League World Cup next on the list for volunteer
It's no surprise that Robyn Colman is just about to pop out the door when the phone rings early one Monday evening.
The 65-year-old Australian-born Hamiltonian has been called up at late notice for a shift handing out food and warm drinks to the needy on the St Vincent de Paul food van, so she needs to get away soon and can't chat for long.
Every second Thursday night, Colman gives up her time to help out with the charitable endeavour. Tonight's not her regular night, but someone has pulled out and Colman is always happy to fill in. Giving up a bit more of her time is no big deal. It's simply what a woman who might well be Waikato's most prolific volunteer does.
“It comes from my Dad,” says Colman. “I grew up in a very small town in Australia (GinGin, Queensland) and if anyone wanted anything done they called Herby. There was no payment, it was ‘just go and get Herby and he'll do it for you'. He was a jack of all trades.”
The list of organisations and events Colman has donated her time to is extensive: the FIFA U-20 World Cup, Cricket World Cup, World Masters Games, Child Cancer Fun Days, Arbour Day planting, A&P and Winter shows, to name but a few.
In just under 100 days, Colman will lend a hand at her next major event, the Rugby League World Cup. As an accreditation assistant, she will help control access to Waikato Stadium for the matches between Samoa and Tonga on November 4 and the Kiwis and Tonga a week later on November 11.
The 65-year-old is a Broncos fan and has a lifelong connection to rugby league that developed when she was a young girl travelling around country Queensland to watch the game.
“Every weekend when I was younger you would go to one of the other little towns that was even smaller than where you came from and watch rugby league,” she said.
“You'd park your car backwards right up to the field and you'd pull the back of your station wagon down and you'd sit on it and watch the game. Because the rest of the time there would be cows or something on that paddock.”
The Queensland-born mother of three can't wait to play her part to make rugby league's quadrennial showpiece event a success, while spreading the gospel about her adopted hometown.
She will be one of 172 volunteers who assist at New Zealand's four host cities (the others are Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch) in areas such as operations, spectator services, VIP hosting and media management.
“Major events such as Rugby League World Cup simply wouldn't happen without the army of volunteers who generously give up their time,” said Andrea Nelson, the general manager for the New Zealand side of an event that is cohosted with Australia.
“The roles they perform range from quite high level through to simply meeting and greeting people with a smile on their face, but they're all crucial in making sure the event runs smoothly and the spectator experience is as good as it can be,” says Nelson.
For Colman, it's not about the role she performs, but the enjoyment she gets from it and the people she meets.
“I just thoroughly enjoy doing volunteer work. It's one of the best things I ever did when I joined Waikato Volunteers. I do a little bit of everything. It's not about what you do, it's whether you enjoy it.
“My husband died 12 years ago. I think you get to a stage of ‘what are you going to do'? I work two days a week as a visitor host at the museum in Hamilton. So what do you do for the rest of the time? I do run, do quite a lot of sport and that. But how can you just sit at home?”
An avid sports fan, Colman has become a fixture at just about every major sports event hosted in the Waikato. In the recent World Masters Games she spent a day at Lake Karapiro helping out with the rowing, and two days at the Avantidrome — a venue she is familiar with after being conscripted to help out at the official opening by Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge.
Initially Colman declined — a rare event — the request to assist at the event.
“Someone rang me one day and said they wanted me to be a volunteer.
“I said, ‘look I'm not really a royalist so no'.”
The organisers kept asking. The prolific volunteer was well known as a safe pair of hands and it was a tricky event. Eventually she relented, and was assigned a spot inside the tightly locked down venue.
“We were supposed to be trying to stop people taking photographs. It was quite good fun, really.”
Robyn Colman will be one of 172 volunteers who assist at New Zealand’s four host cities for the Rugby League World Cup.