The Rugby season got underway several weeks ago and will soon be joined by Rugby league and Netball. So what better time to celebrate some of our champions of the winter. Those that inspire us all, for whatever the reason. Whether it is for their attacking brilliance, maybe their leadership skills or perhaps someone whose personality as well as their sporting prowess draws the sporting public to them.
One such person is Irene Van Dyke. The South African born goal shooting star with the golden smile and a winning personality to match her superstar status as the world’s best goal-shooter has got it all. Not only does she have a wonderful gift as a match-winner but no matter how much pressure she is put under she goes about her business with that infectious smile permanently planted on her visage. How infuriating for her opposition it must be, no matter how much they attack her to still be unable to combat her genius.
For as much as they physically pummel Van Dyke in an attempt to unsettle her, she continues to shoot at over ninety percent. And she does it with a smile. It must be oh so tempting for Van Dyke to give it back in retaliation. Most of us would surely resort to such antics. But not Van Dyke. She simply just lets her playing ability do the talking for her. The fact that she doesn’t retaliate shows just how good she is and what personal standards she maintains.
That she has been without peer now for twenty years speaks volumes for her playing ability. Not only that, but she clearly is an extremely dedicated lady to keep at her chosen sport at this high level for twenty years. And she shows no sign of slowing down, whether it is physically or mentally. And mentally, there are very few in any sports that are a match for this supreme sporting being.
Nudge, budge, you name it, Van Dyke’s opposition have tried with all their might to put her off her A game, yet she handles the pressure with supreme ease. Her rivals could plant a bomb as the goal defence and Van Dyke would still somehow find a way to shoot at ninety-five percent. Maybe send her back to South Africa, would do the job. But then, other than those few rivals, this country would be up in arms, so much is Van Dyke loved and cherished by the New Zealand public. You can’t blame them really can you? I mean, who wouldn’t like a 6ft3in blond Amazonian with a stupendous personality?
And she has clearly dedicated herself to the cause of the Silver Ferns, and, even more so, to being a great member of our society. Van Dyke could have easily come to New Zealand to achieve her netballing ambitions, and then taken off back to South Africa to live. But not for Van Dyke to do things by half measures. Instead she threw herself into becoming a proud Kiwi and, luckily for New Zealand, she has stated her intention to continue living in New Zealand long term.
Van Dyke goes about playing her chosen sport with the brilliance that comes from being a genius but, also, and more importantly, she does it all with great humility.
Irene Van Dyke, you are a true champion. For that, all of New Zealand salutes you.