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Losing her mum at an early age, Ivari Christie found strength in netball. The explosive teen midcourter has now played her way into the Southern Steel, with help from a couple of Silver Ferns legends, Suzanne McFadden writes.
Lisa Cross' life path has had many twists and turns over 40 years. Now the mum of two says she's never felt better running at the world cross country champs for the first time.
Multiple world champion archer Danielle Brown experienced the ultimate highs and lows of sport. Now with the help of two great Kiwi athletes, she's written an award-winning book, Angela Walker reports.
Being an international hockey player and a business owner is busy work for Brooke Roberts, but it's taught her the values of self-belief and looking after yourself.
Otago freestyler Ruby Heath has become just the third Kiwi to swim in world championships in both the pool and the ocean. Now she’s aiming to be New Zealand’s first female open water swimmer at an Olympics.
Ruby Heath had always wanted to represent New Zealand as a distance swimmer. But she struggled to meet selection criteria despite being the country’s top open water swimmer.
So she made the decision to move cities, and now Heath, 23, is an Aquablack – in both the pool and open water.
“I didn’t think I’d be in the position to say that I’m both a pool and open water representative,” Dunedin-based Heath says. “I always thought it would be one or the other, but to take both is pretty amazing – it’s pretty surreal.”
Heath had successfully defended both her 5km and 10km open water titles last year but had never won a national medal in the pool as a senior swimmer until last year’s trials for the world short course championships, which were held in Melbourne last month.
She had never competed in a 10km open water event outside the North Island, either.
But in July, she competed in three events at the world open water championships in Hungary and five months later she swam in Melbourne in a world relay final, collecting a national open record.
In 2021, Heath moved from Wellington to Otago to focus on open water events under Lars Humer, a former open water swimmer and New Zealand swimming’s head coach at the Tokyo Olympics. She had an eye on swimming the 10km event at a world championship.
“I decided during the first lockdown I wanted to pursue open water swimming,” Heath says. “I wouldn’t be where I am today without Lars’ help and guidance. Having that extra background knowledge of open water training and racing, including the endurance to last 10km, is where I feel he’s really knowledgeable.”
Heath, who has been swimming competitively since the age of seven, now aims to be New Zealand’s first female open water swimmer at an Olympic Games and is eying the World Aquatics (formerly FINA) open water world series later this year in Italy, France and Hong Kong.
Humer, who was a dual representative in both surf lifesaving and open water swimming, trained under Duncan Laing at the Moana Pool where he now coaches Heath. (Incidentally, Laing was the last coach to take a New Zealand swimmer to an Olympic medal in 1996).
Heath does all her open water training at Moana Pool. She spends a lot of her time at the pool - she also works there 20 hours a week. She spends an estimated 60 hours a week working, swimming, attending the gym, physio and getting massages. She fits her paid work around her training on days she does not do gym work or on weekends.
“The pool is very accommodating around my training and swimming schedule,” she says.
Heath also trains with the top crop of New Zealand’s female swimmers at Moana Pool, two of whom – Olympian Erika Fairweather and Caitlin Deans - were in the record-breaking 4x200m relay team at Melbourne.
“We train together, and we push each other in training every day,” Heath says.
Two other women have represented New Zealand in open water and pool world championships.
In 2006, Cara Baker represented New Zealand in the pool aged 15 and was top 10 in the 5km events at the open water world championships in 2010, 2011 and in 2013 when she was the same age Heath is now.
Olympian Emma Robinson, who swam for Heath’s former Wellington club Capital, competed in both the pool and in the open water world championships in 2013. She then swam for New Zealand in the pool again at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games and the Rio Olympics in 2016.
Heath’s approach to competition is simple: “If you have a lane, you have a chance.”
She is certainly one for taking her chances. Due to Covid-19 travel restrictions, the 2022 requirement to qualify for the open water world championships was to place top two at nationals and swim a 1500m pool event at trials. In other years it was to place top two locally, and also top five at the tough Australian open water championships, which Heath is attempting to do this week.
Consequently, qualifying in 2022 was a relatively simple – and less expensive - task for Heath, who has comfortably placed top two in the 10km event for the past three years, successfully defending her title last year.
It was also easier than qualifying as a junior in the 1500m freestyle. Juniors (under 19) had a tough standard to meet in the 1500m to qualify for the world junior open water championships, whereas seniors did not.
“I’m not sure why,” Heath says. “It’s not an issue for me. The juniors have got to speak up about it and deal with it.”
Just weeks after swimming more than 25km in Hungary (where she placed outside the top 35 in her events), Heath had to dive back into the pool and be one of the fastest four and clock her first ever 200m freestyle FINA B standard at trials to qualify for the pool world championships in the 4x200m freestyle relay.
She unexpectedly did so, placing second - her best result at a national open championship - but says the trials were essentially a fun post-worlds pool competition.
“The 200m is always a good fun event to have, to help with speed,” she says.
Heath surprised herself with three other FINA B times at those trials in August.
“If you’ve got a lane, you’ve got a chance,” Heath emphasises. “I had a lane at nationals and had an opportunity to swim fast, and I did exactly that. The reward was getting on a team that I didn’t really expect to get on to.”
As well as training 20 hours a week in the pool, Heath competes in three open water 10km events each year. This month she must do two in just over two weeks to try and qualify for her third world championships.
One was her second place in the 10km national event at Taupo on January 14, also swimming the 5km event where she was fourth, just 16 seconds behind winner Ashleigh Allred.
But it is Heath’s personal bests in the pool that are creating attention. She also got a further personal best on the way to eighth place in the world championships relay final with her two Neptune clubmates, Fairweather and Deans.
With Summer Osborne on debut, they took nearly five seconds off a 16-year-old New Zealand relay record.
“Last year exceeded my expectations,” Heath says. “Racing at the world championships and making a final is an achievement I’ll remember for a long time. It just goes to show that no matter what discipline you focus on in the sport, anything is possible, and that my training, commitment, and sacrifices are paying off.”
