Former radio host and beauty queen Amber Peebles has pulled out of next week's Fight For Life after injuring the tendons in her shoulder, but the other contenders are gearing up and calling on influential friends to show their support.
Olympic gold medallist rower Eric Murray, who's taking on league star Manu Vatuvei in the ring, has roped in Mahe Drysdale and rowing partner Hamish Bond as cheerleaders, while Hikawera Elliot is expecting All Black Liam Messam to watch from the sideline. The AB flanker sparred with Elliot last week and narrowly avoided being knocked out, friends say.
Former Kiwi league bad boy Jarrod McCracken, 42, who has since become a successful property developer in Australia, will tackle ex-All Black Carlos Spencer (five years his junior) but it's his fundraising spirit that's scored him Brownie points with boxing organisers - and his dad.
"Jarrod ran a fundraising event in Townsville and raised over A$20K for prostate cancer. And he has a luncheon next week at the Glenora Rugby League Club [in West Auckland] and may raise up to another $20K - all for prostate cancer," said Dean Lonergan from Duco Events. "His dad has got prostate cancer".
The Woodstock Honey Fight For Life event at Trusts Stadium supports the NZ Prostate Cancer Foundation.
Tim Wilson joins Close Up 2
He switched from the newsroom to the marketing department, but TVNZ's former US correspondent Tim Wilson is set for a return to the news and current affairs division - as a producer on the network's new 7pm programme.
This week, a confidential email circulated to staff involved with the new Close Up show announced Wilson's appointment, although the information has remained under wraps. A rep for TVNZ was initially reluctant to verify the news, telling The Diary "we're not weighing in on the speculation". However, Wilson told this organ he will have a creative producer role on the show.
TVNZ later confirmed Wilson's post: "Tim is moving back into news and current affairs, and will have a varied role across our programmes. Part of this role will include some involvement for the new 7pm show, and we envisage that will be producing and some contributing."
Why so cloak and dagger? TVNZ has refused to publicly comment on many issues regarding the new daily current affairs show, including when it will air, what format it will take and who will host it, preferring to let speculation run rampant. This has infuriated some staff members, whom, The Diary understands, have aired their complaints to news boss Ross Dagan.
Insiders say people are frustrated about how badly the whole process has been handled. "We've been left in the dark and it seems like no one knows what's going on," said a newsroom source.
Certainly TVNZ landed a tough blow when Paul Henry chose not to take up the offer as host. But it appears the network did not have a secondary game plan. Rumours have run rife from inside TVNZ since as to who will front the programme, but bosses remain schtum.
Sources said this week it was expected to premiere "from the end of January or early February", but a TVNZ rep declined to comment. However, with three weeks to go until Christmas and holiday leave booked for staff in January, network bosses need to make an announcement soon or risk looking sluggish. Close Up may have closed, but its substitute has slipped into something more comfortable, like a coma.
Campion's show at film fest
A television series by Oscar winner Jane Campion, which was filmed in and around Queenstown earlier this year, will be the first TV series to screen at the Sundance Film Festival next month. Top of the Lake, a six by one-hour television series starring Mad Men's Elisabeth Moss, will screen once in the festival's Premieres programmes in its six-hour entirety.
The series will screen here in March on UKTV. The show is produced in association with Screen Australia, Screen NSW and Fulcrum Media Finance for BBC Two, UKTV and the Sundance Channel.
Council Christmas bonding
The Auckland Mayor and councillors are bonding on a bus and boat trip today. One councillor took to Twitter to compare the outing to cult classic One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, insisting that getting the local body politicians out of the town hall would be akin to Jack Nicholson's character breaking his fellow patients out of the mental institution.
The good news is the "Magical Mystery Christmas Tour" (yes, that's what it's dubbed) is not on the ratepayer, with organiser Penny Webster asking everyone to stump up $60, and the Snells Beach PTA providing the lunch.
The Rodney councillor has organised a busy itinerary, including visiting the sculptures on rich lister Alan Gibbs' farm and sailing on the Jane Gifford scow. Councillor Cathy Casey is a tireless photographer of such outings and the council's Christmas tour is likely to end up on Facebook or the Mayor's Twitter page, making it not much of a mystery.