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Petanque is not one of the most common sports played in New Zealand, but this placid pastime has one particular North Shore resident hooked. Margaret Maher is the Representative Club Member for Northcote Petanque Club. The club has been operating for 15 years in Little Shoal Bay and Margaret started the sport at the age of 59. She’s currently the Treasurer of the Auckland Petanque Association and has been part of the New Zealand Seniors team for the Trans Tasman Challenge since 2005 (although she’s taken a year out this year). The challenge is played between Australia and New Zealand in alternate years, with New Zealand winning eight of the last nine challenges, according to Margaret. To top that off, she’s also involved with a petanque group from the Korean community, which was instigated by Harbour Sport ActivAsian Project and Auckland Petanque.
COURTNEY BENNETT: Describe Petanque in three words:
MARGARET MAHER: Fun, challenging and more fun.
CB: How did you get involved with petanque?
MM: My neighbour, who is now a Life Member of the Northcote Club, suggested I join the club. When I retired from full time work I accepted the invitation to an open “have a go” day. That was in 2001, and from then on I was hooked and have been playing at least two or three times a week ever since.
CB: What’s the best part about the sport of petanque?
MM: The friendships made and the friendliness of the Petanque community throughout New Zealand, Australia, or anywhere around the world.
CB: What are the skills needed to be successful in Petanque?
MM: Good hand and eye coordination, concentration and ability to read the terrain (like a golf green).
CB: Who are the petanque players you admire and why?
MM: In 2008, we had a team of three French Petanque players visit New Zealand, Philippe Suchaud, Philippe Quintais and Bruno Rocher. All were or had been members of World Championship teams. They played games and gave demonstrations and their skills were amazing to watch, pointing a boule with such accuracy, landing it exactly where they wanted it time after time or shooting an opposition boule out of the way and replacing it with their own. They were inspiring.
CB: What do you do in your spare time?
MM: Apart from Petanque, I do some gardening, dressmaking or sewing, and play some golf, although not much in last 12 months.
CB: Do you have a mentor currently or have you ever had one for Petanque?
MM: No, not really but the coach of our Auckland team is always very encouraging and supportive.
CB: Favourite sport to watch live?
MM: Rugby, cricket and Petanque.
CB: Petanque is celebrating 21 years in New Zealand, why would you recommend the sport to others?
MM: It’s a fun game which anyone can play and enjoy, whether they are nine or 90, or any age in between. It can be played either socially or competitively. It does not require a lot of specialised equipment, just a set of boules, any hard surface, metal or shell, or a pathway and it is not expensive.
CB: In 10 years time, I’ll be…
MM: I’ll be 83, and hopefully still fit and well enough to continue playing and enjoying Petanque.
Channel Magazine: Issuu 49 November 2014