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Coggie: The King of the quizzes

What is the williwaw?

Wairarapa’s veteran quizmaster Chris Cogdale knows it’s a wind in Alaska.

It’s one of the questions in “Coggie’s” collection as he approaches 2400 quizzes delivered in the Wellington region since 1997.

His clear, calm voice is probably replayed in many a head, after the dramatic ups and downs of a quiz night.

If the tables were turned, Coggie would love a quiz battle with British television star Mark “The Beast” Labbett on the game show The Chase. Beating Labbett would be the ultimate challenge, he said.

“I’ve watched The Chase ever since it started – I record it and watch it when I can.

“The Beast has a cockiness about him. But I have met The Chase’s Dark Destroyer [Shaun Wallace] when he came to Wairarapa in 2019. I’d love to walk into the Kuripuni Tavern quiz night with Shaun.”

Other TV game shows Coggie enjoys are The 1% Club and Hard Quiz [from Australia].

For the last few decades, he has hosted quizzes at fundraisers, club nights and corporate events. A typical week may have him asking questions in Pahiatua, Masterton, Silverstream and Porirua, while also working as the Wairarapa Times-Age’s sports reporter. The most quizzes he’s done in a year is 148.

At a quiz last month to raise funds for Wairarapa College choir Cantate, Coggie pushed past the pain of a leg injury, after a cricket ball caught him on the shin during a stint as an umpire.

Customised for the crowd, the Cantate quiz had no sports round, plenty of music, and a picture round asking teams to identify women called Katherine, Catherine or Kate.

The school hall lights were bright, the paper plates of chippies were out, and young choir members cheerfully circled the room, collecting answer sheets.

Coggie delivered eight rounds of questions, ad-libbing and smoothly timing his deliveries between escalating whoops and yells from the players.

“Which large land animal makes a sound called nuzzing?” he asked. A camel, of course.

For the final Conundrum, teams were given progressive clues, each with a lower points value, to identify technology giant Samsung – which began as a noodle trader in South Korea.

In a dramatic twist, the team which had trailed the field of 16 groups all night, risked an early answer and got it right – for maximum points and light-hearted praise from Coggie.

He’s seen and heard it all – but has yet to witness a team achieve the perfect score of 10/10 for every round.

Quizzing started for Coggie in the early 1990s, when he organised some sports quizzes at the Red Star clubrooms, and some fundraisers at the former Slug and Lettuce pub in Masterton.

“The DB Breweries rep, Murray Persico, said, ‘We could do something with this’”, he recalled.

He invited Coggie to run a sports quiz in Silverstream, which evolved into general knowledge quizzes.

A series of quizzes in chartered clubs, sponsored by DB Breweries, followed – which ran for about 15 years.

“From that, I picked up the Johnsonville Club, which I’ve been doing for 26 years and the Upper Hutt Cossie Club for more than 20 years.”

In 2010, Coggie gave up his job in radio to have a crack at quizzing full-time, providing quiz packs to pubs and clubs. Nine years and many questions later, he was offered his newspaper job and has found a balance between the two.

He describes himself as “old school”, no longer sending out packs and avoiding the latest technology. Coggie turns up in person with a wheelie suitcase, laptop, PA system and questions for all ages – “although some people may complain about my lack of Taylor Swift questions”.

“I’m often catering for 20-year-olds and 70-year-olds at the same quiz,” he said.

Coggie’s hot tips: “Have a team with a wide range of interests and don’t play your Joker [double points] on the 50-50 round.”

He draws material from Google and buys quiz books.

“The books are to get ideas for questions or rounds, then I word them to make them relevant to New Zealand players. I also have collections of almanacks and encyclopaedias. Encyclopaedia Britannica is particularly good.”

An important caution when setting questions is not taking the first thing on Google at face value, he said. The world’s most populous city can be Tokyo, Mexico City or Sao Paulo, depending on the source.

“I make sure I have two or three firm reference points and often add a source to the question, such as ‘According to the US Census Bureau…’

“I’m not perfect and sometimes make a mistake. But if that happens, I can give everyone a point.”

Coggie’s experience means he can quickly read a quiz room.

“From the first round, I can tell which teams are strong and who is not. People don’t realise the amount of ad-libbing I do [to help out].”

He may be the Wellington region’s roaming quizmaster, but on his Wairarapa turf, people know Coggie as a local bloke and a sportswriter.

“Kuripuni Tavern is great. I love it there,” he said.

“Medici Café in Martinborough has no quiz night prizes – teams make a donation into a bucket and the winner chooses which charity or organisation gets that money.

“I think that’s really neat and it works a treat.”

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