Gala dinner provides windfall for junior rugby league
It’s been a watershed week for rugby league in Canterbury, and it continued last night with a gala dinner at Addington Raceway ahead of the NRL clash between the Penrith Panthers and New Zealand Warriors at AMI Stadium on Saturday.
News that the Panthers-Warriors match is officially sold out gave the glitzy, star-studded event – which raised $28,000 for junior rugby league in Canterbury – extra shine.
The night kicked off at the Christian Cullen Lounge with a warm welcome from Christchurch mayor Lianne Dalziel, before event promoter Justin Wallace, an ex-Canterbury rep and current CRL board member, addressed the crowd about his and business partner Craig Douglas’ (Wallace & Douglas Ltd and Enth Degree Events) journey to bring NRL football back to the city.
Wallace told the gathering of the massive contribution of Steve Clarke and Tracey Chambers, among many others, in making the game a reality. The pride in the room was palpable.
Of course, the Panthers’ commitment to coming to Christchurch for the next four years and assisting in junior development in Canterbury was the decisive factor.
MC James Daniels interviewed Penrith coach Anthony Griffin, captain Matt Moylan, and Kiwi internationals Peta Hiku and Dallin Watene-Zelezniak on stage, providing an insight to life as a rugby league professional.
The Warriors squad does not arrive in Christchurch until Friday afternoon, but the club was well represented at the dinner, with injured duo Simon Mannering and Ben Henry (who were also interviewed), Warriors greats Ruben Wiki and Jerome Ropati, and Kiwi Ferns star Georgia Hale rolling out the ACC Everyday Athlete programme to schools this week.
NZ league legend Sir Peter Leitch, aka The Mad Butcher, and The Footy Show star Beau Ryan then took the stage, and lifted the roof of the Cullen Lounge with hilarious banter typical of two of the game’s great characters.
Ryan revealed that he would be filming the latest instalment of his renowned ‘Beau Knows’ segment around Christchurch on Friday, to be screened on The Footy Show next week.
A live auction – hosted by Mark O’Loughlin from Harcourts Gold – saw several pieces of sports memorabilia (including Joseph Parker’s signed and framed boxing glove, Lydia Ko’s signed and framed golf ball and Manu Vatuvei’s signed and framed boot) and holiday accommodation go under the hammer, which, along with a Vodafone-sponsored raffle, raised valuable funds for junior rugby league in the region.
A wonderful night climaxed with keynote speaker Royce Simmons, the former Penrith, NSW and Australia great, regaling the crowd with numerous uproarious tales from 50 years’ involvement in rugby league.
A golf day at Clearwater Golf Resort with Simmons was one of the most popular auction items, attracting a frenzy of bids.
CRL chairman Andrew McCormick closed proceedings with a thank you speech.
It was a night to celebrate Christchurch, rugby league in Canterbury, and the hardworking endeavours of everyone involved in making the week’s events happen – culminating in Saturday’s momentous NRL encounter at AMI Stadium.
WILL EVANS – CANTERBURY RUGBY LEAGUE