Night owl Onny Parun still loves a challenge

ONNY PARUN: "It's different to hitting the tennis ball. My other life has wound down totally. Some people say 'didn't you used to play tennis? And I say 'no, he's dead and I'm alive'."
ROSS GIBLIN/Fairfax NZ
ONNY PARUN: "It's different to hitting the tennis ball. My other life has wound down totally. Some people say 'didn't you used to play tennis? And I say 'no, he's dead and I'm alive'."

Onny Parun needs a nap.

It's only lunchtime, but Parun leads an unusual life high in the hills of Karori.

All night, every weekday night Parun plays the US stock exchange on the internet.

He wakes at 11.30pm, plays till 8am, then crunches the numbers.

Today he is kicking himself for sitting on the sideline rather than pushing the "buy" button. But tonight will be another opportunity.

The former New Zealand tennis star, who rose as high as No 19 in the world rankings in 1975, has two interests - the US sharemarket and collecting memorabilia.

Both verge on the obsessive.

Parun, 66, stays indoors from Monday to Friday in a big unfinished house, the legacy of a joiner whose marriage went up in smoke before he had time to put the flashings and gib on.

"I couldn't do this, if I was living with somebody," Parun says of his lifestyle.

"I have to be up at 11.30pm and it goes through till 8am. It doesn't open till 1.30am, but I like to see what is going on and touch base with the broker. I haven't done very well lately, so I'm not going to gloat."

Parun needs US$25,000 in his account to trade freely but if he slips below that mark he is limited to three trades across five sessions.

"I'm actually below the $25,000 at the moment, once I'm over $25,000 I can dart everywhere and any way, all day. I can make 100 trades.

"I follow 200 stocks. I know them inside out and a few others come into play. I know where they've been and where they are going.

"It's different to hitting the tennis ball. My other life has wound down totally. Some people say 'didn't you used to play tennis? And I say 'no, he's dead and I'm alive'."

Parun retired from tennis in 1982. This interest kicked in, by chance, in 1998.

"I'd never owned a stock in my life and then my sister phoned from London and she said 'you have to buy this stock' and it was $4, then it went to $6 and two weeks later it went to $96 - it went ballistic.

"Back then I made a stack of money at one point, but you could lose $100k in one week.

"You have to be single. I don't go out any where Monday till Friday. I refuse everybody. I only go out at weekends. The only time I bend the rules is for sportsman of the year dinners and that, and as soon as my time is up, I'm out of there.

"I'll have an hour's sleep early in the arvo and then I'll sleep 6pm till 11.30pm."

For all that, Parun's enthusiasm for his memorabilia collection is quite something.

He estimates his collection is worth over $1 million, with the valuable possessions locked up in a bank vault in the city.

There is a guitar signed by Paul McCartney, Beatles signatures, a leather bound book of Wimbledon winners up to 1997, an envelope signed by pilot Charles Kingsford-Smith and so on.

"I always say to my rich friends, 'you've got more money than me, but have you got William Shakespeare's ring seal'?"

Parun has one of the six cricket stumps signed by Brian Lara after the West Indian batsman scored a world test record of 400 not out against England, in Antigua, in 2004. It cost him £500 at auction in Nottingham.

"One day I bid for two of Marilyn Monroe's bikinis. I pulled out at US$25,000, they went for $90,000.

"Shakespeare cost me 500 quid. I would say it is probably worth about $30,000-$40,000 now."

Like his introduction to the sharemarket, Parun fell into collecting memorabilia by chance.

He grew up in Oban St, in Wadestown, where the street's big sporting name was New Zealand hockey representative Ian Kerr.

Kerr returned from the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome with an autograph book and the children of Oban drew lots for it - and guess who won.

"I've still got it. It was signed by nearly every member of the team Les Mills, Murray Halberg, but not Peter Snell, so years later, I got him to sign it. It's just continued on from there."

Parun has two sons, Tom, a teacher in Beijing, and Phillip, a sports agent in Prague. He has been married twice, his first wife was from the Czech Republic, who he met on the tennis circuit. His second works as a postie in Auckland.

"We were together 12 years, she came to London with me, we got married after 11 years, then after six months we broke up. I still see her from time to time in Auckland."

When it comes to his tennis career, Parun likes to talk about the future rather than the past. He reached the quarterfinals of all four majors, and was the losing finalist in the 1973 Australian Open (in four sets to John Newcombe).

He was also part of some epic Davis Cup battles against India and Australia at Auckland's Stanley St.
His ability to read a game won him five career titles and a 321-294 win-loss playing record.

Late in his career Parun used a piece of string in the corner of his mouth to stop his head turning to the right when he served.

"I went to a few doctors and they said I had a neck problem, so I came up with this thing that would keep the head still.

"It wasn't a pleasant thing and I had a bad by-product of that. My lip, I got a lump in it, and the doc said 'how did you get that?' and I said 'it might've been something I did years ago'. He said 'that will be it'. It is called constant irritation. I got small lump - a tumour or whatever - cut out.

"It was near the end of my career. You are slowing down and looking for excuses. You can say what you like, but when you are young, you didn't have these problems. You are quick, fast and have no fear. I was slowing down and that compounded everything. I went with it and it wasn't the best solution."

Parun keeps leaving the room and coming back with other items of interest to him. He is interesting company and good with names. He has his old floppy tennis hats nailed to the wall, he has thousands of books, hundreds of music records, trophies everywhere and two chess sets.

His face is lived in, he says he's had some health issues lately but doesn't elaborate. The only time he raises his voice over the course of two hours is when the topic turns to New Zealand tennis administration.

He wishes young players would be taught to come to the net and stay there. A cage of 20-30 tennis balls sits by his front door but he doesn't coach any more. A broken girl phoned him this week asking for tennis guidance so he will watch her play today.

Onny doesn't see many of his old friends. He was in the same history class as Keith Quinn at Wellington College. He grew up in Wadestown with former All Black Mark Sayers. He has a glass of wine with his baker brother, Tony, some weekends but doesn't drink during the week because he needs a clear head for the sharemarket.

"I'd like to do it for one more year.

"It is hard work, you need your powers of concentration. The money you can make can be phenomenal but there are two sides of the street.

"I've got something else I'm working on but as Henry Ford said 'nobody ever got famous from what they are going to do'."

The Dominion Post