In October 1997, Pat Jamieson, Andrew & Diane Findlay traveled to Greymouth for the Greymouth Veteran Sports 'The Whitebait Games'. The weather was typical of the West Coast- pouring with rain (gumboots being an absolute must) ... not good for serious Petanque or any Petanque for that matter. It was however, an excellent opportunity to chat to two NZ Masters Games representatives from Dunedin.
Now Dunedin ... that sounded like a better place to find a dry piste. We all qualified, we were over 35 years old (just) – bad luck Debbie and Glen. The games were being held in February, great ... sunshine, sunscreen, shorts and sneakers ... sounded wonderful so we decided to enter. We booked in to the University Halls of Residence and joined all the would-be medal winners for two days of competition.
The 'sunshine states of Australia' would have been proud of the weather on the first day ... but Sunday ... oh no ... Greymouth all over again. We played our first game with water lapping the top of our shoes. However the weather did eventually abate and the games continued with the medals finally being presented. The Christchurch contingent was not among the medal winners but that didn't matter as we had enjoyed ourselves immensely. The warmth and hospitality of our southern counterparts had touched our hearts.
We travelled home feeling really good about the weekend and stopped for a meal at Oamaru. We were still enthusiastically discussing the weekend when Reed suggested it would be a great idea if we could arrange some sort of competition amongst the Clubs down south. As ideas flowed, Diane took notes on a paper serviette and filed it way in her copious handbag for future action.
The Christchurch Petanque Club committee liked the idea and Pat & Rona Philips delegated the job of contacting the southern clubs with a view to arranging friendly games on the trip down culminating in a two day competition to be hosted by Caversham Petanque Club.
And so from such humble beginnings was born 'The Winter Challenge'.
During Queens birthday weekend in June 1998, 12 players traveled from Christchurch stopping for games at Timaru and Oamaru. We even made a trip to Milton, enjoyed Diane's Casino games, fantastic food and a (very) quick game of Petanque as it was pouring with rain. We then returned to Dunedin for the interclub games with this inaugural event being won by Caversham. It was a great demonstration of southern hospitality and friendly rivalry. We look forward to this weekend every year ... Pat even arranged to get off Jury service so she could attend.
Others have joined the ranks of enthusiasts who travel south, not only for the Winter Challenge but for a whole calendar of events such as the Open Singles and South Island singles at Waikouaiti, South Island Doubles and NZ Masters at Dunedin, and South Island Masters at Timaru. Some turn these trips to tournaments into holiday time traveling round and enjoying all that the South can offer.
The standard of Petanque has improved vastly since we first ventured south. Pistes have changed and there are now a variety of playing surfaces. Players have a greater appreciation of the tactics and strategies that make Petanque such an exciting game to play and watch.
Some wonderful friendships have been formed with our southern counterparts truly confirming Petanque as 'The Friendliest Game in and out of town'.