Our Kiwi wāhine stood tall across a substantial weekend of international sport. And if you didn't have time to be glued to a screen, LockerRoom has you covered.
From football to cricket to sevens to netball, New Zealand's sporting wāhine enjoyed different degrees of success around the world over the weekend, as many prepare for their looming World Cups.
The Black Ferns Sevens scored a sensational and poignant World Series victory in Hamilton, while the Silver Ferns had a strong start to their 2023 campaign, which includes the defence of their world title. And also in South Africa, the future White Ferns continued their march towards the semifinals of the U19 T20 World Cup.
Away from the heat of the African summer, Zoi Sadowski-Synnott had a career first, winning the LAAX Open Slopestyle World Cup in Switzerland.
And while the Football Ferns couldn't match the might of the US, the crowd support was a good sign for the FIFA Women's World Cup, co-hosted by New Zealand and Australia across July and August.
The Black Ferns Sevens were barely troubled in the final edition of the HSBC Sevens tournament to be held in New Zealand.
A 58-0 win over Papua New Guinea, 27-0 over the usually strong Fiji and 20-0 against Great Britain sent the Kiwis flying into the semifinals, where Japan became the first team to score against them all weekend.
The 43-12 win over Japan and then a 32-0 victory over Ireland in the semis were easy work for the side, welcoming back Rugby World Cup winners Portia Woodman-Wickliffe, Stacey Fluhler, Theresa Fitzpatrick and Sarah Hirini.
The final against the USA started strongly for the Ferns, superstar Michaela Blyde scoring within 20 seconds. With the US threatening to score close to halftime, the Black Ferns chose to kick it out, up 14-0.
The start of the second half echoed the first, Blyde sprinting away to score in less than 20 seconds, and responding to a converted try from the Americans with her third try of the game. The hattrick made Blyde the top try-scorer of the tournament - with 10 - as the Black Ferns Sevens finished 33-7 victors.
The Silver Ferns opened their Quad Series campaign on Sunday morning (NZ time) with a comfortable win over South Africa, a 20-5 third quarter giving the Ferns a 61-41 win.
Both Karin Burger and Jane Watson returned to the black dress, with coach Dame Noeline Taurua managing to give all of her 12-strong squad at least 30 minutes on court.
Grace Nweke continued her outstanding international form, shooting 46 from 47, while Kate Heffernan (the other player to have a full game) was also strong in the midcourt.
However, the Ferns’ biggest challengers are always Australia and England - the last four Quad Series have been won by the Diamonds, with the English Roses taking second every tournament since 2018.
The Ferns came out to a good start against Australia on Monday morning, holding a 17-13 lead at quarter time, and extending the lead to eight goals in the second stanza.
But the Diamonds fought back, thanks to some smooth shooting from Steph Wood and basic errors from the Ferns. Taurua yet again gave her all her squad game time, Nweke on court for a consecutive full game.
The final score was 59-57 to the Diamonds, the Ferns pulling a few goals back in the final minutes, but unable to draw level.
In order to make the final for the first time since 2017 (the sole time the Kiwis have won the Quad Series), they'll need to beat the England Roses, who earlier drew with South Africa in a thrilling encounter.
The Football Ferns had two tough encounters with the USA - the world number one football team - at home over the past week, ultimately ending in two predictable defeats, although keeping the visitors scoreless for a half in the first game was very pleasing for the team.
Missing a lot of their star players due to the fixtures occurring outside the official FIFA window, it was always going to be a tough challenge for the 24th ranked Ferns.
When the World Cup kicks off in July, the Ferns will take on Norway (ranked 13th), Switzerland (21st) and the Philippines (53rd) - with their goal to have their first World Cup win and make it through pool play for the first time.
Despite the 4-0 and 5-0 losses, the Football Ferns saw their biggest home crowds - Wellington breaking the record on Wednesday with 12,508 fans and Auckland’s Eden Park (the home of their opening World Cup match) bettering that with 12,721 in Saturday's match.
Football Ferns captain Ali Riley was optimistic speaking to Sky Sport after the second match.
“I think that’s the biggest thing that’s so meaningful and powerful to us, is to set a new record," she said. "We’re so grateful, we appreciate the fans here, it gave us a taste of what it’s going to be like when we return here, hopefully to set a new record again.
“We can take a lot away from these two games, we have things we need to improve on and we’re going to learn from that," said Riley, earning her 149th cap.
"If I know anything about this team, it’s that the next six months, we will do everything we can so that we're ready for that game and we can put on a show for the crowd here.”
(A special mention must go to the Wellington Phoenix, featuring four Football Ferns, who scored their first win of the season on Sunday, a comprehensive 5-0 victory over Canberra United).
The New Zealand U19 women’s cricket team faced their toughest challenge yet at the inaugural U19 World Cup in South Africa, coming up against Rwanda after beating Indonesia, Ireland and the West Indies in pool play.
The Kiwis were sent in to bowl first for the fourth consecutive time in the tournament and restricted Rwanda to 95 runs from their 20 overs; Kate Chandler and Olivia Anderson both with two wickets.
Having only lost one wicket so far in the competition, a silver lining to Rwanda’s strong bowling effort was the chance for more of the New Zealand team to bat.
White Ferns Georgia Plimmer and Izzy Gaze couldn’t convert their international experience into runs, leaving the chase to 16-year-old Emma McLeod, who scored 59 runs off 39 balls.
New Zealand won by six wickets, chasing down the total in the 17th over with a boundary from Chandler.
The Kiwis next face Pakistan on Wednesday morning, looking for a chance to make the semifinals.
Meanwhile, the White Ferns leave today for their T20 World Cup, also in South Africa, next month - with Bernadine Bezuidenhout receiving a recall after two years away from the crease, to recover from RED-S.
In another big year for women’s sport, with World Cups for cricket, netball and football, this weekend shows that New Zealand has what it takes to compete.
