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Recognition for unsung heroes

Today, CHRIS COGDALE profiles the unsung heroes chosen as finalists in the Volunteers and Administrator categories of the Wairarapa Times-Age Sports Awards.


Darren Meyrick – Bowls

Darren Meyrick is one of those behind-the-scenes hard workers, toiling to ensure Greytown Bowling Club members have quality greens to play on.

Meyrick has been the club’s greenkeeper for the past six years, spending 30 hours a week or more preparing the greens for club play and Bowls Wairarapa championship and tournament play.

Meyrick is a life member of the Greytown Bowling Club and has also represented Wairarapa in representative tournaments and fixtures.

Ginni Thurston – Equestrian

Ginni Thurston’s involvement in all things equestrian in Wairarapa started 40 years ago.

She tirelessly gives her time, energy and knowledge to the Pony Club [PC], racing, eventing and games, coaching, rider education and development.

Thurston has held volunteer roles within the Wairarapa PC, the Wairarapa-Wellington PC area group and on Eventing Wairarapa. She has coached many equestrians in every discipline and been instrumental in organising of numerous local and national events.

Thurston was awarded an NZPCA Lifetime Achievement Award in 2021.

Matt Spooner – Tennis

Matt Spooner has had a long association with Wairarapa Tennis and has been a committee member for 10-plus years.

In that time, he has managed the senior interclub competitions [draws, venues, and results], with a focus on refining regional one and two leagues to keep the game interesting and at a high level. Through this, the number of teams, especially in the women’s grade, has increased.

Spooner also mentors the young players, and there are now five under-17s playing in regional one, which is unique for Wairarapa.

Spooner was a key supporter in getting together the senior representative team for the Central Region hexagonal fixture for the first time in seven years.

Neil Preston – Basketball

Neil Preston has been running the South Wairarapa interschool basketball and mini-ball competitions for the past 15 years.

Preston also spends Wednesday afternoons and evenings every week in terms two and three to referee the games.

Each week he will do a minimum of four hours of court time over the 16 weeks, accounting for hundreds of hours over the years – not a bad voluntary total when you think he is also a full-time teacher and deputy principal.


Cilla Paulik – Tennis

In 2022 Cilla Paulik was awarded the Tennis Central Lifetime Achievement award by Tennis NZ for her 35 years of service to tennis in Wairarapa.

Paulik was made an honorary vice-president for Tennis NZ in 2014 for her contribution to tennis in Wairarapa as a player, coach, and club captain.

At Wairarapa Tennis, she was secretary from 1990 to 1993 and served as junior convenor from 1994 to 2000, a role which entailed organising rep teams tournaments, squad coaching, and development programmes.

Paulik was the official coach for Wairarapa Tennis for nine years, and her innovative and creative programmes attracted many players to the sport. From 2006 through to her retirement this year, Paulik was the executive officer for Tennis Wairarapa, and she set up a number of initiatives which helped boost interest in the game.

Gail Miller – Hockey

Gail Miller has been secretary of the Dalefield Hockey Club for 26 consecutive years since 1997.

Since 2004, Miller has also been treasurer, a position she has shared for the past five years.

Miller ensures that the club is run efficiently and diligently, providing committee members with detailed information. She is also responsible for grant applications to help teams participate in their competitions without financial burden.

John Kirkup – Tennis

John Kirkup was the chair of Wairarapa Tennis Association [WTA] from 2014-2022, and also had five years on the committee.

Kirkup developed the WTA from a group of club managers to a functioning strategic committee with strong job definitions and accountability. He provided first-class financial management and administration to take them from a break-even position to now allowing the current association to be able to invest in our junior and senior programmes.

Kirkup improved alignment and interaction across the six clubs with sometimes competing demands. He supported technical coaching development, which has seen growth from two coaches to seven local technical coaches servicing the schools and clubs across the region.

Kirkup also provided the WTA with good recruitment practices, which has ensured there is strong and capable management.

Tim Stevenson – Football

Tim Stevenson has been president of the Greytown Football Senior Club and has guided the club through a massive surge in growth.

When Stevenson took over five years ago, the club had three men’s social teams. When he stood down at the end of 2022, the club boasted five senior men’s as well as two teams in the Wairarapa women’s league.

The men’s first team left its ‘social’ tag behind and joined the Capital Football Leagues in 2021 and last year secured promotion to Capital division three in just their second year.

Under Stevenon’s stewardship, the club grew substantially to have over 160 registered players by last year.

Chris Cogdale
Chris Cogdale
Chris “Coggie” Cogdale has extensive knowledge of sport in Wairarapa having covered it for more than 30 years, including radio for 28 years. He has been the sports guru at the Wairarapa Times-Age since 2019.

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