Women behind the sporting stars

16:00, Jan 06 2014
Lady Raewyn
DRIVEN: Lady Raewyn Henry says her love and commitment to sports is just one aspect of a successful marriage with Sir Graham Henry.

They make us gasp in anticipation, sigh with relief and smile as we share with them our pride. But quite often the women behind New Zealand's successful sportsmen sit quietly behind the cameras. Reporter Monica Tischler talks to the women behind two of our most acknowledged sporting stars and finds out what it takes to make a relationship work under such gruelling schedules.

Down a quiet Mission Bay street, Sir Graham Henry is busy cleaning breakfast dishes.

He makes a joke about wife Raewyn cracking the whip but knows too well it's his wife's strong and determined nature that has helped his successful coaching career.

INDEPENDENT COUPLE: Monique Shaw is dating SkyCity Breakers player Thomas Abercrombie and is eager to establish her own career.

Lady Henry agrees that a love and dedication of her own sport, netball, has helped her understand gruelling work schedules.

But admits she's not as driven as her husband.

"You can only have one of those in the family," she says.


Yet Lady Henry has still paved a successful sporting legacy of her own.

She's spent more than 50 years playing netball and coached premier teams at Baradene College, St Mary's and Carlton Netball Club.

At 65, she works as national selector for the Silver Ferns and is a member of the Northern Zone and Northern Mystics boards.

She's also taught at Kelston Boys High School, Baradene College and Pakuranga College.

While living in Wales Lady Henry took the Welsh netball team to the Commonwealth Games and World Championships.

After taking a two year break from coaching she's looking forward to jumping back on board with Carlton this year.

Lady Henry admits there's been challenges along the way including juggling fulltime parenthood with work and sport.

"It was reasonably busy in the 1970s when Graham was teaching at Auckland Grammar, running the hostel, coaching 1st XV rugby, 1st XI cricket and completing a degree part time with two young children," she says.

And things didn't slow down. When Sir Graham was coaching the All Blacks he'd spend up to 200 days a year away.

Lady Henry credits support from friends and family to getting her through.

Throughout the highs and lows of her husband's coaching career, Lady Henry has been by his side offering support and encouragement.

New Zealand's quarterfinal defeat in the 2007 Rugby World Cup was one of the more trying moments, she says.

"We were over in Wales and it was a very challenging and emotional time for the family. We talked a lot together and had to come back to New Zealand and face the media.

"The next two years I found very challenging because the media was constantly having a personal go at Graham. He found it very difficult but all I could do was support him," she says.

Despite Sir Graham's involvement with the Blues and Lady Henry's return to coaching, they are looking forward to spending some down time in their Waiheke Island holiday home over Christmas and planning a trip to France next year.

Dealing with disappointment and challenges is also something Monique Shaw has had to learn in her relationship.

The Takapuna resident met SkyCity Breakers player Thomas Abercrombie at an Auckland nightclub in 2011.

They met up a few days later and have been together since.

Miss Shaw admits it wasn't until a few dates in that she learnt of his profession. She says it wasn't daunting but made her more determined to establish a successful career of her own.

"What attracted us together is we have our own goals and aspirations.

"I'm independent and I like being my own woman as well as Tom's," she says.

The 23-year-old has an impressive list of credentials to her name too.

Miss Shaw works fulltime at GE Capital as mortgages manager and legal representative.

She has a degree in criminology and politics and is studying commerce extramurally.

She's also part way through a law degree but her real interest is youth justice.

"I have my private investigators licence so I went into finance.

"But my real passion lies with youth justice and I want to finish business and law and use my criminology to get into that."

Miss Shaw encourages women to be able to stand on their own feet.

"Quite often we get perceived as women that just live for their men but it's so important to have your own hobbies and interests as well."

Miss Shaw says it's important to provide both a listening ear and an honest opinion.

"I'm both the best and worst critic, I can be honest and listen to him."

Regardless of the ups and downs that run alongside a sporting career, Miss Shaw still remains her man's good omen.

"The first game of Tom's I went to he ended up scoring his career-high of 33 points.

"People always joke I'm his lucky charm," she says.

Western Leader