Like Thatcher, Irene van Dyk is not for turning

HAMISH BIDWELL
Last updated 15:04 05/06/2014
Irene van Dyk
Getty Images
SHARP SHOOTER: Irene van Dyk is a big loss for NZ ahead of the Commonwealth games, according to Belinda Colling.

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There was an air of Margaret Thatcher about Irene van Dyk, as she arrived at Waimarama Taumaunu's Wellington office to announce her retirement from international netball.

Thatcher, the former British Prime Minister, famously stated ''the lady's not for turning'' on the issue of economic reform.

Van Dyk had come to tell the Silver Ferns coach she was retiring from the international game and, it was soon clear, wasn't about to be talked into a U-turn either.

''I's came to see me yesterday and we talked and I respect her decision. She is someone I care about greatly and respect her decisions, so I agreed that it's something she should do,'' Taumaunu said, referring to van Dyk by her nickname of I's for one of the very rare occasions.

Van Dyk had decided her Central Pulse form didn't warrant Silver Ferns selection and that she would bow out of the international game, after a career spanning 20 years, on her own terms. She was in no way pushed, said her coach.

''I wouldn't do that to I's. This is her decision,'' said Taumaunu.

Instead she listened, saw the determination in van Dyk's eyes and thanked her for everything she'd contributed, on and off the court, for so long.

The coach had been among the many who assumed van Dyk, who turns 42 later this month, would carry her remarkable Silver Ferns career on until the 2015 world champs. So calling time seven weeks out from the Commonwealth Games came as a shock.

Apart from being inspired, amused and astonished by van Dyk over the years, Taumaunu described the goal shoot as ''a great friend.''

Like many, Taumaunu also hoped van Dyk would not be lost to the game.

''I don't remember a lot about the conversation yesterday, but I do recall very clearly saying 'I hope you coach one day'. She's done a couple of guest coaching things for me, in other forums, and she's wonderful.

''That lovely personality and wisdom she brings from years of experience are very obvious when she coaches. I think too, that in terms of the legacy she leaves, the most obvious is that she raised the bar in terms of shooting accuracy and how hard people worked to achieve those levels of shooting accuracy.

''Before she started playing here [in 2000] it was probably appropriate to say New Zealand shooters were around the 80 percent mark - that was considered a good performance - and Irene's lifted that by 10 percent.

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''People like Maria [Tutaia] and Cathrine [Latu], that's what they grew up seeing. So it's been very, very influential.''

It will be off the court that her presence is first felt. The wider Silver Ferns squad assembles on Monday, ahead of the naming of their 12-strong team to attend the Commonwealth Games the following day.

Van Dyk has been the heart and soul of that team so long that a period of adjustment will be necessary.

Taumaunu mentioned the likes of the Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic's Ellen Halpenny and Bailey Mes from the Northern Mystics as other shooters who now come into the mix, as well as incumbents Latu, Tutaia and Jodi Brown.

Mes and Halpenny have been part of previous ''cluster camps'' this year, but no-one expected them to actually end up in the team.

''If you told me I'd be handing in a Commonwealth Games list at some point that didn't have her [van Dyk's] name on it, that would've surprised me,'' Taumaunu said.

- Stuff

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