Category Archives: Guest Blogs

Damian McKenzie: Hamilton’s greatest thing since the invention of things?

Chiefs livewire Damian McKenzie will start at fullback for the All Blacks in the first Bledisloe test. Self-confessed Wannabe Rugby Mum Angela Cuming takes a moment to appreciate the many talents of our (adopted) hometown hero.


First let me say that Damian is practically family. My Aunty Marion and Uncle Peter have a grandson who went to varsity with Damian and they are good mates and one time he brought Damian over to their house for dinner. I am insanely jealous about this because my Aunty Marion is an amazing cook and by Uncle Peter loves having a few beers and telling people everything that is currently wrong with the state of modern rugby and I feel if I were there Damian and I would have become firm friends and probably snuck out early to go to Shenanigans for a Wild Turkey and Coke.


He probably would have looked at me like this when he was suggesting we go for a beer:



My Aunty Marion later reported that Damian was a very nice young man and very quiet and polite. This was a couple of years ago and I predicted then that he would be an All Black before too long. I based this prediction on a few things, most notably the fact he seemed to be playing very well for the Mighty Mooloo Men of the Waikato Rugby Union.


Damian made his debut for the Chiefs in 2015 and was named in the All Blacks squad in 2016.

I for one am very happy about his sudden rise to rugby fame. I am what you called a Wannabe Rugby Mum, or WRB. I have three little kids and my dream was for at least one of my children to one day play rugby for New Zealand. Then I ended up with three boys and I had to re-think my ambitions but I figured the All Blacks were about as good as the Black Ferns so my dream was back on.

As an WRB I have a very special place in my heart for Damien. A lot of it has to do with his smile.  His wholesome, cheeky, yes-I-know-I-am-a-little-bit-cute-but I-don’t-have-time-for-romance-I-am-here-to-play-rugby-and-I-call-my-mum-every-Sunday smile.

I love that he’s not the biggest bloke on the field. That he’s probably had to work harder at training than a lot of his team mates, that he’s had (and still has) doubters questioning his ability to play at the top level.

My little boy Tommy is not yet two but already loves running around with a rugby ball. Tommy is an identical twin,born at 34 weeks. He was in NICU for a fortnight. If ever he decides he wants to be a professional rugby player I will tell him about Damian, about how he was never the biggest or strongest but he had the heart of a lion and when it comes to playing for the Chiefs or the All Blacks that’s what counts most.













Did I also mention Damian’s smile?


Sometimes he switches up his smile and he does this:



And then he does this:


People say Damian was a surprise selection to start as fullback for the first Bledisloe game in Sydney but people who said that must never have watched him play rugby because he’s always been a standout on the field.

I asked Mr Angela, who when not letting our cats out at 5am or cleaning baby spew off the rug, is  Very Respected rugby writer Paul Cully.

He says Damian is ”brave, fast and has fancy footwork” and he wasn’t surprised at all to see him selected at fullback.

”McKenzie plays above his weight,” he said.


”He is definitely the real thing.”

And finally, if ever there was any doubt about Damien’s skills as an All Black, let my Google image search results have the final word.


And Damian, if you are ever over at Aunty Marion’s again please feel free to invite me along. It won’t be weird at all, promise.

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Hamilton playgrounds: Power Rankings

Playgrounds are a little like bars. They all essentially perform the same function but their design and overall appeal can vary markedly.

Here in Hamilton we have just about as many playgrounds as we do bars (still no bar/playground combo, yet)  but are they all the same?

We sent out Hamilton mother-of-three Angela Cuming into the wilds to compile the definitive Tron Playground Power Rankings for the winter of 2017.   


# 1 Steele Park

Corner of Cooke and Grey streets, Hamilton East.


The Steel Park playground only opened in June but it’s already top of the Power Rankings because it’s just so darn wonderful.

It’s got a real community feel and a good mix of equipment, including those annoyed in-ground trampolines that kids love and parents desperately try and avoid falling into.

What makes this one so great, however, is that unlike a lot of other playgrounds it is actually near shops and cafes and stuff, and that means it is near COFFEE.

Yay: Being next door to Duck Island Ice Cream.

Boo: Being next door to Duck Island Ice Cream (try waiting until your kids are on one of those trampolines and sneak away).


