Aussie Rules on Our First Home

The competitive Wardlaw men from Our First Home say a love of rugby league is embedded in their DNA.
OFH Wardlaw family

From day one, the Wardlaw family weren’t afraid to show their competitive spirit on Our First Home. Whether completing an ambitious renovation ahead of schedule or taking the top prize for one of host Goran Paladin’s regular “tasks”, their determination to rise to the challenge shone through. And what you see is exactly what you get, particularly when it comes to father Mick and son Tim, whose competitiveness extends beyond the limits of the TV screen to a sport they’ve both been heavily invested in – rugby league.

A passion for league has become a Wardlaw institution. From the time he could walk, Australia-born Mick was involved in Aussie Rules. He played for numerous teams until he was 18, before falling for another love – surfing. But his passion from those early years never died, and he was part of an “old boys’ team”, a group of over 35s, until two years ago. “There are different coloured shorts depending on your age, and if you’re over a certain age, nobody is allowed to tackle you,” son Tim explains.

“If you’re in the over 60s, you are red,” Mick (60) adds. “You have to be held, not tackled.”

A passion for league has become a Wardlaw institution.

While Mick admits he’s “too old” to play league now – “You’re well past it,” Tim quips – he still hits the waves from time to time. Most importantly, he has passed his passion for sport on to the next generation. Like Mick, both Tim (26), his older brother Jasen (30) and sister Emily (23), all got involved with league from a young age. “I started when I was about seven,” Tim recalls. “Most of my mates from school played league, so we played together. I always loved it.”

Tim continued to play until he was about 15, when he and his friends made the transition into rugby. He gave it a go for three years while he was at college, as well as a couple more years after finishing high school, but looking back, he admits, “I can’t believe I played it for so long – I don’t actually like it!” So Tim followed his heart back to league and now plays for the Hibiscus Coast Raiders of Stanmore Bay, north of Auckland.

Mick says he gets huge enjoyment watching his children carry on the tradition. Back in the day, shuttling the kids between games occupied most of the family’s Saturdays, and nothing’s changed – watching Tim play is still on the weekend to-do list for Mick, wife Kathy and Tim’s girlfriend Robyn Marks (25). “Mick still goes to all the matches – even the away games,” Robyn tells. “Kath and I will go to his home games, but Mick always hops on the bus and away he goes!”

“Aussie Mick” still gets a kick out of following his son Tim’s league matches.

The proud dad has also been a junior club captain and vice-chairman for the Raiders, and he and Kathy have taken their turn running the kitchen – something they still do occasionally for game days. “We did it as a family to start off with, to earn some money, and to get these kids some pocket money,” tells Kathy (54). “The kids grew up there, really.” “That was in the hey-day when we had a team in the nationals and took it out two years in a row,” Tim recalls. “Mum and Dad would cook food for the team after their training nights. They were really involved.”

Known for being vocal on Our First Home, it comes as no surprise that Tim calls his dad the “loudest person on the sidelines”, but Mick assures the Weekly it’s “always positive – and delivered with humour”.

Tim and Mick are both in construction – giving them useful skills for the renovation show.

“Unless you’re against the referee, right?” Tim teases. “But then you have a beer with the ref after the game and all is forgiven. Everyone at our club knows everyone else – whether you’re a junior, senior, whatever. It’s a family club. I had my 21st there… Everyone calls the bar lady ‘Ma’. That’s how it is.”

It is clear that Mick’s support of his son’s league passion is unwavering. And he is equally staunch when it comes to a trans-Tasman showdown between his birth country’s national team and his adopted home. “It can get pretty heated – especially when the Aussies lose, hey, Mick?” teases Vodafone Warriors supporter Tim, throwing a sideways glance at his dad.

“Oh, yup,” Mick mutters, rolling his eyes.

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