Earlier this week Black Sticks hockey star and TAB Sports Ambassador Anita McLaren (nee Punt) dropped into the NZRB head office in Petone, Wellington, to catch up with some of our teams and talk about our giveback initiatives.
Having sent us a hockey stick and a signed black sticks shirt earlier in the year, members of the Marketing team planned a small surprise for Anita, by beautifully framing the gear up and getting it hung on a newly christened meeting room - the Hockey Room!
Anita will be helping us distribute grants to grassroots sporting organisations across New Zealand this year, and appreciates that the money is going to clubs that need it, who will be using it to help the next generation.
“I like that it’s not just handout with no specific purpose - it’s money being spent to infrastructure that benefits players,” said Anita.
The Nelson born veteran, now living in Auckland, recently became one of just a few players to reach 250 test caps for the Black Sticks at just 29, and has her fingers crossed that she will be selected for the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games team, which will be announced next week. She’s also just one goal away from reaching 100 goals, having scored the last minute winner in the second game against Argentina the previous week.
“I didn’t realise there was that little time - it wasn’t the flashiest goal, but I was just happy we won the game. We were battling, so it was great to win, and it was just my third game back.”
As well as being a star athlete, racing runs in the blood for Anita, with her father being a harness trainer in Nelson.
“I grew up in a rural area around horses. Dad did harness racing, particularly the summer circuit around Westport, Greymouth, Nelson and Blenheim. That was my Christmas and New Year period when I was growing up. If we had a good horse we’d send them to Christchurch or wherever, but generally we’d travel with them.”
Anita relates her early experiences getting in the sulky.
“When I was little I couldn’t reach the footrests, so I just had them on the dust sheet, pink helmet, pink glasses, and dad would chuck me on.”
Now working at King’s College in Auckland, Anita enjoys helping local communities not just with NZRB, but in her role as a sports coordinator with the well known South Auckland college. Although no one has yet reached 300 games for the Black Sticks, we’re hoping that Anita gets that opportunity - good luck Anita!
NZRB provides funding from gaming operations to grassroots community sporting organisations through sports authorised purposes grants. In the last 2016/17 Financial Year, 434 grants were made, paying over $3.2 million to support sporting groups around New Zealand. So far $1.811m has been distributed in the 2017/18 Financial Year.