Gill Flower . . . sustainability and development the prime objectives. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

GARY CAFFELL

History was made when Wairarapa United AFC elected Gill Flower as club president at their annual meeting in Masterton this week.

Flower becomes the first woman to fill the role, succeeding Phil Keinzley who had stepped down after 14 years at the helm.

For Flower, her promotion came four years after she decided it was time to give something back to Wairarapa United after arriving in New Zealand from Zimbabwe in 2001.

She played in the club’s women’s team for the next two or three seasons which, under Keinzley’s coaching, tasted significant success at regional and national levels.

“I really enjoyed being part of that side and was always appreciative of the work Phil put in to improve us as players so it just seemed right to do what I could to help the club grow,” Flower said.

It didn’t take long for Flower to make a positive impact as an administrator, serving on the committee, fulfilling various managerial duties and even returning to the active scene as a member of the club’s second women’s team.

When Keinzley elected to call it a day as president, he saw the Masterton police detective as the “obvious choice” to take up the cudgels.

“Gill will do a great job, she’s a go-getter who has the interests of the club at heart and the drive to enhance the whole operation.”

Flower herself is quick to admit she has a hard act to follow, pointing out that Keinzley had almost single-handedly kept Wairarapa United at the forefront of the sport over many years.

“Sometimes you wonder if people appreciate the huge amount of work Phil has done — he’s always led from the front and made things happen.”

Flower has two prime objectives for her stint as president — sustainability and development.

The sustainability factor is all about growing the administration base so that Wairarapa United no longer have to rely on small numbers of people to keep them viable.

“We can’t keep being dependant on just a few, we need to get into a position where if someone stands down there are others ready and willing to take their place.

“Building our numbers in that respect has to be a priority.”

On development, Flowers sees it as “absolutely vital” that Wairarapa United are pro-active in ensuring the region’s youngsters have not only the opportunity to grow their talents but can do it without leaving the Wairarapa.

“Wouldn’t it be lovely if we got to the stage where we didn’t need to look outside the Wairarapa for any of our teams, that we had could rely totally on locals to do well at the highest levels.
“It won’t happen overnight but it is certainly something we need to aim for.”

To that end, Flower is excited that Wairarapa United have plans to establish an Under-17 boys’ development team next season, with a similar girls’ team on the books for the following year.

“We have a heck of a lot of very promising young players here and we as a club need to be doing everything we can to provide the pathways so that this promise can be turned into something bigger.”