Mereana first learnt bridge in 2010 – under the capable tutelage of Wayne Burrows and Ross Quayle at the Palmerston North Bridge Club. She moved back to Hamilton in 2016 having relocated for work and a return to the wider whanau.
She learnt bridge because she knew no one in Palmy except staff after living there for a year and it was a toss up between learning how to dance or to play Bridge. Andrew said – weirdo, you can’t learn without me so Bridge it was… At this stage in their life Mereana was living in Palmy and Andrew still lived in Hamilton, one commuted every weekend up and down the motu taking turns travelling SH1.

Her immediate whanau includes husband Andrew aka Batman, to whom she has been married for 21 years with a blended family of 4 kids between them and 6 grandchildren spread between Dunedin and Victoria, Australia.

It’s been a tough year in the Cullen household during Covid, Mereana’s husband Andrew was diagnosed with cancer in June 2021 and the subsequent battle has seen his weight drop from 106 kgs to a low of 59 kgs. He is on the mend and now back up to 70 kgs and has returned to light duties at the trucking firm he works for in Morrinsville.

She says that they have two diaries – her bridge one and his medical one side by side to ensure there aren’t any clashes. Happily, her bridge diary is getting busier whilst the medical one is getting quieter. Does Andrew play bridge? “oh god no”. They do try to keep Thursdays free as date night … What constitutes a date night? Date night is when I cook something special and stay in, we always get a trumpet or a magnum to finish the meal off!

In fact, Bridge has increasingly taken over her life … she is Hamilton Bridge club president, secretary of the Waikato Bays Regional Bridge committee, bridge teacher at the club, Bridgezone presenter as well as holding down a full-time job as Senior Consultant at the Cooperative Bank in Hamilton.

So what does your husband think about this? “He calls me Taillight … that is what he sees heading out the driveway in her bright blue 50th anniversary Falcon looking forward to the next bridge engagement.”

Their household is a Ford – fast on race day, family with 3 Fords, a Fiat and a Ducati in the garage and over the years Mereana has become a petrol head by default though her latest vehicle is described by Barry as a “bath” – yes it is very hot, very quick and very noisy. One day you could spot her and Barb cruising with the soft top down heading off to Bridge around Hamilton.

Mereana and her sidekick Barry Jones have produced 208 weekly Bridge Zone podcasts on Hamilton 89 Free FM Radio. Each Bridge Zone episode takes about 4 hours to produce and edit, more if Barry has been particularly garrulous or if their guests utter too many umms and ahhs during their commentary!

“Barry says we are starting to sound like an old married couple as we are always finishing their sentences” and listeners enjoy the banter and discussions the BZ team offer.
One of the topics is her well-publicised goal of 100 A points – which she has just achieved last weekend at the Cambridge 6s. So what’s your next Bridge goal Mereana? National Master is 175 A points … so I need 75 A points in 12 months! She is starting to play a fair bit with Kevin Birch from the Franklin club – the plan is to play Pukekohe on Mondays, Wednesdays in Hamilton and other stuff online and tournaments and are looking to cement their partnership further.

Anyway cut back to the rubber bridge… the cards weren’t favourable for our duo and thus ended Barb and Mereana’s run in the competition. Although there was a lot of laughs, good food ending with a couple of wines – a wonderful way to spend an afternoon.