League World Cup next on the list for vol­un­teer

Waikato News - - NEWS - Daniel Fraser

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.”

Photo / Sup­plied

Robyn Col­man will be one of 172 vol­un­teers who as­sist at New Zealand’s four host ci­ties for the Rugby League World Cup.

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