Editorial: How about we honour a heroine?

Robyn Broughton.
Robyn Broughton.

Tis the season for saying thank you, the season for reflection.

Tis the season for handing out goodies, including getting your name splashed across a stand in the rebuilt Stadium Southland.

So we have the slightly quizzical decision to name one of the new stands after Invercargill Mayor Tim Shadbolt.

As was detailed in yesterday's editorial, Shadbolt's contribution to the Southland community is well documented - the fact and the fiction - but would it be churlish to suggest there are political webs being woven which are just as strong, if less obvious, than the massive steel girders which will hopefully make stadium 2.0 significantly more resilient than the pre-2010 version.

A lot of water has obviously passed under some well-mended bridges.

Suggestions that the Stadium Southland board would like to name one of the other stands after chairman Acton Smith would appear to be entirely well-meant, if a little misguided.

He worked diligently to ensure a new stadium would rise from the twisted ruins of the old one? No doubt.


Smith, a shrewd operator, can sniff the political wind. What he would smell is more than a faint whiff of self-interest, or at least the perception of it. Quite rightly, he's given the thought of having plush seating named in his stead a modest fend off.

The last thing this stadium needs, after a rebuild beset by interminable delays, is for the public to be put off by what could well be seen as an abundance of old boys' club backslappery.

The stadium, at its best, was the beating heart of Southland's sporting community. It belonged to all of us. We cheered, we clapped, we cried, we sat and watched as glories were storied.

And, more often that not, a woman sitting more-or-less impassively on the sidelines is the woman who really deserves to have her name immortalised in the new stadium: Robyn Broughton.

If anything signified Southland's emergence from the grey financial grimness of the 1990s, it was the Southern Sting netball team, with Broughton at the helm.

Broughton coached throughout a Sting era which returned seven national titles, during a decade which produced some of the most thrilling moments in Southland sport.

Yes. Time has moved on.

The stadium will be home to a new netball franchise, one which is starting to emerge from beneath the shadow of Sting's success, but that's no reason to forget those who brought us to this point.

Broughton may now coach outside of Southland, and her departure may not have been the clean exit that we might have liked, or her achievements deserved, but that shouldn't detract from her legacy either.

Quite rightly the heroes, or more aptly, the heroines of that time will be celebrated in the new stadium. That's a good thing, because too often in this country we have been slow to acknowledge and champion our champions.

For a young nation, we are strangely lethargic when it comes to acknowledging the limited amount of history we do have.

Broughton retains a significant part in this province's sporting history. Her name deserves to be attached to the new stadium as recognition of that.

The Southland Times