When Robert Dunn was a boy, he used to set the dining room table up against the wall in his North Shore home and practise playing table tennis.

Dunn was introduced to the sport by his parents who were members of a club in Takapuna and they told him he could play competitively when he left school.

A member of two North Shore clubs and an Auckland club, Dunn left Takapuna Grammar in 1960 to compete against table tennis players all over New Zealand.

At 77-years-old, Dunn is in Whanganui for the 2019 Downer New Zealand Masters Games and has competed in every one of them since its conception in 1989.


"It's my 16th time here. I don't go to Dunedin because I like camping and it's too far away to take my tent," Dunn says.

"I'm out at Castlecliff at the moment. I first came here in 1970 and played in the national championships."

Dunn gave the Masters Games a go because it sounded like a fun event and he has been rewarded with 30 years of memories and friendship.

In 2011 he began competing with his Sri Lankan friend Gerard Lucas and together they competed in the World Masters Games in Auckland.

He experienced the rise of the sport when stadiums started being built in cities such as Auckland, Christchurch and Whanganui with tables in fixed locations.

Dunn fondly recalls learning the game by using that small, easy-to-move dining table in his house.

"I learned if I chopped the ball to the wall, it came back as a topspin and if I did topspin, that came back as chop. That's how I learned the difference between the two strokes.

"In the early days they would have hard pimple bats, I've still got that on one side of mine as my security blanket and sponge on the other side which is faster."


Dunn was a computer programmer for 35 years working in Auckland city from his North Harbour home.

At 45-years-old, Dunn was competing less until the national association announced more than 40 new events. He knew he could give them a shake, he just needed to get fit.

"I was working in the city, so I had a nice ferry ride which made me forget about work and then I ran home four-and-a-half kilometres each night," Dunn says.

"I got fitter, which helped my table tennis, not only with my fitness, but the alertness in my brain."

Despite many visits to Whanganui, Dunn laughs saying he has seen very little of the River City, but a lot of the walls inside Jubilee Stadium where table tennis is hosted.

Outside of competing, Dunn has an important tradition which is getting his original Masters Games shirt embroidered with his most recent appearance.

He was back in the store getting it done in 2019.

"The guy said 'I suppose I'll see you in 2021 then,'" Dunn says and then laughs.

"I just love playing table tennis. It's a lot of fun and that's the only reason that I do it. Otherwise, I wouldn't play."