Kelly Henderson: Matamata publican by day, 'golden' netballer by night

Kelly and Jacob have passed the love of sport to their two children Freddy and Mae, who played junior rugby for Hinuera.
Sandra Hunter

Kelly and Jacob have passed the love of sport to their two children Freddy and Mae, who played junior rugby for Hinuera.

Kelly Henderson lives by the theory 'if you don't use it, you will lose it' when it comes to playing netball, as reporter Rexine Hawes discovers for our Women in Sport series.

On a Saturday morning during the Waikato junior rugby season, you will find Kelly Henderson cheering encouragingly for her two children Freddy, 7 and Mae, 5.

During the week, she is alongside her husband Jacob at their Matamata business Redoubt Bar and Eatery, organising rosters, motivating their team and chatting with their clientele.

Matamata's Kelly Henderson balances owning a business, raising two children and playing in the Thames Valley netball league.
Rexine Hawes

Matamata's Kelly Henderson balances owning a business, raising two children and playing in the Thames Valley netball league.

She is known for her easy smile, warm welcome and easy-going nature.

However, on a Friday night she swaps nurture and career for speed and agility on the netball court.

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Kelly (right) and Grace Taylor, playing for their Hinuera team. Kelly says she is competitive by nature and playing ...
Lawrence Gullery

Kelly (right) and Grace Taylor, playing for their Hinuera team. Kelly says she is competitive by nature and playing netball is a chance to just be herself.

Henderson is a member of the Hinuera Redoubt "Gold" team in the Thames Valley A Grade competition.

"Gold as in the Golden Girls," she laughs, "because we are the 'older' girls."

The "older girls" tag had no impact on performance though, as the Hinuera outfit won the A Grade league this year, for the third year in a row.

Hinuera Gold have won the A Grade in the Thames Valley league three years running.
Lawrence Gullery

Hinuera Gold have won the A Grade in the Thames Valley league three years running.

The team used to play in Headon Stadium but as the stadium has degraded over time, moisture on the courts made it dangerous to play on.

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They now call Silver Fern Farms Event Centre in Te Aroha their "home" court.

And a place where she can just be herself.

"...not be a mum, not a publican, just be yourself and test each other.

"As a mother and being in hospitality, I am expected to be nurturing and friendly and welcoming.

"That is me most of the time, but I am competitive by nature and when I am on a netball court I can be that."

Research from Sport Waikato and Sport New Zealand showed only 20 per cent of women were members of any sport or physical activity club, compared with 35 per cent of men.

Sixty-five per cent were interested in taking up a sport, but the study showed a perception that women did not have the time.

Henderson's connection with netball in Matamata came when she and Jacob moved from Te Awamutu in 2006, to open Redoubt.

She was spotted by Jackie O'Reilley who umpired her when she played at Te Awamutu and invited to play netball for the MDD (Matamata Directional Drilling) team on a Saturday morning.

Henderson has played netball since primary school. Aside from a short break while she and Jacob travelled overseas, she put the sport on hold for a few years after Freddy's arrival in 2010.

"After a few years I wanted to get back in to it. It wasn't a priority with my first child.

"But I got back in much faster after Mae was born.

"After some Saturday netball, I decided to step it up and joined Hinuera, I like to challenge myself.

"We chose that club as Jacob was playing rugby with them and they were so welcoming.

"I just love the girls in our team and it's because of them I play.

"They are a group of women who have played for a long time. They know everyone tries their best, no one is perfect, there is never negative feedback.

"They are all busy, they do it for the love and camaraderie of the team."

Competitive by nature, Henderson says once that whistle goes she is totally focused on the game.

But she leaves it all on the netball court.

"It's tricky when you are playing people you know. We play the UMS girls, whom I adore, but on the netball court, you have to put that aside and they love it as much as us.

"When the game finishes, you have a cuddle, kiss, a laugh and that's it."

Passing along a love of sport to their children was important to both Kelly and Jacob. Freddy and Mae have embraced it as much as their parents.

Mae and Freddy have just completed their junior rugby season with Hinuera Rugby and Sports. Mae, the only female player in her team, was in Ripper Rugby and Freddy in Tackle.

Henderson says team sports teaches them valuable skills that they use on and off the field.

"Team sport is such part of Kiwi mindset, to learn that every person has a role, whether you are the fastest, or the best tackler."

She could potentially see herself on the sidelines coaching Mae if she decided to segue from junior rugby into netball.

As a former teacher, she has the natural ability to motivate and lead - but has no desire to coach a womens team.

"I would much rather enjoy the game than tell other women how to play," she said.

Playing is her first love and one she wants to keep up as long as she can.

"I can't imagine my life without sport.

"I am running on the 'if you don't use it, you will lose it' theory. I think if I stop, things may seize up.

"If I gave it up, it would be an injury or if I thought I was dragging the team down.

"My mum is going to Nepal, to go walking up the Mountains. She is 74. I think if she can do that and still go to the gym, then that's gotta be me too."

 - Stuff

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