The Silver Ferns enter their final matches before defending their Netball World Cup title in July boosted by the return of defender Karin Burger. And Burger herself has a massive boost - with family and friends courtside for the first time.
The last time Karin Burger visited her home country of South Africa, she was in a moonboot, unable to play netball.
This time, she'll play in the black dress for the first time in the country where she spent her first 18 years.
And on her next trip, she might leave holding the Netball World Cup.
The Silver Ferns open their Quad Series campaign on Sunday morning against hosts South Africa. It’s a welcome return to the black dress for star defender Burger, with the added bonus of doing it surrounded by her friends and family.
The 29-year-old suffered a major setback after the final of the ANZ Premiership last year, an ongoing foot injury requiring surgery and ruling her out of the Silver Ferns for six months.
One silver lining of the injury meant Burger had time to visit her family in South Africa - something she hadn’t done since before the Covid outbreak. The trip was a welcome distraction she says.
“It was just nice spending that quality time with them and having that distraction away from netball while I was injured,” Burger says, being able to meet her nephew for the first time.
“It really helped mentally and possibly physically refresh myself as well, being able to spend that time there. And once I got back, I was mentally in a good space to just hit the ground running and do whatever I needed to recover and get to where I am now.”
Burger is one of the three athletes returning to the Silver Ferns for the Quad Series, alongside Gina Crampton, who took sabbatical leave after the Commonwealth Games, and Jane Watson, who welcomed her first baby, daughter Tia, in May.
The return of Watson - Burger's defensive buddy at the Tactix - after a year apart is an exciting prospect for the duo, and Ferns fans alike.
“Having not played together for a while, obviously there are a few teething issues, like any combo but I feel like we’ll pick up on it quite quickly,” Burger says.
“We both play very much on feeling - as much as there is structure, it’s very much a feeling thing as well. So we just need to get that feel for each other again and I’m sure it will hopefully look great again.”
Burger says there’s plenty of competition for baby Tia’s attention, with three other mums in the team and plenty of aunties around.
“It’s amazing, it’s a good distraction for us as well - being able to see baby and break away from netball for a bit is actually quite nice.
“You can’t walk past her and not smile and play with her.”
Burger had a fracture in her navicular bone in her right foot, and had surgery in June to insert a screw and shave a section of bone, with the recovery process taking six months.
“There was a really, really solid plan put in place for me,” Burger describes of her return to play programme, including building up her fitness to where it was pre-injury.
“I had the likes of coaches, physios, strength and conditioning coaches, doctors, surgeons and everyone involved in the whole process in making sure the plan was proper and as good as it could possibly be and I was following it.”
Self-described as someone who hates sitting still, it was a long break from the game for Burger.
“As frustrating and as slow as it may have felt for me, it was a solid plan,” she says.
“It felt like I was progressing fast and well enough to ensure the foot recovered really well and I didn’t end up having any other niggles or any other issues.”
Burger’s six months away from the Ferns environment included missing out on the Commonwealth Games, an underwhelming series against Jamaica and a tightly fought Constellation Cup against Australia.
“Part of me feels like the time I was away was ages,” she says, noting how quickly things can change and adapt.
“There were a few things that had evolved in the way we do things, the structures and the language we use that I needed to pick up on quite quickly.
“But in terms of the environment and the people and getting back into things, I felt like I was just slotting back into it and I didn’t feel like I was out of place at all.”
With the absence of Burger and Watson, Kelly Jury has been a standout in the defensive circle for the Silver Ferns, with young Kate Heffernan making her debut and impressing with the wing defence bib.
“Since I’ve been out, the likes of Whitney [Souness] and Kate have really stamped their mark out there,” Burger says.
“It’s amazing for me to learn, to play with them and to understand them as well, as individuals. It’s exciting to have them and their fresh perspective and seeing how the combos work and seeing their athleticism as well.”
With the Quad Series likely being the last international hit out for the Silver Ferns before the Netball World Cup begins in July, Burger has set herself some goals to ensure she’s part of the team returning to Cape Town.
“For me, it’s getting out there and feeling comfortable with my game and obviously solidifying some court time as well so I feel comfortable going into the ANZ season,” she says.
“Knowing what the little things are that I need to work on to improve my game and be a better player so that when the World Cup comes around, I can overall be a better player and on court, play even better than I am at the moment.
“I think it’s just having patience with myself, knowing this is my first international series in about a year, but I do like challenging myself so I want to be happy with my performance and try solidify some court time.”
Burger has spent time at both goal and wing defence for the Silver Ferns, and says she has no preference where coach Dame Noeline Taurua places her on court.
“My goal in terms of playing both positions is regardless of which one I am, I’m focused on that one and giving it my all,” she says.
“I think that’s my challenge for the ANZ season as well, knowing there’s possibility for a slide and not trying to find my feet in either but doing my job 100 percent when I do get put on either.”
Burger returned to South Africa last year to reunite with her family.
Facing the country of her birth on Sunday, Burger will play in front of most of her family and friends for the very first time, a momentous occasion she’s not trying to dwell on too much.
“I’m trying to not get too distracted by that sort of thing, it’s just amazing getting that family connection and breaking away from netball,” she says, spending her few hours off per day with family.
“There is that slight pressure in the back of my mind that I want to play good for my family, and the amount of friends and supporters that I know of and heard of that are also coming to watch.
“It’s that pressure of knowing I want to be my best and play my best in front of them and to show them what I do on a day to day basis but also not letting that distract me from my job and focusing on what I need to do. So it’s finding that fine balance and utilising those emotions to be a better player rather than letting it distract me and affect my game.”
*The Quad Series begins on Sunday, with the Silver Ferns taking on South Africa at 2.30am NZT on Sky Sport 3. They then play Australia on Monday at 5am, England on Wednesday at 3am with the finals on Thursday.