# 2 Claudelands Park

Boundary Road, Claudelands.



This is not a very fashionable or trendy playground and that’s why I love it so much because you are always guaranteed a good mix of parents who don’t want to parent that day and are happy sitting on one of the benches and letting their kids go nuts running around.

It’s a good place for a bit of hands-off parenting because it’s basically in the middle of a big field and your kids can’t run off anywhere or get up to mischief.

It’s actually three-playgrounds-in-one, with separate areas and equipment for babies and toddlers, primary school aged kids and bigger kids (and grown ups). There’s a flying fox and undercover tables and benches if you fancy bringing a picnic lunch, and it’s handily located right next to Jubilee Park if you want to combine a walk through some stunning native bush while you are there.

Yay: There’s a flying fox and you can watch grown men and women relive their childhood in varying degrees of success.

Boo: The genius who designed it decided to landscape the garden beds with millions of tiny little gravelly rocks. Expect at least one of your children to eat some of it.



#3 Potter Children’s Garden, Parana Park

Memorial Drive, Hamilton East.


Small but perfectly formed, this park is like a Victorian fairy tale come to life, with bird aviaries, giant statues and sculptures for children to play with, gorgeous gardens and a front row seat of the Waikato River. There’s not a lot of traditional playground fare like swings and slides, but trust me you kids won’t mind.

Yay : The fountains and shallow ponds your kids can play in.

Boo: The fountains and shallow ponds the ducks like to play (and toilet) in.


#4 Hamilton Gardens

Hungerford Crescent, Hamilton.


If I could have designed a playground when I was seven years old this would have been it. It’s whimsical and wonderful with a giant stage, caterpillar statues, decorative bird houses and a wonderful giant worm to slide down.

There’s also an amazing tree house that only big kids can climb up into, giving parents a much-needed break from bored teens asking to be dropped off at McDonald’s while the little kids play.

Yay: You can bribe kids into leaving early by promising them an ice cream from the nearby Hamilton Gardens cafe (also sells coffee).

Boo: It is smack bang next to a car park so you have to be on red alert for wandering toddlers.


#5 Minogue Park

Tui Avenue, Forest Lake, Hamilton.


First up, do not rely on your GPS to find this park because you will quickly enter Dante’s little know seventh circle of Hell: a tired and bored toddler in the back seat repeatedly asking where mummy is driving to.

But once you do find it this playground is pretty special, with a  mix of old school stuff like roundabouts and swings and cool new stuff like those great/annoying mini trampolines. There is also lots and lots of sand, plus this great big wooden structure that funnels water along a series of channels. It’s got a bike track that runs around the perimeter of the playground so a good option for older kids.

Yay: Because it’s a bit out of the way it doesn’t get as crowded as other playgrounds.

Boo: The bike track means you are constantly freaking out that a kid on a BMX is going to knock your toddler over.


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Can You Believe It’s Winter in Hamilton?!

The Waikato winter may be known for its harsh(ish) temperatures and unrelenting fog, but still roses are blooming, gorgeous men from hot (literally and figuratively) countries are descending on the city to perform ball tricks in shorts (not the only ones to show a little leg on this roundup! Scroll down for more), and parents are keeping their children entertained in the great Hamilton outdoors.

This may be the perfect city.

This is your latest #lovethetron roundup.

Dying of cuteness overload from this little snapshot of @jakequinn and his brood of mini-Jakes just chillin’ on a winter weekend. Being a dad is so hot right now!

Being a mum could be pretty hot right now too if you are anything like @nzdodo who discovered this cool BMX track in Hamilton!

@juliehardakerNZ heads to the FIFA and hangs out with these gorgeous, colourful mini Colombians!

A big Saturday morning Aglio Olio Hello from @megancampbellnz and mini-Megan!

Meanwhile @Camtheguzz takes her brood to the Hamilton Zoo before the FIFA. Love the silly faces!

A pair of Hamilton foodies: @chamfy celebrates @hipecon’s birthday!

So many Hamilton icons in one place! @MOMENTUMCheryl and @ReeVarcoe check out everyone’s favourite cupcake place now open in Garden Place.

Nawwwwww. Cute @justlyrica goes tree planting on Arbor Day

So swish! Love the @xero stand at Fieldays from @iscolincrowley!

