Have you featured on an UNO cover? Then chances are you’ve met Bay local Jay Reeve, UNO’s newest regular.

never imagined I would move away from the Bay. I had everything I needed right here: family, friends and occasional waves all punctuated with cold yeasty beverages.

Then MTV offered to pay me to travel the world and party. The plan? Make truckloads of money, marry a model and come home. The reality? I ticked a lot of boxes, saw some amazing and very weird things. The truckload of money ended up fitting easily into a child’s beach bucket. And all the time I was away, UNO was my link to what was happening at home and what I was missing.

The cover stories have acted as bookmarks: capturing each cover star in their natural state before (in almost every case) supernatural stardom. I have been lucky enough to have bimbled through life, crossing paths with many of them.

As a hospitality and life skills teacher (former alumni can attest to my love of the hospo industry and lack of purposeful life skills) at Tauranga Boys’ College, I had a young, eager and incredibly well-mannered Kane ‘Steady The Ship’ Williamson on my roll. He could have represented New Zealand in any number of sports. Although I have nothing to do with his captaincy of the Black Caps, I did teach him for 40% of his secondary education … just saying.

Another of my fellow old boys from Tauranga Boys’ College, Sam Cane, is now being groomed for the skip roll. Like Steady The Ship, he’s wise beyond his years, a formidable opponent, respected by those around him and a hell of a nice bloke. He rides a Harley Davidson, which helps, too. He’s the sort of bloke who leans at the bar in the clubroom, post-match with the fish heads. He’s not a shirtless selfies-for-Tinder-and-Instagram kind
of guy.

Down the road in Rotorua, Liam Messam (the Māori Benjamin Button), has been at the top level of our nation’s code for almost two decades, putting his body through the weekly equivalent of a head-on car crash at full speed. But he still has a carcass sharp enough to maintain his undie modelling career.

Also from the geothermal wonderland, is a strong, intelligent, beautiful woman with an internationally-known voice. Lizzie Marvelly is a force to be reckoned with. I got to know her through years of radio and television interviews. We would often catch up at events where I am known to steal oxygen between sips. But when you’re with Lizzie, you listen. I have no idea how so much knowledge, wisdom and mana is contained within her petite frame.

Makere Gibbons and I met whilst riding the wave of chaos the Wellington 7’s used to produce. Makere presented on Sky Television, The Crowd Goes Wild and the international press affiliates. I was shown around Wellington by her now husband, Kurt Gibbons. He enlisted my help to re-enact the famous Izzy and Daisy Dagg horseriding engagement cover for Woman’s Day. It wasn’t easy; it was closer to breakfast than dinner, and props to recreate the scene were thin on the ground in Mishmosh, my good friend Mike Brown’s restaurant.

Since then I have often caught up with the six musketeers (Makere and Kurt, Mike and Toni, and Izzy and Daisy). It’s hard to imagine they have time to party these days in their property developing, world travelling, rum-running, inflight safety video recording, rapping, code playing, child care centre building, Ferrari driving world. Let’s not forget they do all that whilst raising small children born within days of each other.

It’s impressive to look back at the cover stories of these people, and now read the chapters they have added since. When hard work is all you know, greatness is the only thing you will receive. The weather, the beaches and the lifestyle we enjoy here are all great, but people are what makes the Bay the best place to call home.

And the ‘marry a model‘ part of the plan? Yep. That worked out, too.

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