Masters manager's last Games

New Zealand Masters Games manager Aaron Joy will make next month's event in Dunedin his last....
New Zealand Masters Games manager Aaron Joy will make next month's event in Dunedin his last. Photo by Craig Baxter.
Aaron Joy, the face of the New Zealand Masters Games in Dunedin for the past nine years, is calling it quits and returning to his home town of Christchurch.

His priorities have changed since the earthquakes in Christchurch and he is now putting his family first.

"The health of my ageing parents has deteriorated since the earthquakes and I'm going back to support the family," he said.

His father lost his house at New Brighton and brother Stephen's house has been red-stickered.

"I will work with my brother, Warwick, who has a contracting business that is helping to rebuild Christchurch," Joy said. "I will also try and get some event-management work."

Joy decided to apply for the vacant Dunedin job after working at the world firefighters games in 2002 and the world masters swimming championships in Christchurch.

"I enjoyed working with that age group of people," Joy said.

"After nine years, I have an amazing group of friends everywhere. I've enjoyed the job. It's become my lifestyle.

"Whoever takes over the role has to remember that the job becomes part of your life. It's not just an 8-to-5 job. You end up living it."

There is an advantage in having the boss of the organisation in the job for a long time.

"People come to trust you and start coming to the games," he said.

Joy likes the personal touch and praised the common touch that Games ambassadors Dick Tayler and Colin Meads have brought to the Games.

When Tayler first did the job in Wanganui in 2007, Joy followed him round.

"Dick is a people person and the competitors absolutely loved him," Joy said. "It made me realise that people in the masters age group respected their heroes of the 1970s and early 1980s, so I approached him to come to Dunedin.

"I got an email from a female competitor who said she still gets the warm fuzzies when remembering that Dick put the medal around her neck."

Joy's time in Dunedin had a setback when his office in Bracken Court was destroyed in a fire in July 2005. It could have been a disaster if the detailed computer records had been lost.

"All our computer files were backed up in the Dunedin City Council computer," Joy said.

"That saved our day. We lost some of our gear but no electronic files."

Joy remembers picking up his laptop as he rushed out of the building.

"I went back to the council offices, plugged it in and everything was there," Joy said.

"That was a low point, but also a high, because our systems worked."

In nine years Joy has developed the Games organisation into a well-oiled machine.

He has built a close relationship with the sports co-ordinators from the 70 sports and with the other volunteers.

Joy has done the arithmetic.

The volunteers contributed between 12,000 and 15,000 hours at every games.

"We couldn't afford to employ full-time staff to do their jobs," Joy said.

Each sport stands or falls on the ability of its co-ordinators.

"There has never been a failure in my five games," Joy explained. "I can't think of any occasion when I have had to pull my hair out in frustration. They have all been brilliant."

Patricia Joseph epitomised the work of the volunteers.

"She works at her day job in the morning and comes into the office in the afternoon to do data entries," Joy said. "She doesn't play and is not involved with any sports code. She just loves helping us and is a very important cog in our set-up."

An important part of Joy's role has been building a close relationship with counterparts in Australia, who organise the South Pacific Masters Games at Brisbane and the Australian Masters Games.

He is proud of the way team sports like football and netball have grown and become the two biggest tournaments for those sports in New Zealand.

"We will highlight football this year, with the seven finals to be played at the Forsyth Barr Stadium on Waitangi Day," he said.

The most difficult part of Joy's job has been to get enough funds to finance the games at an acceptable level.

"You have to find the money, one way or another, and it is hard work," he said. "My job has got harder with each games, because the availability of corporate money has become tighter during the recession." There had been no financial support from corporate sponsors this year, but a contribution from the Community Trust of Otago and a few gaming trusts enabled Dunedin to maintain its high standards.

"It has been a difficult time fighting for the money," he said.

"We have always done things on a shoestring budget and that creates stress. I came to Dunedin with colour in my hair and now I'm white."

Joy is the only person employed by the Dunedin City Council to work full-time on the Masters Games. The remaining staff are employed briefly before the games.

"We end up with very good staff but after the games they move on," Joy said. "All that knowledge base disappears and we have to start again."

 

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