Award tops 'whirlwind' year with sports charity

MATT STEWART
Last updated 05:00 08/02/2013
LIFE LESSONS: Meghan Mutrie calls Right to Play her rudder.
ROSS GIBLIN/Fairfax NZ
LIFE LESSONS: Meghan Mutrie calls Right to Play her rudder.

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Televsion presenter Meghan Mutrie - who made a miraculous recovery from a rugby-related brain injury - has been awarded Canada's Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal for her work with a global sports charity.

The accolade took the Canadian-born Crowd Goes Wild presenter by surprise: "I was shocked - I didn't even know I was up for it."

Mutrie, 28, who grew up "playing everything", was given the award for her work with Right to Play, a charity that helps poor youths into sport and play to improve their health and develop life skills.

In April she went on a five-day "whirlwind-and-a-half" tour of west African nation Benin as an athlete ambassador for the charity. She said the trip was a watershed. "It made me a better person."

Ten months on, she is still processing the experience.

"These little kids were just having fun, not having any idea they were learning about teamwork, gaining confidence in themselves and trust in others. They were learning the exact same life lessons as an eight-year-old Canadian girl did 20 years ago."

The charity became her "rudder" in 2009 as she battled to recover from brain damage suffered while playing for the Canadian women's rugby team against England in 2008.

After a head-to-head collision with another player in a routine tackle, a brain bleed left her unable to move or speak properly.

Her mother had to fly her back from London to Calgary, where she spent more than a year learning to walk and talk again.

The injury put on hold her studies at Massey University, where she had been completing a journalism diploma.

She returned to New Zealand in 2010. She still suffers bouts of fatigue and insomnia.

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