@skinditty hangs out with high-rollers from ‘Straya at @mysterycreek

Sneak peek into @juliehardaker’s winter garden, where roses bloom even in the cold Hamilton winter. Stunning!

Epic shot at the FIFA U20 from @leontakesshots!

@PeteClouston cheers on Colombia ahead of their game against Qatar. Great colours!

From the real thing to something a little bit different: @hornykitten snaps this cute FIFA display at everyone’s favourite comic book store @MK1Comics

And it was all yellow: @chamfy snaps Garden Place at sunset. Magic.

Gorgeous winter full moon in full bloom, from @h_ahartley!

Why play Bejewelled when you can just wear it? @chamfy finds a novel way to counteract the winter blues on a rainy Hamilton day.

Best thing about Fieldays? The totally awesome fashion! Loving the pink gumboots @Rural_News!

Despite the looming rainclouds, @mmiisskkaa indulges in a classic Hamilton pastime at the lake!

‘Mist-erious’: Beautiful early-morning shot of the famed Waikato fog from @waikato

Traffic light through the early-morning mist from @ns510x. So cool.

Amazing sight: @chamfy snaps magic oozing from @meamobile in this early morning shot.

Yet another covetable office window view in Hamilton -this time from @AdamCrouchley. Absolutely stunning, first thing in the morning!

From fog to frost: We love this closeup of an icy morning from @skinditty!

Build our own burger, @G00d_Neighbour? We’re totally there!

What’s Korean for ‘yum yum’? @hamfoodblog has the perfect winter lunch at Minsokchon!

Part 1 of @UrsulaEdg’s perfect Hamilton night out: Dinner at Victoria Street Bistro.

Part 2 of @UrsulaEdg’s perfect Hamilton night out: Drinks at Wonderhorse!

Worthy adversary: @waikatomuseum races us to 1,500 and wins with 3 followers to spare!

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Dear Mr William Durning, we don’t usually do this but….

…we saw that you had tweeted the adventure of an entire meal at fancypants Hamilton establishment Domaine on #lovethetron, and we loved that you scribbled your foodthoughts all over your menu. We thought we were the only ones who did this, so it’s nice to see serious grownups at serious grownup restaurants doing the same. And clearly you have a healthy appreciation for foodporn.

We think this just might be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

xx @lovethetron

Mr @WGDurning Dines at Domaine


Gin and grape cured salmon and potato terrine with carrot puree

Clam time!

Clam time is very quickly over

Magic in the kitchen

More magic in the kitchen!

Pork and pistachio terrine

We are beside ourselves with food envy!

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#NZMusicMonth Guest Post: Hunting Hamilton Music

When we discovered HP of @HPwritesstuff on the blog, we were immediately taken by his passion for music and his ability to take his thorough and wide-ranging knowledge of musical-everythings and write about it in such a way that even musical n00bs (like us) were hooked. So of course, we absolutely had to have him as a #NZMusicMonth guest blogger.



Hamilton Music is not something that runs down the street howling and whooping in the kinds of ecstasy that makes you think it’s on, well…ecstasy. It is a more contained beast. It is humble in nature and can be quite well hidden. Hamilton Music lives in practice rooms, garages and pubs across the city and is almost entirely nocturnal. One may see signs of its existence on the streets in a faded promotional poser or a rather dashing young man with guitar case, but it takes some doing to see it in its natural habitat.

On the trail of Hamilton Music sees visits to favourite live music venues like Static, Altitude, Biddy Mulligans and Diggers. Once inside these venues, the true nature of Hamilton Music can be found. It’s raucous and pummelling and its reputation for grit is truly deserved. There might be claims that Hamilton Music is a tad adversarial. And it is. It’s no surprise that the Meteor hosts the seminal Hamilton Music event of the year, Hamtown Smakdown. No surprise too that rock, hardcore punk and metal spew out of the guitars, drums and mics of local heroes. Bands like Devilskin, Team Kill and Deathnir smash through sets like they’re pumpkins. But it doesn’t stop there.

Continuing our anthropological voyage sees Hamilton as the home of hip hop too. The vast majority of hip hop collective Villains call Hamilton home. They’ve come together when the likes of 4 Corners, JB and Frankton Zoo all saw the potential of collaboration. Add to that, the soulful jams of Raiza Biza and Farizone. Hey, for that matter, add DJ Sir Vere to the mix! Hip hop is just as Hamilton as the heavy stuff.

