Report by Franck Bona
Visiting Australia and New Zealand is often considered the trip of a lifetime to many people living in the northern hemisphere. And so in February of 2014, top French pinball player Franck Bona made that trip and, naturally, turned it into tour of pinball locations in the two countries.
Franck told Pinball News all about the journey, the people he met, the places he visited and the tournaments in which he competed.
His journey began in London on Monday 10th February, with a flight from Heathrow Airport to Sydney. After a stop-over in Dubai seven hours into the 20 hour flight, he arrived in Sydney on Wednesday 12th.
The next day saw the first pinball visit as Franck called in on AMD Coin-Op in Alexandria.
AMD are Stern distributors and had a number of Metallica machines set up in their showroom.
It was at AMD that Franck met Australian pinball personality and author of Pinball Machines - How They Work & Troubleshooting, Norbert Snicer.
Norbert was organising the eventing's festivities, as local club, Coogee Diggers, launched their new Pinball HQ section, featuring machines provided by Norbert.
Coogee Diggers is a private members club where accompanied children are only allowed to stay until the evening, and on this particular evening their new 10-machine-strong pinball section was being unveiled with a special launch party.
The pinballs at Coogee Diggers were:
There was no official competition this evening, but the highest scorer on each machine was awarded a $25 Coogee Dollars certificate to spend of food and drink. So everyone was concentrating on having a fun time and enjoying the Cascade local craft beer.
Another day and another country, as Frank took to the air again for the five hour flight to Auckland, New Zealand. On arrival, he was collected by top player B.J. Wilson.
The aim of this portion of the trip was to visit some of the home locations featuring in the upcoming Kiwi Pincade pinball crawl taking place that March.
Pincade began in three homes in Christchurch on the South Island, before moving north to Auckland where 8-10 locations would be visited from Friday to Sunday inclusive. Franck managed to visit five of the Auckland locations during his trip, including the home of Yee Fong - who organises the Pincade event - where the assembled party enjoyed a BBQ in the summer sunshine.
Another standout locations was Dave Peck's house. Dave owns 90 pinballs in a huge custom-built gameroom. His daughter, Danielle, is only 11 years old but has risen to number six amongst New Zealand pinball players and plans to represent her country at this year's IFPA World Championship in Denver.
Naturally, when visiting New Zealand, a trip to locations from The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit is a must.
Franck spent three days in Auckland before returning to Sydney for a visit to the famous Bondai Beach. This was then followed by a trip of 160km north along the coast to Newcastle.
The destination was Pizza N Pinball which, as the name suggests, is a pizza parlour with more than a passing preocupation for pinball.
Owners and brothers Chris and Dom Slevin have combined their passions for the two 'p's with the pizzas named after famous pinball titles - even Howzat! which was an Australian cricket-themed pin by Hankin.
Of course, pinball is not just on the pizza menu. This evening there were twelve machines available to play.
To mark his visit, Chris and Dom had organised The Franck Challenge pinball tournament. The event was limited to 16 players who paid AU$10 each to play in the Swiss-style competition.
After ten rounds of head-to-head play, the final came down to a battle between Franck and top Australian player Richard Rhodes.
Richard's 600M score on Rocky & Bullwinkle proved to be unbeatable, giving him the win. Franck was second, while Dan Robar won the tie-break to take third place.
After the trip to Newcastle it was back to Sydney on the 19th for the next pinball gathering. This one took place at the Courthouse Hotel in Newtown where alongside the old world charm outdoor area, slot machines and crab races(!) were ten pinballs, including AC/DC, Metallica, Cactus Canyon, The Addams Family, Creature from the Black Lagoon and Theatre of Magic.
Two days later and it was time another pinball get-together.
David Ranage has a fine collection of mostly EM and solid-state machines in his gameroom, and he hosted an evening of pinball, pizza and beer, which included a mini-tournament.
Franck's penultimate destination of his trip was the Hard Rock Cafe in Sydney for the finals of the Australia & New Zealand Pinball Open (ANZPO) and also the Australian Circuit finals.
The tournament was organised by Norbert Snicer and featured six Metallica machines, supplied by AMD. The winner of the tournament would win a brand new Metallica Pro machine.
The tournament players were joined by Gary Stern who would give a talk as part of a symposium arranged for the following day.
Eighteen Australian and New Zealand players qualified for the final and these could be joined by the top two from any overseas country. Franck was the only such player, so he joind them for the play-offs.
Each competitor played a single game on each of the six Metallica machines - three Pros and three Premiums. The scores from all six were added together to give the overall rankings. The machines were set up hard and fast, with no ball save and outlanes wide open.
The original nineteen were reduced to thirteen and eventually the final four who were: Gavin Drogemuller, Franck, Steve Edwards and Robert Macauley.
Franck described the final as, "the worst pinball nightmare on my entire player's life" as the first two balls of his three ball game resulted in immediate drains from the pop bumpers down the left outlane, and the third only gave him one shot at the grave marker drop targets before draining down the right.
His 2.8M score put him in fourth place, while Steve Edwards took the victory with a controlled 49M game. Rob was second with 20M while Gavin was third.
The day after the ANZPO there was a lunchtime pinball symposium talking about the current state of the game and Stern's latest release, Mustang.
Gary Stern, Marco Rossignoli and Michael Shalhoub gave talks at the Hard Rock Cafe, which were followed by a question and answer session.
Michael also brought a translite for the custom Aaron Spelling game - a modified Lethal Weapon 3 - made by Data East as a birthday gift.
Only two machines were made, so Gary Stern signed the translite accordingly.
After the symposium had ended, Franck, Dan Robar and Dave Peck headed to Frankie's Pizza on Hunter Street in Sydney for more pinball, drinks, pizza and a live rock band. Gary Stern joined them a little later, and they even managed to get Gary to play some pinball.
In addition to the Austin Powers, Frankie's had a Metallica LE, AC/DC LE, Family Guy and Pirates of the Caribbean. Franck singled out as the most noticeable feature of the evening was the number of women playing the machines.
Frankie's was the final venue of the day and of this trip. After twelve days, thirteen pinball location visits, numerous pizzas and countless beers, the dream pinball tour of Australia and New Zealand came to an end and Franck caught his flight back home to Paris.
© Pinball News 2014