Awesome officials can transform your sport

Catching up with former Marlborough hockey player/coach Chris Leslie last weekend at the Royal Hotel in Blenheim brought back some wonderful memories of the days when our representative men's team was among the best in New Zealand.

Leslie grew up in Marlborough and played in junior rep teams but his international career was played out of Christchurch. When he came up to Blenheim, answering a call from the late Jim Cahill in 1993, he almost single-handedly transformed Marlborough hockey from a battling provincial outfit to a high of third-ranked team in the country behind Canterbury and Auckland.

Being involved covering sport in the Marlborough region and throughout New Zealand for over two decades now, I've come to appreciate the value of good administration and an ability and willingness to promote the sport you are involved with.

The Leslie example from 1993 was one of the best of how one man headed a revolution in hockey. Not long after his arrival, Marlborough got a new hockey turf at College Park. Cahill, a brilliant coach, and Leslie formed a bond which galvanised and inspired young players and what followed was multiple national championship titles.

Leslie had all the skills. He was the best player by some distance, his knowledge of the game and ability to impart that knowledge on his team-mates complimented Cahill's meticulous attention to detail and work ethic.

Leslie also excelled at one of the most important aspects of his sport, public relations. He was superb, providing indepth information making my job so much easier and so much more enjoyable and as a consequence hockey thrived.

It's going well again now with Brent Edwards having got things cracking then handing over the baton to Tony Haswell and now Marlborough hockey is again enjoying a period of success with a hard working board and a group of coaches all chipping in.

Rob Penney did for rugby what Leslie did for hockey in the 1990s when he came up from Canterbury to be the Marlborough Rugby Union CEO.

Like Leslie, he was a virtual supermarket for his sport, a one-stop shop. Although having played 100 games for Canterbury, he still led by example onfield for the Red Devils and played a major part in selection and tactics with coaches Jim Love and Tony Goddard.

As an administrator he was superb. Financially the province chugged along nicely and his public relations were second to none, keeping the media updated on virtually a daily basis and being the driving force behind match promotions and aftermatch arrangements.

It was no coincidence Marlborough enjoyed a very successful period during Penney's reign and there was a real buzz and pride about going to watch the Red Devils play in the third and second divisions.

Those two men were exceptional because they had all the skills and were still very influential players but there are numerous other examples of administrators in Marlborough sport who have made a significant impact on their respective codes.

Alvyn Meiklejohn and Roy Titheridge have kept Marlborough volleyball thriving, Titheridge as coach and Meiklejohn with his tireless administration skills.

Lynette Sutherland does a wonderful job for Marlborough football and it's no coincidence that since she took over as general manager the game has thrived, now being played virtually all year round.

Rowing has been blessed with outstanding coaches and administrators. Mark Stallard, Steve Donaldson, Marion Horwell, John Robinson, Dave Bugler, Bill Campbell are among the best in the business and their contributions over the years have encouraged many of New Zealand's top rowers to come here. Others, like Olympic champion Joseph Sullivan developed here.

Ivan Sutherland, Rowing New Zealand board chairman, Luke van Velthooven, another Rowing NZ board member. Outstanding administrators and the impressive back-up crew with the likes of Dave Williamson, Rosanne Marsden, Kay Surgenor make sure everything ticks over, on and off the water.

To those sports struggling to survive, have a look at your front office. Have you got the right person or people in place running the show and how good are your public relations because remember, coming to the news media, in my case the Marlborough Express, to promote your sport costs nothing.

The Marlborough Express