All Black Sonny Bill Williams was named Albertian of the Year at the annual Albertians’ Reunion Dinner, held at the Northern Club in Auckland city on Monday, 29 May.
Sonny Bill received the accolade for his illustrious sporting career, which has seen him play in the NRL, be selected for the Kiwis and the Olympic Sevens teams, win all six outings as a heavyweight boxer, be named the world’s best rugby league player in 2013, and win two Rugby World Cups with the All Blacks in 2011 and 2015. He is currently a member of the Auckland Blues and hoping to be named in the 2017 All Black squad to take on the Lions.
At the function organised by the MAGS Foundation, Headmaster Mr Patrick Drumm said it was Sonny Bill’s strong personal commitment to faith and family that sealed his selection as Albertian of the Year.
“At MAGS we strive to develop our students in mind, body and soul, believing that each complements the other. Sonny Bill exemplifies the values of standing by one’s principles, and we are proud to honour him tonight.”
Sonny Bill’s lifelong friend and fellow Albertian, Filinga Filiga, read his citation, saying his friend also excelled in Athletics, recalling the time Sonny Bill could not bear to hang at the back of a cross country race with his friends but ran ahead and came among the front of the field. “That’s when I first saw his competitive edge. Sonny Bill is also the hardest working person I’ve ever met – when he started training with the Bulldogs as a teenager he would get up early every morning for his job cleaning the stadium. He told me his aim when he became a professional sportsman was to represent his family and buy his mum a house. He also said you have to be pretty strong mentally, and that speaks volumes about who he is.”
In his speech, Sonny Bill recalled his childhood in a humble home that backed onto Owairaka Mt Albert, where he and his three siblings spent many hours playing.
“My parents taught me a strong work ethic and persistence; a faith that everything will be all right if you keep going.”
He recalled living in Christchurch at the time of the 2011 earthquake, and how the loss of life and devastation of the city affected him deeply. “I called my friend Koda in Sydney, who has been like a father to me, and he told me two things that have stayed with me. Firstly, that there are always people worse off that you, so appreciate where you and and what you have, and secondly, that through hardship comes ease – things will always get better.”
Sonny Bill said he went on to play the best rugby of his career that year, helping the All Blacks win the World Cup.
“Every day I’m grateful to live in New Zealand, and to have had the life I’ve had so far.”
Earlier he had donated one of his All Black jerseys from the 2011 campaign, which was auctioned by Barfoot & Thompson auctioneer Ross Girven. It was won by the Chairman of the MAGS Board of Trustees, Greg Moyle.
Sonny Bill was accompanied by his wife Alana, family friend Sapoe Filiga, agent and friend Koda Nasser, and fellow Albertians Filinga Filiga, Sean Collins, Tillam Kapsin, Cale Baker and Zak Raffie.
Proceeds from the evening will go towards a MAGS student leadership programme.
Around 55 Albertians who completed their time at MAGS in 1966 or 1967 gathered from around New Zealand the overseas for a 50 year reunion from 24-26 March.
1967 Dux Mr Jim Greatbanks organised the event from his home in Canada, working with 1967 Head Prefect Mr Bernie Allen, an Auckand lawyer.
The group gathered at MAGS on the Friday, where they had a tour of their old school by some of this year’s Prefects before afternoon tea at School House and an evening at the Mt Albert Bowling Club. On the Saturday they caught up in groups before a reunion dinner at Sails Restaurant.
Among the group was All Black Mr Bryan Williams, world renowned scientist Dr Robert Evans, who travelled from Melbourne, and Bryan Brooking also came with Mr Greatbanks from Canada.
During the school visit Mr Greatbanks, an engineer, spoke to an assembly, encouraging students to find what they loved to do and pursue that as a career.
Renowned chef Michael Meredith was named Albertian of the Year at the annual Albertians Reunion Dinner on Thursday, 23 June, and in his acceptance speech thanked the school and his teachers for helping give him the self-belief that has ensured his success.
“The school’s motto – Through Hardship to Glory – was something that resonated with me. My introduction to New Zealand from Samoa wasn’t easy, but a school helps lay the foundations of your character and MAGS contributed some important building blocks for me.
“My teachers gave me a spark, an insight to life – a lot of that was about self-belief. If you believe in yourself, that’s hugely motivating – you can overcome anything in life and let the light inside you shine.”
Mr Meredith said he was very grateful, deeply moved and honoured to receive the award.
