level as we address the keyboard. Crikey he’s a pro and I don’t even know where to put comma’s and, apostrophe’s’ in a sentence.

So why did I say yes? Dunno. But I’m not gonna even try to match Bruce. I can’t sit at his table. But I will try to squeeze some of the essence of the weekend, including the media awards, into print here for you.

My road trip partner Tony Ivanovich and I have a couple of things in common. We have both previously managed the Hamilton Wanderers first team and we had both previously embarked on a southern roadie together. And coincidentally Holloway was involved. That previous road trip was back in the mid eighties. Tony was in the car when I received two speeding tickets in five minutes, just north of Putaruru, en-route to Tokoroa to help out Bruce Holloway’s Unicol team who were short of a player. Bruce has never let me forget that incident.

This time we had to go further but Tony and I made it through to Wellington, speeding-ticket-free this time. We stopped at various towns on the way, savouring the local fare and downing numerous coffees. Tokoroa served up a jolly good espresso at Robert Harris (shameless plug to my corporate employers), BP Taihape did decent food but another BP tried to exorbitantly charge us $8 for a small All Whites flag and Palmerston North lived up to its Worzel Gummidge reputation when I spied a bloke in gumboots, pushing a rotary hoe across the square in the centre of the city.

Hitting Wellington I exited at the Terrace to drop Tony off and pick up my mate Bernie Muollo of Island Bay United F.C. who was also going to be attending the media awards. Then we struggled through the rush hour traffic narrowly missing a drunken bloke who teetered, cell phone at his ear, into the path of traffic. Shit we are running late!

Arriving eventually at the Theatre of shattered Phoenix Dreams we were rewarded with a prime car park right by the corporate entrance. We won’t have a show of that tomorrow I muttered to Bernie as we sauntered in, waving loftily to a phalanx of early arriving Peru fans who clutched the wire fence outside.

We were indeed a tad late, due to that traffic snarl up, but just in time to hear the media award winners announced. I spotted fellow ITBOTN scribe, John Palethorpe who had been nominated for the prestigious Writer of the Year. He introduced us to ITBOTN’s Tracey Hodge whom I hadn’t met before. (Enzo – we do need to have a proper ITBOTN function one day).

I’d pre-arranged with the absent Holloway to collect his award in his absence, should he be lucky enough to win. He was one of three finalists, including Tracey, for Community- Internet Writer of the Year so ITBOTN had a mathematical 66% chance of winning, especially if the judging consisted of throwing a dart (absolutely not -Editor).

As a Wanderers yin to his Melville yang, I told Bruce I’d wear a blue shirt to collect his prize and in good grace he suggested a Wanderers scarf would raise a good laugh. I didn’t do that of course and when he did in fact win his category I strode up confidently to get his framed certificate, only to be told it wasn’t actually there (as they knew he wasn’t in Wellington). I slunk back to our table trying to look casual but no one was watching anyway.

Why? The Peru team were training in the stadium you see. Although the media event was a very well run event it was hard to take eyes away from the action on the pitch below. Man, they looked good. Every practise free kick was swooshing into the net and not a ball was mis-controlled. But that’s practise. Let’s see you do that tomorrow I thought.

The media event trucked on nonetheless with some delighted winners. A highlight was the Audio Broadcaster of Year won by the Yellow Fever-Phoenix City who were delighted to oust perennial winner Jason Pine.

[A full list of winners can be found below].

After the media awards we strolled down the corridor to the main event of the night, the posh NZFA (black tie) awards dinner.

This was attended by the glitterati of New Zealand football. Lots of blokes in flash whistles and (a lesser number of) ladies dressed to the nines. There were ex-Allwhites, current and former managers of various teams, leading woman footballers, top referees, those Yellow fever- Phoenix City guys (who were sitting at my table), politicians, my old mate Deryck Shaw who is now the NZFA el-presidente and even the Peruvian Ambassador was in attendance.

All Important Persons. I’d had a few wines and decided I was there to represent Shit Footballers of the land. Hey, given the rule that half the people are below average, we make up 50% of players, surely?

The event was actually really good. Ex-Hamilton Wanderer, ex Leicester star, Chris Wood, won the Men’s footballer of the Year and the big one, the New Zealand Footballer of the Year. Various milestones and people were recognised and the guest speakers gave interesting insights. And the grub wasn’t half bad either.

A highlight was Deryck Shaw’s speech. Mainly as he mentioned my name. Not as a shit footballer but the context of how my team, Leicester City, in winning the Premiership, could inspire teams like the All Whites. Glad to be of service All Whites.

