Christchurch before the earthquake – Such a beautiful place, and I’m sure it still is, although I haven’t been there since the disaster in 2011.
I look back fondly at the South Island holiday my wife, Marie and I undertook in January/February, 2005, a ‘circumnavigation’ which began in Christchurch.
We left Brisbane on January 12, running into prominent British rugby league official, Maurice Lindsay at the airport. He had lost his mobile phone, and was quite flustered.
On our first full day in Christchurch we had a nostalgic stop at Marie’s old work place, Mason and Struthers department store. Marie lived in New Zealand from 1970-74. We also drove to New Brighton, to see if we could find the house where she lived with her Australian friends, Michelle Gordon (Longreach) and Janelle Vidler (Bangalow). We found the house – it was opposite the rugby union club.
I dread to think what parties may have taken place, with the rugger lads!
Marie, who was Marie Donnelly then, went to athletics and swimming events at the 1974 Christchurch Commonwealth Games. In 2018 she was a volunteer at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.
The 2005 Christchurch trip was a chance for me to catch up with ‘The Press’ rugby league writer, John Coffey, who hails originally from the West Coast of the South Island.
John played rugby league on the West Coast and in Christchurch, and was a great help to me when I covered the Queensland Residents’ tour of New Zealand in 1988 (Greg Platz was coach), when they played at Wingham Park, Greymouth and then the Addington Showgrounds (Christchurch) before moving to the North Island.
John finished at ‘The Press’ in 2007, and last year was made a Life Member of the New Zealand Rugby League, a tribute to his coverage of the game in the media, and for the excellent books he published about league.
I was working in the offices of Queensland Newspapers, Bowen Hills, Brisbane, when live shots of the 2011 earthquake stopped the office in its tracks.
‘The Press’ building was one of those to be badly damaged, and it had to be demolished later that year.
Photo 1: Christchurch 2005.
Photo 2: Janelle Vidler and Marie Donnelly.

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