The Diary: Three times a winner but first time a dad

Simon Mannering makes it a hat-trick as player of the year.

Simon Mannering is Player of the Year.
Simon Mannering is Player of the Year.

Vodafone Warriors captain Simon Mannering, 27, was crowned Player of the Year at the club's annual awards dinner at SkyCity on Monday night, for the third time in a row.

But the skipper was unable to accept the gong because his partner Anna went into labour with the couple's first child.

"They are very private but are very happy about their new addition - a boy," Warriors rep Richard Becht told The Diary yesterday.

"Both Simon and Feleti Mateo have been waiting for their partners to give birth. We flew them back from the game against St George Illawarra a couple of weeks ago. We put them on a helicopter from Wollongong, and on a plane to race them home. They are first-time dads, so were a bit nervy," Becht said.

Warriors bosses Sir Owen Glenn and Eric Watson were out of the country and unable to make Monday's ceremony where X Factor winner Jackie Thomas entertained the 700-strong crowd.

Reports in the British press suggest Jeremy Piven looked cosy with Rachel Hunter at the private members club.
Reports in the British press suggest Jeremy Piven looked cosy with Rachel Hunter at the private members club.

New love interest for our Rachel?
Forty-four-year-old solo mum and apparent TV talent spotter Rachel Hunter was busted leaving London's exclusive Groucho Club in the early hours of Saturday morning with American actor Jeremy Piven, 48, of Mr Selfridge fame.

Reports in the British press suggest the pair looked cosy at the private members club, until the preying paps arrived outside. Then they were keen to keep their distance. A pal went so far as to cover Hunter's flushed face, which only raised suspicions, and heckles.

Ellison hasty, Mallard hungry, TVNZ happy
He opened the Oracle Open World conference in San Francisco on Sunday on an upbeat note, but billionaire boss Larry Ellison had predicted a certain piece of silverware would accompany him on stage.

"The Oracle conference was being talked about among the [America's Cup] host broadcasters on Monday," an insider told The Diary. "Apparently it was originally advertised that the Cup would be there, as in they [Oracle] thought they would have won it by then ..."

Ellison made his keynote speech with sycophantic followers in the audience. Oracle sailing boss Sir Russell Coutts, tactician Sir Ben Ainslie and skipper Jimmy Spithill were listening to the gospel according to Larry - or "The Man", as Spithill prefers.

Larry Ellison and Russell Coutts celebrate another win for Oracle. Photo / Gilles Martin-Raget
Larry Ellison and Russell Coutts celebrate another win for Oracle. Photo / Gilles Martin-Raget

San Fran has been flooded with more than 50,000 devotees attending the week-long conference. "They're in town spending more money than Kiwis. And everyone is taking advantage. Cabbies are charging more than seven times their regular rates," a Team NZ fan bemoaned.

Trevor Mallard, who's still AWOL in San Fran, remains in no hurry to return home and the persona non grata fog that's settled in Wellington following the shadow Cabinet reshuffle. "Quite enjoying that Cunners has kicked Mallard to touch," chortled Judith Collins on Monday. She wasn't alone.

Alas, no peep from Trev on that front. He had bigger concerns. "OK guys, I've run out of Weetbix. Let's do it today," he tweeted braving enthusiasm.

Meanwhile, TVNZ bosses are in no hurry for racing to finish. They are ecstatic about the audience numbers tuning in. The competition may have dragged out longer than the Olympics, but the network's not complaining. So over the moon, in fact, the company's top brass have personally called TVNZ presenters Toni Street and Craig Stanaway to wax lyrical about their work which, I'm told, "is highly unusual".

Homeless snaps a hit
As an Otago University study this week provided the first measure of homelessness in New Zealand, a 22-year-old Kiwi set out to expose the issue on Los Angeles' streets.

Michael Pharaoh, a graphic designer from Hamilton, was holidaying in LA this month and wanted to develop his photography skills. He spent two days in the city's poorest areas taking photos of the homeless.

"My parents bought me a camera for my 21st last year and I thought I'd get the real LA. The magnitude of homeless people was nothing like I'd experienced before. It was pretty different from living in Hamilton," Pharaoh said.

He posted the portfolio on creative network Behance, then came features on Yahoo, Visual News and Britain's Daily Mail website. He said he never expected his holiday snaps would garner international attention. "The project was humbling, but surreal. It's got people thinking about the problem.

"But I don't see myself as a photographer. I was just a tourist," he insists. "I'm considering selling the prints and giving the money to the Red Cross."

John Key and Max Key during their European tour.
John Key and Max Key during their European tour.

Key's new Direction
It's been a bonding session for the Key men, John and Max, who were snapped hanging 10 at Balmoral Castle with the royals over the weekend. Max went on a grouse hunt with Wills; big sis Stephanie went hiking with Kate; and John and Bronagh went for a drive around the estate with the Queen at the wheel of the Rangey.

The First Kids - Steph with her flame red tresses and artistic bent, and sportsman Max with his gelled locks that recall Something About Mary and Justin Bieber before Selena - have proven quite the trump card for Key.

Word is, reps for British pop band One Direction are making inquiries into whether 18-year-old Max might hang out with the band. One Direction play Vector Arena on October 12 and 13, and sources say the lads are keen to experience some outdoor pursuits when they arrive. This week, they took to the golf course in Adelaide. Will Max (a Kiwi baseball rep and surf life saving champ) play tour guide?

Black and bruised
Whoever says celebrity boxing isn't real, need only check out Mike Puru's mug this week. The radio host and TV star is sporting two black eyes - care of an overzealous sparring session on Sunday. Puru, who will take to the ring on October 10 against actor Temuera Morrison at Trusts Arena, said the conditioning training is hard work on top of his daily routine. "I'm juggling two jobs from 5am to 7.30pm and have to fit in training, too. It's a long day." But his trainer, Monty Betham, told The Diary Puru has the chops. "Mike gave plenty back in the sparring session - with interest."

Mike Puru sports two black eyes after boxing training with Kevin Barry.
Mike Puru sports two black eyes after boxing training with Kevin Barry.

Celebs support Starship
Starship turned 21 and celebrated with a glittering gala ball at the Viaduct Events Centre on Saturday night. More than 800 guests came to the birthday party to toast the children's hospital and were wowed by performances by Bic Runga, Tiki Taane, Black Grace and Richard O'Brien. Members of the Auckland Rugby team performed a haka and Radio Hauraki's Laura McGoldrick belted out Abba's Dancing Queen. More than $220,000 was raised on the night which will go towards Starship's operating theatres and surgical facilities.

NBA superstar Steve Adams has donated a signed basketball to the charity's Spring Clean campaign on Trade Me. Check it out on www.trademe.co.nz/starship.

- NZ Herald

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