For many people the Kaikoura Netball Centre is synonymous with Shelley Fissenden.
Shelley has been involved at all levels throughout the past five decades, and many will credit her with the great success and popularity of the sport in Kaikoura today.
But despite all this, and a recent nomination for the prestigious New Zealander of the Year awards, Shelley remains modest about her role.
She only learnt about her nomination a couple of weeks ago and barely had time to let it sink in before she was down at the Addington Events Centre last Wednesday night for a special ceremony, where she received an honorary medal.
The calibre of the other local heroes from around Canterbury was amazing, she says, and she was astounded by some of their achievements, in particular the younger nominees.
"I just though ‘whoa, these people are way out of my league'. I was just blown away by what other people had done."
Other nominees included taxi driver Daniel Chung, who spends his earnings feeding the homeless in Christchurch; 22-year-old Damyon New who wants to set up homeless shelters after a life on the streets; rescuers from the Christchurch earthquakes; Coastguard volunteers and Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker.
Some of this is in stark contrast to Shelley's efforts, she says, because she has just done something she has enjoyed, at least for the most part.
"I've always loved netball - it was just something I grew up with. It's something you give back to because you love it, plus I had girls who were involved in netball too, so I just kept going."
Shelley began at the centre as a young player, and was still in her teens when she took up the position of club secretary. Since then she has assumed a range of leadership and coaching roles, as well as two terms as president. Of course in that time she has built relationships with many families, and is now seeing children of previous students coming up through the junior teams.
"It has been great to see the kids develop, not just as netballers but also with skills that will hopefully help them throughout their lives."
While Shelley retired from coaching the Kaikoura High School A team this year, she remains an integral part of the centre and has promised to continue in a supportive role. Her involvement going forward will be to help train coaches to ensure a bright future for Kaikoura's netball. And they have certainly had their fair share of success.
"It is great for such a small centre that they do so well in tournaments like the South Island championships. And we are lucky here because we retain our year 9 players at the high school - in other small communities those players tend to go away to boarding school."
Two young players in the current A team, Amber Priddle and Letitia Mulally, are also reps in the Combined Canterbury Country Centres under-17 netball team, which was also an amazing achievement for Kaikoura, she said.
While Shelley downplays her importance within the centre, claiming to be just one of a number of dedicated people, her commitment over the years must add up to an incredible number of hours. And with a year-round commitment now she says netball can be a time-consuming aspect of her life.
"I guess I put it down to having a really good team, and a pretty patient husband too. I suppose he has probably realised after 40 years that it is my passion!"
- © Fairfax NZ News
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