For this, the final Throwback Thursday in our partnership with NZ on Screen, Joseph Harper looks back at the first ever televised Lotto draw, and unaccountably fantasises about eating a Lotto ball at length.
My mum used to buy a lotto ticket every week. Discussions on the repercussions of winning the jackpot were commonplace at family gatherings. Last time I saw my Nana, she told me she’d be buying Suzuki Swifts for my brother and I.
I don’t have a take on the morality of our national lottery, but I’ve always enjoyed the ritual and pageantry of the weekly draw. The main reason being that I think the balls look delicious.
Based on the way they pop around in the their bubble, I’d say it would be nice to eat a lotto ball. The way they bounce cheerfully along their little plastic highway, I can practically feel them in my mouth. When I watch a draw and the balls collide gingerly with their brothers and sisters, I like to think about digging my teeth into them. The blue ones especially look yum to me.
My dream is probably unachievable. According to primary source and real-life Lotto genius Sonia Gray, the ball security is set up so that no-one can ever be alone with the balls.
There are two complete sets of Lotto balls on hand at any one time in history. There are also two Lotto machines and two sets of Powerballs and Powerball devices. A coin flip decides which of each is used for any given draw. Every ten draws the balls are washed in hot, soapy water, and weighed. If the weight is out by even a tiny fraction, the whole set has to be thrown away. Decommissioned balls are occasionally given as precious gifts, but as yet my saved Trademe search for “Lotto ball” has yielded only discount soccer paraphernalia.
NZ On Screen has New Zealand’s first ever televised Lotto broadcast from 1987:
A viewing is rewarding. There are the two automaton hosts. There’s the terrifying introduction to the “very expensive piece of machinery” which self-identifies and “The Barrel”. There’s this guy from the Lotteries Commission who is extremely trustworthy and 100% not shifty.
The most interesting part of this historic broadcast is the ancient balls. It’s your classic one-through-40 setup and the texture of the balls seems pretty similar to their modern counterparts. The colourways of these old timey relics are deeply weird though. They’ve adopted this not entirely disgusting Euro-basketball aesthetic. There are TWO yellow/green varieties! It’s lunacy, but I guess those were different times.
They’re fine I guess, but the modern day balls are more elegant. They’re clean and simple – and that’s why they look so tasty.
I imagine myself slicing into one of these gorgeous babies with a No. 8 Opinel knife. The lustreless skin provides just a hint of resistance before giving way to the dense, cheese-flesh of the ball. After making the incision, I grip the ball and pull it in half, revealing a sweet, creamy, bean paste-like core. Each bite of the Lotto ball is rich and retains its buoyancy through many chews.
This throwback is the last of our partnership with NZ On Screen (sad!) – if you’re feeling lucky, here to watch more classic Kiwi TV moments from their vast collection.
Please note that the super weird opinions expressed above are not those of our wonderful sponsors.