Then they had some auctions. Intoxicated as I was, I swiftly whipped out my wallet. The silent auction lady turned up with a signed Giroud Arsenal shirt but to my disappointment my prepared offer of $3.99 (as a gift to my Gunners supporting brother Andrew ) had already been exceeded to the tune of $750. And I thought I might have been overpaying. Labour’s Trevor Mallard who (generously it must be said) joined the madness when he paid $1400 for a $1200 Rembrandt suit like a typical overspending Lab… (snip Enzo)

Anyway I failed to snare anything despite best drunken intentions but I’ll have a relieved wife when she reads this. A decent buy was the purchase of a signed All Whites shirt for a few hundred dollars. Some guys at our table won this. Funny how you sometime need to travel afar to meet your neighbours. These guys were Cambridge Football club members. Legendary Josh Easby whom I had never met previously and his cohorts (Peter, Harry and Steve). They pooled their money and brought the jersey for their club. This type of gesture shows why Cambridge is such a well run footie club.

Fast forward a few hours and I found myself dry-mouthed, craving the first coffee of a new morning and looking forward to match day!

Saturday was a typical sunny-but-blustery Wellington day that made you want to don a warm jacket in the cool shade but strip to the waist in the sun. Jekyll and Hyde Wellington has split-city-personality down pat. I was staying with Bernie and his wife, Shirley. We took the train into the city like real football fans.

The pre-loading event on the Saturday was to be at the Leroy bar in the Plimmer Steps area. But firstly we had to track down Josh Easby who generously had offered some spare tickets he had purchased for Bernie to give away to deserving locals who may not have afforded a seat at the game. Nice touch Josh.

At the Leroy a bunch of us had arranged to catch up. Ex-Auckland University AFC club mates of mine, David Horne, Erich Bachman and Henry Jansen turned up. Rugby was represented by All Black shirt-wearing Alex Garden who clearly hadn’t read the script. Rotorua’s Grant Utteridge and his sons joined us, along with a few others. We drank and made merry. A few of us hadn’t seen others for a few years. Some of us hadn’t met each other previously. The unifier was the World Cup match and the chance to advance to the finals. We marched en-mass to the stadium. It was like Bahrain all over again!

Except it wasn’t quite. The match ended in a 0-0 draw and despite no goals it was engrossing and exciting. But I’m not going into details as there will be far better reports penned and you will have read them already.

Afterwards our excellent hosts, Bernie and Shirley, shepherded us onto the train and out to Petone. “It’ll be bedlam in the city and we know a really good place for dinner”. Damn right they did. La Bella Italia, Petone. I’d almost move to the Windy City to have a place like this in my neighbourhood. Pizzas (bellissimo!) and some Peroni beer rounded off a really good day. Eat your heart out Enzo, I tweeted.

Sunday was home time. I headed into the city to pick up Tony. He is a close buddy of the Rojas clan and had been partying with the All Whites last night. (“Ok Tony, I’ll drive”). After Friday and Saturday the trip back to the ‘tron was a quiet affair. But no speeding tickets!


New Zealand Football Media Association award winners:

Programme of the Year

Winner: Shared by Waitemata edited by Mark Reid and Papatoetoe AFC Ladies edited by Andrew Kirk

Highly Commended: Auckland City FC and Eastern Suburbs

Publication of the Year

Winner: Fully Committed, by Ben Sigmund and Jason Pine

Highly Commended: The Lilywhites – History of Eastern Suburbs AFC 1934-2015, by Sam Jeffery and Ernest Wong

Writer of the Year

Winner: Michael Burgess (Herald on Sunday, NZ Herald)

Runner up: Dave Webster (The Journeyfan)

Highly Commended: John Palethorpe (In the back of the net)

Community-Internet Writer of the Year

Winner: Bruce Holloway (In the back of the net)

Runner up: Phillip Rollo (Nelson Mail)

Highly Commended: Tracey Hodge (In the back of the net)

Photographer of the Year

Winner: Shane Wenzlick (Phototek)

Highly Commended: Andrew Cornaga (Photosport), Cameron McIntosh (Photomac), Michael Welsh (Dr yomcat shoots)

Audio Broadcaster of the Year

Winner: Phoenix City (Patrick Barnes, Cameron McIntosh, Andrew French, Dave Richardson)

Highly Commended: Riccardo Ball (TAB Trackside), Jason Pine (NZME)

Television Broadcaster of the Year

Winner: Gordon Glen Watson

Runner up: Jason Pine

Highly Commended: Narelle Sindos and Patrick Barnes

Website of the Year

Winner: The Journeyfan (Dave Webster)

Runner up: Yellow Fever

Highly Commended: Auckland City (Gordon Glen Watson) and Cambridge (Josh Easby)

The New Zealand Football Media Association started life as the New Zealand Soccer Writers’ Association and was set up primarily to help sports journalists cover the Rothmans League, founded in 1970 and notable as the country’s first national league in any sport. The association’s first media awards were made in 1980, with a Writer of the Year and Programme of the Year recognised. Further categories were added in photography in 1981 and broadcasting in 1986. The awards have since evolved to incorporate publications, a regional-community-website writer category, and website of the year.

Categories: All Whites

Rod de Lisle

Waikato based Kiwi living the good life that this wonderful country affords. I like to paint, travel, follow sport and do stuff with our large family. Writing song lyrics is a creative release that came about after (somehow) dreaming a complete song. Not being a muso has lead me to seek out creative musicians who might enjoy linking music to my words. Is that you?

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