Thieves took Hastings petanque champion Lee Taffard's balls and sent them "swimming".
They were irreplacable and still are. But the generosity of fellow players meant that Taffard's story now has a happy ending.
Taffard doesn't have enough cash to buy a new championship set. But the ones lent to him by friend and fellow-champ Simon Hurley have gone pretty well for him.
The first thing he did with his new set of borrowed boules was use them in an open tournament in Whanganui, which he lost in the semifinals.
After that he took the boules to the New Zealand Senior Doubles Championship from December 6 to 8.
He and Horowhenua friend David Gatchel won.
The championship doubled up as the selection for the New Zealand trans-Tasman team to play in Tauranga against Australia, so Taffard's now set to compete against the old foe.
And how are the new set of championship boules faring, compared to his older ones?
"They still have their idiosyncrasies, but can't complain."
Taffard lost his balls, also known as boules, when his ute was stolen from his Hastings home early last month.
He didn't care too much about the loss of the 1988 Toyota Hilux ute, which had 500,000km on the clock, but the petanque balls were irreplaceable.
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Taffard said his ute was located in Flaxmere and police repossessed the vehicle.
"They hand-painted it and it was painted in a different colour.
"It was in such a condition that we didn't want it back. It was not in a repairable condition," Taffard said.
"The condition was such that I felt like I had been violated."
"It was auctioned by Turners in Napier a couple of weeks ago."
Taffard said he asked the occupants of the house about his boules and was told "they went swimming".
"I bought a new ute and replaced some of the tools, so I couldn't afford to be spending money on petanque boules.
"My mate was very kind in lending me his."
Petanque (sometimes called boules) is a target sport, where participants throw metal balls as close as possible to a small wooden ball called a cochonnet or jack, while standing inside a circle with both feet on the ground.
The game is normally played on hard dirt or gravel. It can be played in public areas in parks, or in dedicated facilities called boulodromes.