Bidwell: The privilege has been all ours, Irene

HAMISH BIDWELL
Last updated 05:00 06/06/2014
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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OPINION: People have kept saying it's "a privilege" to have known Irene van Dyk.

Only she's not dead and nor is she hanging up her yellow Central Pulse dress. There'll no doubt be another obituary required when that day comes too.

Van Dyk won't play for the Silver Ferns again but, more importantly, her days as the heart and soul of that team are over.

There's the van Dyk most of us get to see and who, to be frank, can be a little saccharine. Then there's the one known by the lucky few, the one who - without giving away too many secrets - could more than keep up with the banter in the public bar.

She's a flaming character, that woman. Self-made, selfless and continually self-effacing.

She makes you feel like you're the most important person in the room, the stranger she's been dying to meet all her life.

A young Polynesian boy, maybe 10 years old, came roaring down the corridor of the Pulse's training base in Porirua not long ago. He'd turned up for indoor soccer or gymnastics or whatever and got the fright of his life when van Dyk walked by.

Shy and a bit uncertain, he'd tentatively said hello. Van Dyk greeted him the way she does everyone and, within a couple of minutes, he'd torn off to tell his mates he'd got a selfie with Irene van Dyk.

Whether it was team-mates, school kids or media types, van Dyk has always had time for them all, along with a quip that'll have you smiling quietly to yourself for the rest of the day.

It's common to hear people say she's a great advertisement for netball. But if she's a credit to anything, it's to herself and her family. The rest of it's just a by-product of who she is.

Van Dyk, husband Christie and daughter Bianca are about to embark upon an uncertain journey. Bianca is 16 and, until yesterday, had a mother who'd played international netball for 20 years.

There's been nothing but tours and camps and callous defenders and now, at least until the Pulse reconvene in December, they'll have the sort of family life everyone else takes for granted.

She and they deserve to enjoy it. To paraphrase one of her favourite sayings, van Dyk has been "putting her body on the line" for the Silver Ferns since some of her international team-mates were in primary school.

That part of her career might have come to an end on a grey winter's day in Wellington, rather than on the confetti-covered top step of a Commonwealth Games or world championships medal presentation. But van Dyk went out on her own terms and, boy, did she deserve to.

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- The Dominion Post

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