Smooth operator

Well organised: Toni Robinson, one of the driving forces behind a thriving Marlborough touch module
Well organised: Toni Robinson, one of the driving forces behind a thriving Marlborough touch module

There's a good reason that touch is one of the biggest and most popular sports in Marlborough.

It's very well organised and administered and one of the driving forces behind its success is Toni Robinson.

Like most helping out in grassroots sport, Toni got involved because of her children, Courtney and Logan.

Her interest developed from there and she has now served on the committee for six years, is the Marlborough Touch president and has been appointed manager of both the New Zealand men's under-21 team.

She is in charge of the logistics of organising the team's travel and accommodation for the Super Trans-Tasman tournament in Auckland in February, where they will compete against Australia. Marlborough's Blake Parata is a member of that team.

Both of Toni's children are highly-promising players.

Courtney is a New Zealand under-15 rep and Logan is a Tasman under-15 player.

Dad Lyndon Robinson, the Marlborough Rugby Sub-Union JAB president, is also involved as co-coach with Elsie Elkington, of the Marlborough under-13 side, and he has managed and coached several other teams.

While her volunteer work with Marlborough touch is time-consuming, Toni is not complaining.

"I love it. I love the kids. I really enjoy it. The kids make me want to do it. Just to get kids into sport is great and anyone can play touch. I even made my debut last year."

Toni's work with Marlborough Touch is considerable but she's quick to praise others instrumental in making the game thrive here.

"Julianna Pedersen-Line and Anne Taylor. They got me involved. Anne is fantastic for junior touch. She's the driving force behind it. Julianna has coached many, many kids.

"We've had eight New Zealand reps in recent years and she's coached all of them."

It's a big logistical exercise running Marlborough Touch and module manager Simone Pedersen is the one paid administrator charged with organising the senior competitions.

There are 82 junior teams with 12-a-side and about 60 senior teams catering for almost every age and ability with male, female and mixed teams and a healthy number of social and business house teams competing in a season which runs from October through to March at the Lansdowne Park headquarters.

There is a new secondary schools competition as well involving Marlborough Girls' and Boys' Colleges and Queen Charlotte College teams.

Refereeing is of a high standard under Ben Smith's direction.

Ben, Jordan Newman and Cameron MacDonald have been chosen to referee at the New Zealand Secondary Schools tournament in Hamilton from December 7 till December 9.

Toni loves that her chosen sport caters for such a wide diversity of people.

"The social grades are huge and so is Business House. Lots of families, friends and workmates play together."

Born in Auckland, Toni considers herself very much a Marlburian, having moved here as an 8-year-old.

Netball was the sport she excelled in during the 1980s. Out of the College Old Girls' Club she represented Marlborough at age-group levels, playing mainly goal attack and goal shoot, and played volleyball for Marlborough Girls' College under legendary coach Roy Titheridge.

While touch occupies a lot of her spare time, the Robinsons are keen caravaners, their favourite holiday spot being Momorangi Bay. Oh, and if you want a great haircut, Toni is an experienced hairdresser at the Barber Shop in Blenheim.

The Marlborough Express