The Diary: Party at Eric Watson's, but where's Russell?

Rabbitohs co-owner won't be among NRL bosses at Karaka BBQ.

Russell Crowe.
Russell Crowe.

They had a brawl in the toilets of a trendy London eatery 11 years ago, but the bad blood between Kiwi-born actor Russell Crowe and New Zealand expat businessman Eric Watson is unlikely to subside at next week's NRL Auckland Nines tournament, with Crowe cold-shouldered from Watson's private party.

A leaked invitation to The Diary reveals Watson, co-owner of the Auckland Warriors, is hosting "a seated three-course BBQ dinner" for all 16 clubs at his Westbury Estate next Thursday evening, following an NRL chief executives' conference at the palatial Karaka property that day.

All club bosses received their private invitation to the dinner two days ago.

Warriors chief executive Wayne Scurrah explained the snub: "No, Russell has not been invited. It's a meeting, a private BBQ for club CEOs and chairmen that is hosted by Eric."

Sydney Roosters chairman Nick Politis, worth a cool A$360 million ($389.9 million), will be there. But his star player, Sonny Bill Williams, will not. In another u-turn, SBW has said he won't appear in the inaugural nine-a-side competition. He's hanging with his girlfriend, Alana Raffie, and preparing for the World Cup Challenge.

It's not clear if Crowe, co-owner of the South Sydney Rabbitohs, will front at Eden Park next weekend with club chairman Nick Pappas and chief executive Shane Richardson, who are expected. His manager, Grant Vandenberg, was vague: "I haven't heard if he's going over."

Crowe is on set in South Australia shooting his directorial debut, The Water Diviner, a World War I movie.

Billionaire James Packer, tipped to buy up Peter Holmes a Court's 37.5 per cent share of the Rabbitohs, will be an interesting addition, should he make it. As will close friend and fellow billionaire Lachlan Murdoch of News Ltd, behind the Brisbane Broncos.

The Diary hears both are welcome at chez Watson.

Warriors co-owner Sir Owen Glenn is already in town and gearing up for the fun. He was spotted by The Diary at Viaduct bolthole Euro on Friday.

While the Wellington Sevens has struggled to sell tickets, even with rugby legend Jonah Lomu as ambassador, the NRL Auckland Nines is nearly a sell-out.

Footy legend Dean Lonergan from Duco Events, organiser of the Nines, said hotel accommodation in the city is at capacity with many officials having difficulty finding rooms.

"The Manly Sea Eagles CEO [David Perry] and four execs from the club were struggling to find accommodation in Auckland city last week. Everything is chocka block because of the Nines," Lonergan said.

Scurrah, who was in a meeting with NRL execs in Sydney yesterday, added: "Everyone is fizzing about the tournament over here.

"There is a lot of buzz about it. It will be a massive economic boom for Auckland."

Kate tipped to be Kiwi-clad

The schedule for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's New Zealand tour in April is yet to be officially released, but Prince William's team was in the country last week on a reconnaissance trip, meeting representatives from Internal Affairs.

Maori King Tuheitia is reportedly on the destination list, with a fleeting 90-minute visit to Turangawaewae Marae arranged for April 12, so says the Waikato Times.

But what does one wear to the heart of the Kingitanga?

The Duchess - on holiday at the moment in the West Indies with Prince George, her folks and three burly royal bodyguards at a 19,000 ($38,290)-a-week villa on the isle of Mustique - is to get a royal makeover for her tour. Short skirts are out, tiaras are in. Queen's orders.

Kate, The Duchess of Cambridge, is tipped to wear some outfits from the World collection. Photo / AP
Kate, The Duchess of Cambridge, is tipped to wear some outfits from the World collection. Photo / AP

Kate will apparently need four outfits a day and a couture wardrobe of bespoke gowns and day dresses with lower hemlines. British labels Alice Temperley and Alexander McQueen have been given the nod, but there's widespread speculation the Duchess may model a dress from a Kiwi fashion house.

An outfit from the World collection.
An outfit from the World collection.

Insiders say World, owned by Francis Hooper and Denise L'Estrange-Corbet, is first choice for the future British Queen because their clothing is produced entirely in New Zealand, as opposed to other Kiwi designer labels who manufacture offshore in India, China and Romania to make higher margins.

Incidentally, World celebrates its 25th anniversary in April, and sources say it would be a nationalistic nod and a birthday salute for the long-established Kiwi label.

Media rivals fuming

Eyebrows are raised at MediaWorks over the recent signing of TV ingenue Zoe Marshall to ZM, owned by rival TRN. The Diary hears there is a witch-hunt to find out how Marshall, the much-hyped presenter of TV3's The Great Food Race, was allowed to sign up to the opposition radio station.

Zoe Marshall with husband Benji Marshall. Photo / Dean Purcell
Zoe Marshall with husband Benji Marshall. Photo / Dean Purcell

"Obviously she's a TV3 star and she was a big part of the TV3 new season launch last year. But there's an uneasy mix with MediaWorks radio stations naturally unwilling to plug Zoe's primetime TV3 show because she's working for the opposition on ZM," said an insider. Meanwhile, former TV3 star and NewstalkZB newbie Rachel Smalley has joined TVNZ's current affairs stable, co-hosting Q+A and reporting on Sunday. Well-placed sources pointed out one of her reasons for departing TV3 - besides a longing to host a 7pm show - was a change from the early hours of Firstline and The Nation.

Hosking's space bid If two jobs, five kids, one dog and a couple of perfectly groomed Edwardian sideburns weren't enough to muster each day, it seems broadcaster Mike Hosking wouldn't mind a bit more radio air-time. In fact, he'd like to pinch some from colleague Leighton Smith, who follows on NewstalkZB.

"We keep asking for the extension. We say give us a bit more Leighton time. Do we really need so much Leighton? That's the question. Too much Leighton, bit more Hosking," the man himself bantered on-air to producer Glenn Hart. Presumably he wants to be on an equal time footing with rival Marcus Lush, whose radio show is 30 minutes longer.

- NZ Herald

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