While our hip neighbours to the west get some great bands touring through and, looking forward to playing Raglan is regularly mentioned, the culture of local bands playing local venues is something uniquely Hamilton. There is an array of arty, groovy, peculiar and ultimately rather enjoyable music here. There is something about the town that allows for musical expression in all directions than a concentrated “scene”. There’s something in the concrete holding up the WINTEC, the steel holding up the bridges, there’s something in the fog that has allowed for music both vast and successful. Kimbra is Hamilton Music as much as Katchafire. They struck out in a town that they knew could be louder.

With all this talent, Hamilton Music can continue to grow its audience. So, head down to see chamber music at the uni’s performing arts centre or ska coming from upstarts, Chatchy. Hopefully you’ll be dressed as the Mad Hatter and hear rockers Cheshire Grimm and Snake Oil Pedders play the annual ‘Down the Rabbit Hole’ gig at Altitude. Go out and hear Vegas Brown in any number of his bands belting out your favourite songs. And then go home and grab whatever qualifies as an instrument and add to the ruckus.

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Jesse O’Brien: ‘Being the Best Dad I Can Be’

Chapter 10 Hamilton Christmas Vignettes: The Musician and Superstar Dad

We know you as Hamilton’s Father of the Year, a passionate maker of music and a Twitter aficionado. How would you best describe what you do?

Well, I’ll clarify firstly that I’m not the Father of the Year… But I am extremely passionate about being a Dad. I grew up without a dad and determined a long time ago that I would be the best dad I could be! it just so happens that being a dad is not limited to just my biological children but also the foster children we take in. Any man can father a child, but it takes a Dad to raise one.

Music – Yeah, I make it. And I’m super passionate about making it. Music is extremely important in my life and got me through some pretty rough patches as a young teen.

Here’s a link to my brand new release if anyone’s interested:

Twitter afficionado? I wouldn’t say that… But I would say ‘Social media addict’! Haha. I LOVE the connecting that is made possible through Twitter & Facebook and the likes

So what do I do? I live life LOUD, like full volume, finger in your ears loud.
Family, music, people, connection… That’s me!

What is your Hamilton citizenship status?

I was born and raised in Dunedin, an incredible city with awesome people.
At age 26 my, then little, family – my wife, oldest son & I – shifted to ‘Te Tron’ for work. This happened after we had visited while I was doing music for a conference in Hamilton.

We have been here for 10 years now and truly call Hamilton home. We have grown to love the city, it’s people and it’s uniqueness more every day. We are Waikato proud! #ChiefsMania #LoveTheTron

Where do you currently call home?

Te Tron, Hamiltron – City of the Future, Kirikiriroa… HAMILTON!!!

Will you be in Hamilton for Christmas?

No, my family and I will be in Tairua for Christmas this year. Why? Because my kids LOVE to see their grandparents at Christmas… And they’ve got a beach!!
I will be here for New Years though! Parrrrrtae!

In 10 years’ time, you will look on 2013 as the year that you…

Discovered ‘Love the Tron’!
Got me my first teenager (my oldest son turned 13!)
Found the balance – Family, passion, work, community.

Have you been naughty or nice this year?

Haha… Now that would be telling!
It probably depends who you ask. I am never too far from controversy thanks to my strong opinions and lack of filters, but on a whole I’m a lover not a fighter.
There is always mischief just waiting under the surface though… probably not naughty, but definitely cheeky!

What are you hoping Santa will bring you this year?

Honestly? I just want people to be happy and feel they belong and are loved this Christmas.
I guess that starts with my inner circle, but that hope goes far beyond that.

As a part of my job this year we have given some deserving families from our school bags of presents because we have known how hard their year has been and the challenges they’ve faced. The surprise & pure gratefulness on the faces of those families… covers it all!

That has already made my Christmas!

Hamilton’s best-kept Christmas secret is…

Love the Tron… I even looked into Love the Tron’s eyes once, possibly twice and still didn’t know it! But I like the mystery. I think it shows a great and genuine desire for the focus to really be Hamilton! (eds -yes we totally made eye contact that one time!)