LA-based football star Ali Riley captains New Zealand's Football Ferns – so it's no surprise what she'll be wishing for as the World Cup comes to New Zealand this year
Comment: In 2022 I got to welcome my New Zealand football family to the city that I call home. The Ford Football Ferns came to Los Angeles to play Iceland, USA, Mexico and the Philippines.
This coming year, we'll be welcoming the whole world to New Zealand, when this country co-hosts the FIFA Women’s World Cup.
In the US, I captain Angel City FC in the United States’ National Women’s Soccer League. It’s honestly still surreal for me. It's been so nice for me to have my two worlds, and two families collide.
* Tory Whanau: I want people to be proud of their city again
* Simon Mackenzie: I am the lineman for the county – let’s work together
* Selah Hart: Don’t be too weak and hōhā to make a difference
* Gretchen Robertson: Dreaming of team, wishing for fish, liking our bikes
* Simon Draper: Let’s rediscover our ambition, Aotearoa
* Dame Therese Walsh: To look into the soul of the universe, wink, and smile
1. Inspire girls and women
My hope for the Football Ferns for 2023 is that we make history for our country. And we are part of this amazing milestone for women's soccer by hosting the best ever women's sporting event in our country. I hope that we live up to the slogan of 'beyond greatness' by creating a legacy for the Ferns who come after us.
But we also honour the Ferns who came before us. And we play with pride and humility, and respect.
'We only have one planet, so we have to treat her right.'
I hope that for football in New Zealand, well, I hope that so many little girls are inspired to pick up a soccer ball and start playing sport – any sport! But of course, I am partial to soccer.
I hope that any girls who are thinking of quitting sport or soccer decide to stay and stick it out.
And I really hope that there are even more women who become referees and coaches and managers, and even owners of football clubs.
2. Set a leadership standard
My club in LA was founded by venture capitalist Kara Nortman, actress Natalie Portman and tech entrepreneur Julie Uhrman, and it has other high-profile owners like tennis legend Serena Williams. Angel City stands for initiatives I'm passionate about like the fight for equal pay and equal media coverage for the women’s game.
The club are also really involved in their community, donating equipment to local players, food to those in need and coaching thousands of young footballers.
When we wear this crest and go out and play, we want to do well for the club, for the communities, for ourselves, for the city – there’s so many things driving us.
So I hope for the women's game globally that again, this World Cup is a huge milestone and it energises the players to continue pushing for what we deserve.
And that we can make sure that there is a minimum global standard for women's soccer – that players are not only paid what they deserve, but also have the right conditions and feel safe and protected and healthy.
And I hope that we prove to all the doubters that we're amazing athletes and amazing women, and amazing humans who really deserve to be supported and invested in.
3. Reuse, recycle
When Orlando Pride traded me to Angel City, I lived with my parents in LA until I could move into my apartment and my belongings were shipped across the country. For a month, I wore old high school clothes and my soccer gear from college. It really showed me that I have so little need for new clothes!
I also champion sustainable initiatives to get the right gear to girls and women. That means helping them stay comfortable and active during their period, in my support for the Puma x Modibodi active underwear collection. It also means our club donating equipment to local players and helping to close the circle – for example, as a club we have donated over 15,000 sports bras as part of our Angel City Sponsorship Model, and at the end of the year we hosted a clothing drive where over 2,600 items of clothing were donated.
I hope that in 2023, a lot of people who are cleaning out their closets decide to recycle their clothing and send it to where it is most needed, instead of sending them to landfill.
4. Play for our country, eat for our planet
Last year, Toni Pressley and I launched vegan cooking show 'Girls Gone Veg’ to promote plant-based foods for athletes. We’re also writing a cookbook, which will be published in September.
My diet helps improve my athletic performance; limiting my dependence on meat-based products is good for my health and good for the environment.
I hope that maybe anyone who is thinking about trying to eat less meat or become vegetarian gets the courage and motivation to do so.
And you know, we only have one planet, so we have to treat her right.
5. Make my family and fans proud
My personal wish is to have a healthy 2023 so I can lead my country at our home World Cup in front of my family.
I may have been born and raised in Los Angeles, but I am so proud to be a Kiwi. It’s such a huge honour to play for New Zealand and represent this country on the world stage.
I think this tournament will be the greatest women’s sporting event in history, and as hosts we play such a unique and amazing role in that. It is something many players will never get to experience.
My goal is to meet and engage with as many fans as possible and inspire the next generation of Football Ferns.
► As told to Suzanne McFadden and Merryn Anderson
As New Zealand celebrates an incredible year for women’s sport, some of the country’s most influential women in sport have been recognised for their efforts.
After a mammoth push to back the Black Ferns and women’s rugby for the Rugby World Cup, Dame Professor Farah Palmer receives the highest honour in the 2023 New Year Honours list.
Eleven Kiwi women in sport, including Olympic champion Zoi Sadowski-Synnott, have been celebrated on this year’s list.
Dame Professor Farah Palmer, Dame Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit
To the casual observer, it may have seemed like the surge in interest in women’s rugby came overnight, as the Black Ferns sold out Eden Park and lifted the Rugby World Cup trophy in front of 42,000 adoring fans in November.
But it’s all thanks to some of the pioneers of the sport, including Dame Professor Farah Palmer.
Palmer captained the Black Ferns to three World Cup titles – in 1998, 2002 and 2006, with 35 appearances in the black jersey over 10 years.
But it’s also her work after her retirement in 2006 that make her worthy of this recognition for her services to sport, particularly rugby.
In 2016, she became the first woman to be appointed to the New Zealand Rugby Board, and will be deputy chair next year, as Dame Patsy Reddy takes the reins as the first female chair.
Palmer (Ngāti Maniapoto, Waikato) is passionate about women’s rugby and Māori rugby and is a senior lecturer at Massey University, spreading her expertise to the next generation of leaders.
Leigh Gibbs, Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit
Leigh Gibbs was the sixth Silver Ferns coach, leading the team from 1994-1997, a mere seven years after her retirement from the side.
