I wish I could offer a reasonable explanation as to why Australia went down in the Trans-Tasman Challenge in Auckland last weekend, but I can't. The fact is they did it without their fourth seed, Mike Sigley, who had to withdraw for health reasons at the last moment. Admittedly, we were without Geoff Wright, and Glenys Lawrie also declined an invitation, but we fielded a very strong side despite the fact we all had to get there and back at our own expenses.
The rot started in Round 4 on day one. Out of 12 games, Australia could only manage one win, so from that point on we had to play catch up Scrabble. We got to within five difference early on the final day, but the Kiwis must have sensed something and pulled away for a convincing victory.
John Foley was suffering from sciatica most of the time, and played most of his games in the kneeling position. In fact, he nearly didn't make it to Round 1, as he had taken a morning walk for exercise, and found he was unable to complete the return journey.
Angela Van Niekerk, despite winning least games, performed remarkably well. Her drawn game with Nigel Richards will be one she will remember for a long time.
Jimmy Scarff served noticed that he is on target for a major win on Australian soil. Clearly the top performing Aussie for the event, he would have come in third had I won my last game against Jeff Grant. How I lost that game after establishing an early 100 point lead I will never know.
A few notable plays from the Kiwis were Patric Carter's PLAGUIEST, wrapped a round a GU already on the board, Nigel Richards CASUISTIC, wrapped around ST, and David Lloyd's SUBROUTINE by placing the SUB in front of ROUTINE.
The Australian team was treated to marvellous hospitality and generosity at the hands of the New Zealanders. John Foster, team captain and organizer, prepared a gift pack for each player which included a personalized tile bag, a special Trans-Tasman key ring and heaps of other goodies. A splendid lunch was provided each day in the dining room of the Ellerslie International, and the subsidized presentation dinner on Monday night was superb. All of this would not have been possible if it were not for the generous financial support provided by Mattel New Zealand.
Howard Warner, player and journo, organised good local newspaper coverage, ABC radio featured interviews with some of the players and Channel 3 included a short piece in their news.
The announcement was made at the end of the tournament that the next Trans-Tasman will be staged in Melbourne, in 2000. For us Australians, that is how long we will have to wait until we have the opportunity to avenge the defeat at the hands of our New Zealand friends.
TRANSTASMAN TOURNAMENT after game 24 NAME W SPREAD PETER SINTON NZ 18 958 NIGEL RICHARDS NZ 17.5 1707 JEFF GRANT NZ 16 984 JIMMY SCARFF AUS 16 817 HOWARD WARNER NZ 15 513 KENDALL BOYD NZ 15 492 BOB JACKMAN AUS 14.5 486 PATRICK CARTER NZ 14 912 LYNNE POWELL NZ 12.5 -81 JOAN ROSENTHAL AUS 12 192 ROGER BLOM AUS 12 120 ESTHER PERRINS AUS 11.5 -42 PAUL CLEARY AUS 11 306 JOHN HOLGATE AUS 11 -5 JOHN FOLEY AUS 11 -455 GLENNIS HALE NZ 11 -483 ALISTAIR KANE AUS 11 -597 DAVID LLOYD NZ 10 -402 JOHN FOSTER NZ 10 -438 CARMEL DODD AUS 10 -1374 STEVE SUNTER AUS 9 -370 LYNNE BUTLER NZ 9 -441 SHERYL DAVIDSON NZ 6.5 -1055 ANGELA VAN NIEKERK AUS 4.5 -1744NZ 154.5 Aus 133.5