With a name inspired by what he suspects might have been revolutionary hippy parents, Che Bunce turned to law after a colourful international professional football career, including nine years as an All White.
Named after the Cuban revolutionary leader Che Guevera, and after pronouncing his name "Shay" all his life, he met a Cuban who told him it was wrong and should be “Ch” as in cheque.
- Che Joshua (Che) Bunce.
- Entry to law
- Admitted in 2016. Expects to graduate LLB(Hons) in August.
- Solicitor at Harkness Henry, Hamilton.
- Speciality area
- Civil litigation, commercial disputes and debt recovery.
“Either way, I answer to both,” says Che, a civil litigator with Harkness Henry in Hamilton.
“My parents thought it would be a cool name. My elder brother is Dax – they must have been on something and thought that sounds cool.”
No relation to All Black great Frank Bunce, whom he met in a pub in Tairua “many moons ago,” he is the first in his family to graduate from university.
With an English-born goalkeeping father and grandfather, who was also football mad, Che’s love of the beautiful game began at age seven, waking up in the halcyon days of coaches John Adshead and Kevin Fallon to watch the All Whites in the finals of the World Cup in Spain.
“It caught the nation. Like the America’s Cup does now.
“I thought, I’m going to be an All White one day, and I can say that now. You dream it but never think it’s going to happen.”
Hamilton to Steel City
Che persevered with football at primary and high school, leaving school in sixth form to pursue a professional playing career with then English Premier League side Sheffield United.
“I had a six-week trial organised by my coach here. Sheffield liked the look of me and signed me up for two years. That was the year the Premiership started.
“It was a tough environment as a 17-year-old footballer in England. They put me up in a boarding house. Professional sport is a tough environment, it is very competitive, dog eat dog, with everyone vying for position and places.
“It was tough for a teenager coming from a quaint little place like Hamilton, to be thrown into Sheffield – a big industrial middle to lower class area.
“At 17 you are still a boy, thrown into a man’s world, so I had to grow up very fast.
“When current New Zealand captain Chris Wood went over his parents went with him which was a good move and would have helped his career.”
Sheffield was a springboard for what the 1.91 metre (6ft 3in) centre back describes as “a nomadic existence as a professional footballer from 17 through to 31”.
Che played for clubs in England, Denmark, Iceland, Ireland and trialled for Scottish Premier League side Dundee United, before joining Coventry City.
He played three seasons in Iceland – in summer when the weather was mild. “I had a wonderful time. My wife Larissa hated it.
“I travelled the world and in between times flew back to play for New Zealand.”
Hanging up his boots
Leaving school with no qualifications other than the ability to excel at football, Che fell into soft drink and real estate sales at the end of his professional career.
“When playing football I was always involved with player unions and have always been an advocate. What spurred me on to do law was a dispute I had with ACC about 15 years ago over a long-term injury – in which I was successful in the end, but it was quite a battle.
“I had spoken to a lawyer then and I reckoned law was an interesting vocation so decided to go to Waikato University at 37.”
He finished his studies at the end of 2016 but has not yet graduated. “I’ve done the LLB component and just finished my last essay to finish my Honours part.”
At university Che saw an opportunity, so in 2013 formed the Waikato University Football Academy (WUFA), where he is director of coaching.
WUFA is open to anyone studying at Waikato University, allowing them to study and train full-time. “Lots of young men and women go to the United States to follow football dreams because of scholarships on offer. I decided to offer this in New Zealand.
“I love all sports and I’m a sucker for punishment - I follow the Warriors.
Che and Larissa – who is a support worker for children with congenital heart diseases – have three boys, aged 7, 9 and 12 – who are all keen footballers.
Having travelled the world – with favourite destinations in Denmark, Croatia, Oman and Venice - they have had a family bach at Tairua, on the Coromandel Peninsula, for seven years, where they play on the beach, muck about with the kids and relax.
But last Christmas, two days into the family holiday, Che’s mother – a former real estate agent – suffered major heart failure on Tairua beach. Che and his Dad, with a defibrillator, worked for half an hour to resuscitate her and brought her back to life.
“She is doing really well now and takes things easy.”
With work and three children, there’s not much time for other hobbies, “but I like a bit of DIY”.
“I like music and try to keep up and stay hip to my kids. I like US hip hoppers Macklemore and Ryan Lewis and US rock band Imagine Dragons.
“But we went to a Law Society quiz night the other night and had to name albums of Dire Straits, Pink Floyd and Pearl Jam. We only named about four.
“I think I’m an awesome singer but I’m tone deaf. The kids cringe. I love embarrassing my children, especially when picking them up from school.
“A good recent read was Gregory David Roberts’ 2003 novel Shantaram, about an Australian bank robber and heroin addict who escapes from jail and flees to India.
“My wife hates sports, so I have to wrestle the TV remote control from her to stop her watching Coro Street. And the kids want to watch cartoons. So I watch Netflix in bed. I liked the US version of House of Cards and Julianna Margulies is great in the legal drama The Good Wife.
“We have two pets we are trying to get rid of … my son has two mice. We said he could have mice but he had to look after them, feed them and clean their cage. But who looks after them, feeds and cleans their cage???
“So we have two mice – Speckles and Patchy - to give away to a good home.
“I have a Mazda people mover and a newish Mazda 2 for work, but I end driving the people mover.
“Picking an alternative career now is a tough one. My only focus as a kid was to be a professional footballer. Then I did a late change to law at 37.
“Politics maybe. But that’s a hard job and you don’t have anonymity. I found that when I was in the sporting area I was always on display, always being critiqued by sporting journalists. No anonymity.
“My dinner guests would have to include my namesake, Che Guevera, Alex Ferguson (legendary Manchester United manager) – I would love to know how he got the best out of his team for 20 years straight.
“I love all food. We went to Gordon Ramsay’s burger bar in Las Vegas. I love a good burger.
“Now they are telling us a burger has to be cooked right through. That’s funny, because I had a burger last night and it was literally dripping down my hands. The best one I’ve had in a long time.
“It’s probably outlawed now, so I got in just in the nick of time.”