Amassing 61 test caps, Gibbs spent two years as captain of the Ferns, including leading the team to Netball World Cup victory in 1987.
A dynamo at wing defence, the Cantabrian is a legend of her region, coaching the Canterbury Flames and Tactix, and now works as the general manager of Nelson Netball Centre.
Kereyn Smith, Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit
The CEO of the New Zealand Olympic Committee (NZOC) for 11 years, Kereyn Smith had a goal to increase women in leadership positions across sport in New Zealand.
Working with NZOC for three Summer Olympics, two Winter, two Commonwealth Games and a pandemic, Smith’s influence saw New Zealand slowly but steadily increase the percentage of women athletes competing on the global scale. Her legacy continues, with 53 percent of Kiwi athletes at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games being women.
Smith stepped down at the end of 2021, and in May became the transformation director at Cycling New Zealand, charged with driving change in a sport shaken by the report into its culture and athlete wellbeing. She was also a driving force for Auckland to host the IWG World Conference on Women and Sport in November.
Pānia Papa, Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit
Papa receives her honour for services to Māori language education and broadcasting, but also was a talented netballer, playing two games for the Silver Ferns in 1990.
A champion for the revitalisation of te reo Māori, Papa (Ngāti Korokī-Kahukura, Ngāti Mahuta) has worked as a television presenter, translator, and lectured at the University of Waikato for 10 years. Te Wānanga o Aotearoa is running a two year master’s degree for te reo, of which Papa is a faculty member for, a course with very high demand, as interest in learning the language increases.
Anna Harrison, Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit
After 20 years, Anna Harrison retired from domestic netball this year, the rangy Silver Ferns defender finishing a stellar career with a World Cup gold and two Commonwealth Games gold medals. The 39-year-old still is involved in sport, playing both indoor and beach volleyball – sports she started as a teenager.
Dayle Jackson, Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit
Dayle Jackson’s 40 years in education, including as principal of Kelson School in Lower Hutt, involved coaching various sports. Jackson was also the manager of the Black Sticks hockey team, as well as a player and coach for Hockey New Zealand, and a bowls umpire and coach at Bowls Wellington.
Melony O’Connor, Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit
O’Connor is one of the leading basketball referees in New Zealand, and was the first woman to officiate 400 men’s National Basketball League (NBL) games, putting her third on the most games refereed list. O’Connor (Ngāti Porou) was NBL Referee of the Year for the last three years, and works with Māori Basketball New Zealand to develop referees.
Melony O'Connor was the NBL referee of the year.
Zoi Sadowski-Synnott, Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit
The first Kiwi to win a Winter Olympic gold medal, Zoi Sadowski-Synnott made history twice in Beijing this year when she collected a silver – the first New Zealand athlete to win two medals at a Games. A role model to young Wānaka athletes, the 21-year-old also received the Lonsdale Cup this year, the NZOC’s most prestigious award to an athlete who has made the most outstanding contribution to an Olympic or Commonwealth sport.
Cheryl Smith, Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit
Cheryl Smith (Ngāpuhi) has given thousands of children the opportunity to be involved in sports in Northland over the past 25 years. The community connector for Sport Northland, Smith also won two Rugby World Cups as a Black Fern, and coached both men’s and women’s teams in Northland, including Northland Kauri team in the Farah Palmer Cup.
Noeline Jeffries, Queen’s Service Medal
An advocate for safety in the equestrian community, Noeline Jeffries is a rider, instructor and judge. She also volunteers and is a leader of efforts to commemorate the war horses of New Zealand.
Carol Martin, Queen’s Service Medal
Carol Martin has been involved with Hokitika Netball for almost 40 years, in a variety of roles. She also has worked in education, helping construct facilities for schools and sports teams.
The ups and downs of an amateur women's club football side in Wellington have been chronicled in a docoseries, The Journey North, with the theme 'If you can see it, you can be it'. Aiden McLaughlin reports.
When Kimberley Kan took a year off playing football for the North Wellington FC women’s premier team, she didn’t know her teammates would soon become the subject of her new creative project.
Kan had a rough end to 2021. Her grandmother passed away and she struggled with her mental health. Her team had been promoted to the Ultra Football Women’s Capital Premier division, but, after just four years playing the game, the thought of playing at that level was daunting for her.
Even after deciding not to play in 2022, she was still involved with the club – the professional videographer producing graphics for the top men's and women's teams at North Wellington.
Her coach, Paul Hallett, had previously watched a British series about non-league football called ‘Bunch of Amateurs’ and discussed the concept with Kan. But with her playing, there wasn’t an opportunity to take the idea forward – until now.
“Paul and I were talking about how this could be an opportunity for us to create a docuseries surrounding the women’s game at an amateur level, because there are quite a few already out there about the men’s game, but there are very few about women,” says Kan.
The result of those discussions is the 14-part docuseries called ‘The Journey North’. It’s helped Kan remember why she played - the overall hauora (health and wellbeing) benefits, the social benefits, being around people who support you and are there for you, an escape, and a place to work on your own football journey.
“I wanted to create more visibility for women’s sport in the media and I really wanted to encourage people to get into football,” says Kan.
“With players from this level we wanted to make it relatable to your everyday person, so they could see themselves in those players. As the saying goes: If you can see it, you can be it.”
Kan became interested in football watching the US women’s national team on YouTube.
“I see what they do in America with the national team. They put out such incredible stuff,” she says. “That visibility, that promotion, it gets you all hyped – it got me hyped. I just hope that New Zealand Football and all the smaller federations get on board and realise that media and video is such an important way to get involved in the game.”
As Kan developed her vision for the series, she reached out to New Zealand Football, Capital Football and the Oceania Football Confederation for funding, with no joy. With costs to meet and a passion project to produce, she set up a Givealittle page with a target of $14,000. She took two weeks’ unpaid leave to complete the series.
Episodes of ‘The Journey North’ were released weekly on YouTube, and Capital Football have got on board, promoting the series.
