Lead­er­ship by ex­am­ple

Kapi-Mana News - - SPORT -

An­other chap­ter in the in­trigu­ing story of net­baller Irene van Dyk was writ­ten this week when she was named as cap­tain of the New Zealand Com­mon­wealth Games team in Delhi.

Be­fore an­nounc­ing the choice of games cap­tain, New Zealand team chef de mis­sion Dave Cur­rie said it was im­por­tant the per­son had a long and suc­cess­ful games record and was some­one ‘‘ the team would be happy to go into bat­tle be­hind’’.

The an­nounce­ment that the cap­tain was van Dyk was rap­tur­ously re­ceived. No-one men­tioned that van Dyk has never been per­ceived as a leader within her own sport.

The 38-year-old is the most capped net­baller in in­ter­na­tional his­tory. She played for South Africa from 1994 to 1999 and since 2000 has logged a cen­tury of tests for the Sil­ver Ferns.

De­spite her vast ex­pe­ri­ence there has never been a sug­ges­tion she should cap­tain the New Zealand team.

Ber­nice Mene, Belinda Colling, Anna Row­berry, Adine Wil­son, Les­ley Ni­col, Julie Sey­mour and Casey Wil­liams have cap­tained the Sil­ver Ferns in van Dyk’s time. When po­ten­tial cap­tains have been dis­cussed, van Dyk’s name has sel­dom been men­tioned.

She is happy to be one of the troops, win­ning games with her pin­point shoot­ing and en­cour­ag­ing oth­ers with her en­thu­si­asm.

Van Dyk is a fas­ci­nat­ing study. She is un­fail­ingly gen­er­ous to op­po­nents, a re­ally good sport. Yet be­cause she is such a bril­liant goal shoot she is in­vari­ably tar­geted on court and has re­ceived some bru­tal go­ingsover from op­pos­ing de­fend­ers. She gets knocked over, and comes up smil­ing.

De­spite her ever-present smile, she is tung­sten-tough on court and fiercely com­pet­i­tive. If you’re 38 and still mix­ing it with the young guns of your sport, it’s clear you’re no pushover.

Off the court she is low-key, quick to laugh and any­thing but in­tense.

Not long af­ter set­tling in Welling­ton van Dyk de­cided to play her net­ball in Waikato, while re­main­ing liv­ing in the Hutt Val­ley. She re­ceived re­mark­ably lit­tle crit­i­cism for the de­ci­sion to chase the money, even if a few net­ball of­fi­cials in Welling­ton were snippy at hav­ing brought her out from South Africa only to lose her to Waikato. Van Dyk is hardly an elo­quent pub­lic speaker. Her speech to her team-mates upon be­ing named cap­tain be­gan with ‘‘Holy mo­ley’’ and didn’t progress far from there.

But with that said, she was a good choice. There are dif­fer­ent ways of in­spir­ing and she does it by her per­son­al­ity and bril­liance as a shooter.

When van Dyk was ini­tially cho­sen for the Sil­ver Ferns by Yvonne Wil­ler­ing in 2000, she copped some stick as a net­ball mer­ce­nary. Such thoughts have long dis­ap­peared and these days no-one thinks of her as any­thing but a New Zealan­der com­mit­ted to the cause. She has been hon­oured in var­i­ous ways dur­ing her decade in New Zealand, from the Sportswoman of the Year award in 2004 to the New Zealand Or­der of Merit last year.

But this lat­est ac­co­lade is per­haps the most sig­nif­i­cant.

Van Dyk has long been a leg­end in her sport.

Her el­e­va­tion to the games team cap­taincy shows she is fi­nally be­ing per­ceived as a leader in her adopted coun­try.

Cap­tain at last: Irene van Dyk led the New Zealand team at the Com­mon­wealth Games in Delhi.

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