The chef is best known through his award-winning restaurant Meredith’s in Mt Eden, and for helping to establish the Eat My Lunch social enterprise business, through which customers can buy a lunch and have one donated to a child in need. Eat My Lunch now delivers meals to 1300 children in Auckland every school day, and is soon to start the service in Hamilton and Wellington. Mr Meredith received recognition for this initiative through the Restaurant Association Good Neighbour Awards and the New Zealander of the Year Awards last year.
Mr Meredith attended MAGS from 1988-1991. He and his elder brother Milton had just arrived from Samoa and MAGS was their first point of contact with New Zealand. While he can’t recall a cooking class being offered, art fostered his creativity, and he enjoyed helping on the school farm.
After leaving school, a cooking course ignited his interest in the profession, and he gained work at the reputable restaurants Vinnies, Antoine’s and The Grove. He went on to win a scholarship to the Culinary Institute of America, and worked in New York, Melbourne and Sydney, before returning to Auckland to open his own restaurant in 2007.
Meredith’s is consistently named in Metro magazine’s Top 50 restaurants in Auckland and both the restaurant and Mr Meredith have won numerous awards. One night a week, proceeds from the restaurant are donated to various charities. Among those which have benefited are the SPCA, Home & Family Counselling, Cure Kids, Kidney Kids, Starship National Air Ambulance, Guardian Angels and the Fred Hollows Foundation.
Mr Meredith brought his partner Ms Claire Baudinet, mother Ms Metita Saleilua (left) and a number of friends to the reunion dinner, including some he met at MAGS. A large number of Albertians also attended, as well as Headmaster Mr Patrick Drumm, Chairman of the Board of Trustees Mr Greg Moyle, Chairman of the MAGS Foundation Mr Peter Thorp and President of the Albertians Association Mr Aftab Moosa.
Mr Meredith’s citation was read by his friend, food writer Ms Nici Wickes. She said that Mr Meredith was now inspiring a new generation of chefs, with many seeking time in his kitchen to learn from the best. It was his charitable work, however, that was most remarkable.
“Michael chooses to get up at 5am every day to help make sandwiches for the Eat My Lunch programme – they have delivered 180,000 lunches to children in need so far. His Tuesday night dinners at his restaurant, from which he donates all the proceeds to charity, have raised more than $100,000.”
The Tuesday dinners are called STEM Tuesdays, named after his daughters Sophia, Tahlia and Ella Meredith.
“In an interview once Michael said that his dreams were simple: For his daughters to be brave, to fully trust their instincts, to be kind. For them to have a good work ethic, to work to achieve their goals and dreams. But most importantly, he wants them to be great spirits.
“To that I say they have the best role model to follow in him, the boy from Lepea, Samoa, who has become a man of great culinary accomplishment, a true community spirit and a man of wholehearted kindness.”
In other speeches, Mr Moosa, Mr Drumm, Mr Thorp all paid tribute to Mr Meredith, and updated the audience on the school’s progress, including planned developments of the FW Gamble Hall and the school farm. Performances were given by the MAGS Gospel Choir and singer Siosiua Atuekaho. The evening concluded with a toast to the school by Albertian Mr John Liddell.
Mr Meredith with family and friends who joined him for the evening.
The third Mount Albert Grammar School Foundation fundraising golf day was held at Akarana Golf Club on Thursday, 31March.
A record 21 teams took part and over $20,000 was raised for the BG Williams Rugby Endowment Fund.
The winning team was the MAGS Staff team, comprised of Mr Paul Ferner, Mr Allan Sangster, Mr Simon Allen and Mr Max Jeremic.
Master of Ceremonies at the after-match function was sports personality and Albertian Mr Mark Watson. Mr Bryan Williams spoke about the Rugby Endowment Fund, and Headmaster Mr Patrick Drumm presented the golf prizes.
Nearly 90 Albertians attended the Term 3 luncheon at School House on Thursday, 22 September, thought to be a record number.
A drawcard was no doubt a speech by MAGS’ Director of Rugby, Mr Geoff Moon, on the First XV’s championship season, in which they won the Auckland1A, Auckland Regional and New Zealand titles. Six players have since been selected for the NZSS squad. The team’s New Zealand win earns them the right to represent the country at next year’sSanix World Rugby Youth Invitational Tournament in Fukuoka, Japan.
Mr Moon spoke about how the development of culture within the team was central to their success, and talked through the pathway to each championship win.
Headmaster Mr Patrick Drumm (above) spoke about other New Zealand championships won by MAGS’ teams this year, and how the culture of excellence within those teams is seen throughout the school, including in the performing arts. The Headmaster’s Choir, which came together only seven weeks ago, is already giving impressive performances and the intention is to see MAGS back at the Big Sing choir competition next year.
The choir performed four pieces, to enthusiastic applause and compliments.