The first takes us to the start of the women’s premier season. Following their promotion from division one in 2021, there’s a mix of returning and new players as their campaign gets underway. After an introduction to the new season from coach Hallett, it dives into the action of the first game.
From then on, each episode starts with an interview with one of the North Wellington players before featuring insights from another of their matches. It’s a chance to learn about the players within the group and understand their backgrounds and motivations for being a part of the team, while also tracking their overall season.
“Learning all these stories has been incredible,” says Kan. “I felt for everyone it was a little therapy session. People do have stories and genuinely want to share them. I think it was quite a nice reflective thing for everyone who took part.
“It really made me realise all the different reasons why people get into football. Yes, there’s the fitness side of things, but [it can be an] escape from everyday life, and you can gain a new social group.”
Episode three introduces Rowan Harvey, one of the team’s central midfielders. A wife to Jake and a mother to Imogen, Lexie and Georgia, Harvey also works as a product manager at New Zealand Trade and Enterprise.
Harvey started playing football when she was 13 and played all through high school and university. When she started to work, she switched to indoor football, but after having her children, football took a back seat. About three years ago, she realised she wasn’t done playing the game and joined North Wellington.
“In the rest of my life I’m always being something for someone, so I wanted something that was just purely for me,” says Harvey.
“That means I get my time to go training, [it] gets me out of the door to make sure I actually commit to having that me time, which is super important I think for mental health.”
For Harvey, it was really interesting to uncover some of the stories the squad didn’t know about each other. They also adjusted to being filmed and interviewed as time went on.
“Overall, there was excitement and enthusiasm for sure. It was a bit weird when Kim started [filming] but we all got used to it. I was really excited and I guess it lent a legitimacy to what we were doing,” Harvey says.
“Traditionally the women’s side just doesn’t get as much [coverage] as the men’s side. To have this as part of our team was awesome.”
An important result of Harvey’s involvement in the series was that her children got to understand more about what football meant to her.
“It was empowering. It gave visibility to everyone and everything. It was awesome for my kids to see that come out,” she says. “They could see that mum is part of something and all those other girls are part of something and that doing this is normal.”
The profile of women’s football in New Zealand is expected to grow hugely in 2023 with the FIFA Women's World Cup here and in Australia in July and August. Sports Minister Grant Robertson confirmed nearly $19 million has been put aside to upgrade sporting facilities earmarked for the tournament, not only in the regions that will host matches (Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington and Dunedin) but also the regions that will only host team camps (Napier, Christchurch, Tauranga and Palmerston North).
"These upgrades are critical to ensure the success of the tournament, but will also benefit local communities, football clubs and many different sporting codes that use these facilities, which is another great reason to invest in them," Robertson said.
For Kan, and all involved in the game in New Zealand, it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to see the world’s largest women’s sporting event on home soil.
“With the women’s World Cup coming up next year, that is massive and I hope people get involved in the game, especially in the lead-up,” says Kan.
“I had the amazing opportunity to see the last World Cup in France [in 2019], and it’s such an incredible environment. All the teams coming in, all the supporters coming in.
“New Zealand has such an incredible opportunity next year and I just really hope people can get along and experience it when it happens.”
*All episodes of ‘The Journey North’ are available to watch now on YouTube.
Kate Chandler is used to playing cricket with the boys, but the Wellington teen has the chance to shine amongst the best young women cricketers in the world at the inaugural U19 T20 World Cup next month, Merryn Anderson writes.
Wellington Girls' College student Kate Chandler had one of the best weeks of her life earlier this month, when she won the national U19 women’s cricket tournament.
But with the 16-year-old selected in the New Zealand team to contest the inaugural U19 Women’s T20 World Cup in South Africa next month, that favourite moment could soon be overtaken.
Chandler is one of the youngest players in the New Zealand side, but age has never daunted her. She made her debut for the Wellington Blaze just weeks after turning 14, and impressed early, taking five wickets in a Hallyburton Johnstone Shield game against the Canterbury Magicians - only her fourth game.
Two of her five wickets were White Ferns (she caught out a third), and the Blaze went on to win by eight wickets, with 107 balls to spare.
“That was awesome, it was a bit surreal looking back at it. It was one of those days where everything just goes to plan,” Chandler remembers.
“And when you’re in an environment like the Blaze, you’ve got the best fielders, the best keeper, the best catchers; the best of everything. It’s an easy environment to do well in.”
This season, the Blaze have six contracted White Ferns players, which gives room for players like Chandler to have more game time when the Ferns leave for their T20 World Cup, also in South Africa, in February.
Being in the same environment with the likes of Sophie Devine and Melie Kerr has been amazing for the young leg spinner.
“They’re some of the best players in the world, so it’s really cool to have them in the same team - just watching how they go about their business,” she says.
Chandler took nine wickets for Wellington in the U19 national tournament at Lincoln earlier this month, but it was her batting that impressed most.
She finished with an average of 63.75, with a highest score of 67 not out. Across the tournament, she scored 255 runs, the third-highest total.
“I’ve definitely worked a lot on my batting the last couple of seasons trying not slip into just becoming a bowler, to really become an all-rounder,” Chandler says.
She was one of the top run-scorers in her first HBJ match for the Blaze this season, scoring 29 runs at number seven in a comprehensive win over the Magicians.
Chandler continued that trend in her second game yesterday, scoring 32 not out, and sharing a 61-run partnership with Thamsyn Newton, as the Blaze defeated the Sparks.
After feeling little pressure in her first season with the Blaze - “If I didn’t get any wickets, then oh well; and if I did, that’s an added bonus” - Chandler says now she feels a bit more responsibility to perform with the ball.
“A lot of the time, it’s just what you put on yourself to get out there and take wickets cause that’s the role you’ve got," she says.
“I actually do get a bit excited, sometimes I get caught up a little bit but I try to stay calm and stay in the moment.”
Chandler started playing cricket around the age of five at her local club; her three older brothers all cricketers also.
“It was either play cricket or watch them play cricket,” Chandler laughs.
