It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. No, correct that, it was just the worst of times.
When first approached to don the suit and mask that make up the character of Voltman, I was apprehensive to say the least. However, cajoling from my chums and the thoughts of fame, fortune and women entered my head and I was sold. After a fitting to ensure the sleek lycra would encompass my body, I began my rigorous training routine which involved little running and much alcohol consumption.
The debut of the very scenic John Davies Park in Queenstown coincided with my initial foray as Otago’s mascot. A 6:15am wake-up call was hardly the best of beginnings to the career, as work to the ground had to be performed to make it match-worthy. After tilling the fields of Frankton, I sat down, looking forward to a few quiet OJs before my first appearance at the first drinks break. However, Otago Cricket Association CEO Graeme Elliott had different ideas. Due to the delayed start, he needed entertainment to appease the restless crowd. Without the Rolling Stones or even Michael Flatley’s hot feet to wow the hundreds, he turned to his nervous and hairy-chinned debutant.
20 minutes later I was facing up to dozens of keen youngsters who had the same goal - claim the prize wicket of Voltman. I protested at the 10-metre pitch, which encouraged a few teenagers to bang it in short and test out Voltman’s hook shot, but I soldiered on regardless. In fact, I was warned by Graeme that the OCA giveaways tray was still full and some of the smaller children were starting to cry. So, ignoring everything Billy Ibadulla had taught me, I shouldered arms to a few straight ones, and let the little boys and girls walk away with a free drink.
I learned a lot about the behaviour of Otago children over my period as New Zealand’s favourite mascot (informal straw poll conducted among my friends). There seemed to be a sliding scale which was based around their attitudes to me. Thus I put to you Voltman’s Theory of Children’s Behavioural Instincts in Small Towns. This theory was best displayed last season when Alexandra children attempted to beat me severely with whatever weapons they could lay their hands on, while Invercargill children approached me, almost in deference, meekly requesting an autograph. Therefore my outcome can be best displayed as:
The smaller the town, the less friendly the children
However to say there was no fun along the way would be a lie. I enjoyed seeing some famous Otago victories over Auckland and Canterbury over the two seasons, and a few beverages courtesy of the association also hit the spot.
I would actively encourage any of you who are interested in the role to put your hand up as I move onto a more serious career (though some may disagree) of journalism. There is a camaraderie not seen in other roles, as evidenced in one of my recent trips to Dunedin where I caught up with BJ Cameron, my predecessor . He understood what stress one takes in the suit and we shared a beer as we quizzed each other over our signature moves.
And anyway, if you do take up the role, you can be rest assured I will be the first one to attempt to crash tackle you or throw a beer can at you next time I am at Molyneux Park