The Northern Advocate Little racket in North about his star status 21.05.2007 By Tim Eves Think lucrative playing contracts, sell-out stadiums and hordes of fans clambering for tickets and - in these parts anyway - and the inevitable visions are of a big paddock with goalposts at either end. But then we don't live in Thailand or Malaysia. There rugby is a curiosity and badminton is the passion. Which is why John Moody bases himself in Malaysia these days. The Northlander is now New Zealand No.1, ranked 31st in the world, and is living the dream as a professional badminton player. He plays in front of packed stadiums every week, is clawing his way toward a spot in the Olympic team heading to Beijing and is gaining a reputation for sheer determination. But back here, Moody could walk down the street and barely raise an eyebrow. "I haven't actually been home (to Whangarei) for a while. It is a strange feeling when I come home these days, it is far removed from what I am used too now," Moody said. His relatively low profile on home soil belies his achievements as a badminton player in the last two years, though. Moody is now part of a privately owned and funded professional badminton club in Malaysia called KLRC, a team underwritten by a wealthy businessman called Andrew Cam. Having just finished his only big badminton assignment in New Zealand, the $US50,000 KLRC New Zealand Badminton Open, Moody is now heading across the Tasman to contest the Australian Open before flying to France for the Toulouse Open then onto the Scotland for the Surdiman Cup World Teams championships. Being the global badminton playboy is not his primary aim, though. For Moody it is all part of a plan to be at the Beijing Olympics next year. "I try to identify tournaments where I might go well. It is building up to be a busy year, I guess, with a lot of people all trying to do the same thing and qualify for the Olympics," he said. It would be nice, too, if Moody's achievements gained more significant coverage here in New Zealand. Not that he spends much time pondering the injustices of it. Playing in front of massive crowds overseas is a big enough distraction. "I played in India last week and Singapore the week before where we turned up to practice and there were 1000 people there watching," he said. "It reminded me of an All Blacks training. "On match day, you get stadiums packed out. The sheer size of the sport is just beyond the comprehension of people at home. Crowds of 15,000 and 17,000 are the usual." The only frustration for Moody was his unfortunate exit from the NZ Open in Auckland on Saturday. Moody was eliminated from the singles draw by world No.1 Choong Hann Wong from Malaysia, then was forced to withdraw from the doubles semifinals when he and playing partner Alan Chan collided during an earlier match. They were the only New Zealanders in the semis. "My parents have mixed feelings about my badminton because they don't see a lot of my tournaments," he said. "I have three or four tournaments at home and the rest are overseas." Moody was hoping he could put on a big performance on home turf. Instead his family will have to track his successes from afar, and maybe start planning travel schedules to Beijing next year.