Playing in all boys teams until the end of last year, Chandler played for Wellington College for a few years, and had no problem being the only girl in a team.
“It was just normal, cause they were just my mates,” she says.
She also plays hockey in winter, playing for as long as she has been with cricket. “I really love hockey, especially in the wintertime, to take a break from cricket and get stuck in to something else,” Chandler says.
Is there ever too much on her plate? Definitely not, she says.
“Playing sport’s not something that’s a chore - it’s a lot of fun every time I go out and play hockey or cricket or any social sport.”
Chandler has just finished Year 11 at Wellington Girls’ College, and admits she’s unsure what she wants to do after high school, but says it’s exciting to know cricket could be a career for her.
“Especially with all the stuff that’s happening with women’s cricket at the moment, it’s pretty cool for that to be an actual career path,” she says.
Chandler is a gifted hockey player as well, playing for her school's first XI
Chandler was at cricket practice with her school when she got the call saying she had made the U19 team for the World Cup.
“I was pretty stoked, it was a bit of a surprise. I wasn’t 100 percent thinking I was going to be in the frame for it so it was pretty cool to get the call,” she says.
There are four Wellington players in the squad, coached by former White Fern Sara McGlashan.
“It’s cool to see quite a few girls from Wellington getting in. I’ve been playing with some of them for quite a while now so it’ll be nice to have them alongside me,” Chandler says.
New Zealand play Indonesia, Ireland and the West Indies in pool play, with their first match on January 16 (NZT).
Three players in the team have White Ferns experience - Fran Jonas (22 caps), Izzy Gaze (13) and Georgia Plimmer (13) were all part of the bronze medal-winning Commonwealth Games team, and the recent West Indies tour in Antigua.
Jonas and Plimmer also played in the World Cup in New Zealand in March, while Gaze was part of the development team who toured India last month.
That makes the New Zealand team one of the strongest in terms of international experience, something Chandler says will be very helpful.
“Not many girls have gone and played cricket overseas, or had the pressure of playing in a World Cup so it’ll be good to have those three there," she says.
“There are lots of different countries going, so it’ll be awesome.”
As the White Ferns go into their final game of 2022, Melie Kerr tells Kristy Havill how she's surprised herself this year, and how she hopes her video series on mental health will have saved at least eight lives.
It’s been just over 12 months since LockerRoom published the first detailed story of White Fern Melie Kerr’s brave battle with mental health and the courageous decisions she had to make to overcome her demons.
The 21-year-old pledged during our chat to do anything she could to make an impact in the mental health space. Just exactly what it looked like, she wasn’t so sure.
Fast forward to now, and she's just released the final episode of her video series, Treading Water, where she interviews seven people about their mental health struggles.
Not long after we’d wrapped up our Zoom interview, Kerr messages me to share an example of how the series is having an impact. She’d just had a note from a relative in Australia, who shared the link to the Treading Water videos with a mother battling with her mental health.
The woman then went to a hospital to get the help she needed.
“With the range of different stories, if that’s one different person saved for each video then that’s eight lives saved,” says Kerr, whose own monologue is included in the series.
“For me, that’s why I did it, because I know when you’re going through something how alone you feel. I wanted to raise awareness for the people feeling alone that it’s not just you, and these stories show hope we can get better.
"So I hope if someone is struggling and watches those videos, they can hang onto the hope that saved all of us and helped be where we are today.”
Over the last 12 months, Kerr has returned to cricket with a newfound confidence, after fearing she would struggle being away from her family and support network. "But now I know that with the White Ferns, I’m going to be ok because it’s like family," she says.
It was during the ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup back in March when the cogs started turning in Kerr’s head about what she wanted to do.
“After the summer of cricket and the World Cup finished, the idea just came to me. I shared it with Mum, who said it was really good, and then I got in touch with a psychologist who put me in touch with Mike King," Kerr says. A tireless mental health advocate, King runs the I Am Hope charity.
The purpose of Treading Water is to continue the conversations about mental health, and signal to those watching there's always hope to navigate through whatever life throws you.
There’s a mixture of family, friends and strangers among the videos. Some faces you will recognise, some you may not.
Partnering with I Am Hope was a logical move for Kerr, with the charity at the forefront of changing the dialogue around mental health and providing free counselling to young people.
It has been a passion project which Kerr worked on personally from all corners of the globe during her busy cricket schedule.
“I got the full publish of every trailer, every video and monologue when I first got to England, and very quickly got Covid soon after,” Kerr recalls, referring to her arrival in the UK in July ahead of the Commonwealth Games.
“I had a week in my hotel room, so that kept me busy."
A preview of Melie Kerr's monologue in the Treading Water series
While she was busy securing a bronze medal in Birmingham with her White Ferns teammates, then playing for London Spirit in The Hundred, she was also having a website built to house the videos and further establish her online presence.
By the time she linked back up with the Ferns in the West Indies in September, Kerr had something tangible off the field to sink her teeth into.
“With the release plan and adding stuff to the website, when I wasn’t at cricket I had a lot to do,” Kerr says. “I really enjoyed it, and it was easy to enjoy because it was work I liked and work that I’m proud of.
"I’ve done a few uni papers on tour before and that can feel like a drain at times.”
It demonstrates her growth and how far she's come that Kerr spent three months overseas before returning home for 24 hours, then jetting off again to Australia for the Women’s Big Bash League with the Brisbane Heat.
It was only last year when venturing away from her support system seemed an overwhelming prospect, and she withdrew from the tour of England.
“Before the India series [in NZ in February] and the World Cup I was nervous to get back on tour again,” Kerr reveals. “I was scared being back in a hotel room alone again that those bad thoughts would creep back in.
"They didn’t, and I love being with the White Ferns again. It’s been a hectic year, and I’ve surprised myself. I thought I was really going to struggle being away for so long.
"But I knew this time around if I did struggle I could talk about it or get home to my family.”