Also, Foundation Bar at Te Awa The Base. I have played music there every Friday this year and it still amazes me how many people don’t know about the place! Great food, great (and local) drinks, average entertainment (haha – that’s me I’m talking about!), awesome vibe!


We love Jesse for his passion for the Tron and love for the #HamiltonMafia. Follow Jesse on Twitter @DarkroomJesse or do like us and seek him out in person on Friday nights at Foundation Bar at Te Awa! For more of his music, head over to the Darkroom Project, and read all about his passion for being a dad on the Waikato Times.

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Brad Pogson: A Romantic Christmas Welcome Home

Chapter 8 Hamilton Christmas Vignettes: The Hamiltonian Expat

“My partner had been home to the UK for three weeks in November and was returning on December 1st. Like most Brits, he’s obsessed with Christmas – think festive grotto – so I knew I had to do something Christmassy to welcome him back to non-snowy, allegedly less charming, Auckland.

I recruited my flatmate to help me put up this fake (but rather attractive) tree in his apartment the night before he arrived, switching the lights on, and leaving the star for him to place.

He was amazed, I was impressed with myself, and it was the perfect way to get into spirit of Christmas!”

We know you as a young Hamiltonian working in the Supercity. How would you best describe what you do?

I work in Vodafone’s PR team as an external comms advisor. Day-to-day my job is to enhance and protect Vodafone’s reputation – primarily through media relations – by telling our story.

I also handle media enquiries about Vodafone, and act as a spokesperson for the company as required.

To do this I work alongside our consumer and enterprise teams, government relations, public policy and the Vodafone Foundation.

No day is the same. It’s fast, fun and there’s no place I’d rather be.

What is your Hamilton citizenship status?

Expat and Tron trumpeter.
I arrived in Hamilton in 2007 – that was before the first iPhone had launched and most people were still clicking away on a Nokia 1200. I think I wore my high school leavers’ jersey most of that year actually. I didn’t really venture further off campus than the bars on Victoria, BJ’s Emporium Save Mart, and the Liquor King at Hillcrest, which says to me I had a pretty good time.

When I realised there was more to discover, and brunch became a regular Sunday activity, I became a fan of the Tron.

I left mid 2010 with my ticket, a tonne of memories, and a city to experience again as a visitor.

Where do you currently call home?

Home is a small rural community called Mangatangi which sits nicely between Auckland and Hamilton. It’s where I grew up, it’s where my parents live, and it’s where I’ll be spending Christmas.

Will you be in Hamilton for Christmas?

Christmas is always at my parent’s house. It starts at the dining table and ends with a food baby on the couch, while passively watching sport – every time.

In 10 years’ time, you will look on 2013 as the year that you…

Anything I’ve done this year is outweighed by what Labour List MP, Louisa Wall, accomplished to make New Zealand more equal. But if I had to pick something delightfully trivial, then discovering Spotify has changed my life this year, no doubt. I also accidentally became a star in the Pump ‘Grab Life by the Bottle’ ad which was quite hilarious.

Have you been naughty or nice this year?

At the risk of breaking the PR rule of thumb here with “no comment”, I’ll say a bit of both. I’ve been good to others and to myself, which at times has meant being a little bit naughty!

What are you hoping Santa will bring you this year?

I need some new running socks so I’m hoping Santa reads this blog. If Santa’s also granting wishes, then I I’d quite like to win the competition I entered to watch the Heineken Open from the ultimate pad above court in January. That would be nice, thanks Santa.

The best thing about Hamilton during Christmas is…

I’ve never been in Hamilton around Christmas so I’ll take your advice on this one! But I reckon the Gardens would be pretty lovely, right?

Hamilton’s best-kept Christmas secret is…

It’s no secret, but easily forgotten if you’re too busy enjoying the city. Lake Karapiro in the summer is perfect. Bombs, picnics, wake boarding, beers – you name it.

Given that I work for Vodafone I should also mention that by March 2014, more than two thirds of the Hamilton population will have access to 4G coverage – that’s a pretty well-kept secret, and one you’ll be hearing more about!


Brad Pogson is a young Hamiltonian working in the Supercity, who makes the occasional visit back to enjoy the Tron . Follow his life and adventures on Twitter @bradpogson.

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