It’s that same progress and development at the cornerstone of the Treading Water series, each video demonstrating there's always hope to move through life’s difficulties and find support.
In terms of making the series, there was the minor matter of not just finding a videographer who could shoot and edit the content, but someone who could carry out the vision of the idea. And Kerr didn’t need to look far to find the man she wanted for the job.
“I always knew I wanted Hamish Johns to film it and work alongside me,” Kerr explains.
“He knew exactly what I wanted, and said he could see it straightaway. He’s done a few interviews for Cricket Wellington which have been epic, and his photography and stuff he’s done with film is incredible.”
Normally the one being interviewed in her day job, Kerr reversed the roles this project. Having confessed she doesn’t enjoy being in front of the camera, Kerr doesn’t doubt she's grown personally and professionally after taking herself out of her comfort zone. She found the process of telling her story therapeutic.
Treating each person with respect and delicacy was of the utmost importance, as some stories and experiences can be triggering for the individual recounting them. So she sought additional support and education to prepare herself as the interviewer.
She worked with Suzie McDonald, who runs the Headfirst programme at New Zealand Rugby around safe storytelling. And also with the Mental Health Foundation, who "helped with the ethical side of things of how to interview someone about this topic, and some safe questions to ask," Kerr says.
Choosing the people to be interviewed for the series was one of the most important factors Kerr considered, wanting as many different aspects of mental health issues to be discussed from a variety of individuals.
“I’d noticed more people in the media were speaking about mental health, but I also know how individual it is,” Kerr says. “Sometimes people who don’t have that profile don’t necessarily have a voice to share their stories to a wider range of people.”
Whether you’re a parent who doesn’t know how to best support their child like Kerr’s father Robbie, stuck in a career you don't love and experiencing burnout like Leigh Westley was, or grappling with an eating disorder as Rosa Flanagan did, a variety of topics are covered.
It was a priority for Kerr to have a rapport with each of her guests, where trust could be developed for a meaningful conversation. Some of these solid foundations she already had, such as with her father, her best friend, Dan Fouhy, and her cousin Eli Knox.
But for other guests like Two Raw Sisters co-founder and former NZ middle distance runner Flanagan, Wellington Saints basketballer Rangimarie Mita and former corporate employee Westley, there were a few coffees and lunches before the cameras started rolling.
“We just chatted more about life and what they do, nothing really about the interview, it was all about building that relationship and trust,” Kerr shares.
“From there we communicated about what they wanted to tell in their story, and what they don’t, and also making it clear they had full rights to cut anything out they didn’t like."
Perhaps the most high profile guest is Hurricanes flanker and Wellington Lions captain Du’Plessis Kirifi, who Kerr had met a few times and been impressed by his leadership and work in the Wellington region.
“His story is incredible,” Kerr says. “There’s so many young boys in New Zealand who look up to rugby players, and he shows that if you play sport you don’t have to pretend to be tough and not show emotion.”
A snippet from Wellington Lions captain Du’Plessis Kirifi's episode of Treading Water
There's one interview which sticks out clearly as the most difficult for Kerr and Johns to film. Her childhood best friend, Dan Fouhy.
“Dan came to me and said he wanted to be a part of it,” Kerr says. “I’d suggested it, but wasn’t too sure because it is the heaviest topic as it discusses suicide."
Fouhy lost his younger brother, Shaun, in 2020.
"We did his interview last, and that was important because Hamish and I felt we would have learnt as much as we could to prepare ourselves.
"We took a lot of breaks in the interview. There was a moment where Dan’s crying, I’m in tears, and you’re just going back and reliving the most terrible thing that’s ever happened to you and your family.
"I was around during the funeral and when it happened, around at their house a fair bit. It takes you back to those memories and all the pain it caused. I drove Dan home afterwards, and when I got home to my flat I just burst into tears. But it’s such an important story and one that’s very close to my heart.”
Each episode is raw, vulnerable, confronting at times, and inspiring. The courage of the guests to share their experiences is palpable, and all of the episodes are underpinned by a sense of gratitude they got the help they needed – in whatever form it came.
“If I get the funding, I’d jump at doing part two straight away”
Kerr has another busy summer ahead as the ODI series against Bangladesh wraps up this weekend, before joining the Wellington Blaze for the Dream11 Super Smash and beginning preparations for the T20 World Cup in February in South Africa.
“You play around the world now and with different teams, but there’s nothing better than playing for the White Ferns,” Kerr says.
“The culture we have and the people, I love being in that environment. Same with being back with Wellington and playing in the Super Smash, I absolutely love it.”
Kerr’s excitement and energy for the summer of cricket at home and spending time with loved ones can be felt through the screen.
When asked if there’s any chance of her having to take a break from cricket at some stage, Kerr concedes she will definitely be enjoying her leave period when it arrives after the World Cup.
“Normally I go straight back into training, but I should probably take some time off bowling and hitting balls this time around,” Kerr chuckles.
For all of her on-field accomplishments, these videos and the impact they’re having could live longer in the memory than her cricketing exploits.
It's surely up there with the most powerful digital and social media projects of the year in New Zealand, and is definitely one of Kerr’s proudest achievements.
So can we expect to see Treading Water part two, or any other projects in the future? “If I get the funding I’d jump at doing part two straight away”, Kerr says.
“Film’s very expensive, and all of the production for it, but it’s definitely something I’d like to keep doing. That’s where Mike King and I Am Hope helped me out this time around, otherwise I didn’t really know how to fund it.
"There are some amazing stories out there, and a lot of people I couldn't interview, because of heading away to England for cricket, are really keen to get their story out there.”
Whenever the time comes for part two, or another Kerr initiative, those who struggle with mental health or are associated with someone who does will know they have a lifelong ally and advocate in one extraordinary young woman.
* The White Ferns and Bangladesh play their third and final ODI in Hamilton on Saturday, from 1.30pm on Spark Sport
** To make a $3 donation to I Am Hope, text HOPE to 469
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