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My work Dad
Trevor is proof that sport and politics absolutely do mix.
Left to right: Seka, Mac, me, Trevor and Gail with Sisi down front, celebrating as we were FINALLY awarded our hundred game blazers for Wainuiomata Rugby Club (but that’s a whole other story).
My first interaction with Trevor Mallard would have been way back in 2002. I had just started playing rugby (organised, not in the playground) that year and Trevor was the then Minister for Sport, Fitness and Leisure. The Springboks were in town for the Tri Nations and having been a finalist for some rugby award I was invited to a function.
I am a terribly sentimental hoarder, which is why I still have this all these year’s later.
I remember attending with my coach, Marama Tauroa and that Andrew Mehrtens, despite being a bit pissed, was the kindest player there. Andrew engaged rather than patronised us as we talked rugby.
Our next interaction was when I wrote to Trevor in 2010. This was just as New Zealand Rugby had made the decision to cut the Farah Palmer Cup in a World Cup year. I had written to a number of MPs at the time but Trevor, with his daughter Beth a Black Fern herself, was the only one that replied. It was a couple of years before this, that Trevor had broken with protocol by missing the Government House ceremony for the swearing in of Ministers to make sure he was there to watch his daughter’s debut.
Then in 2015, Trevor hired me. I was a complete novice to politics having just left a career in event management but he took a punt and put in me sole charge of his Petone electorate office. It was there that I learnt how to advocate for others and came face to face with the realities of our welfare state. The two years I spent in that office, fundamentally shifted my world view. To this day, I think us members of the “squeezed middle” would be well served spending sometime in those spaces. It would help us to get over ourselves and gain some empathy for what it is like to be the crushed poor.
While working for Trevor, I learnt more about him as an MP and a person. To this day, I could not tell you his coffee order but he always knew mine. It was while I was working for him, that Trevor started coming to my rugby games. At first he would try to recruit Dad to join him but once Trevor turned up, he just never really left. Trevor flew to Napier to watch our Wellington Pride play the Auckland Storm in the 2015 final and I have never seen him more popular. What I didn’t yet understand is that Trevor knew a lot of these players, yes as Beth’s Dad but also as a loyal fan of the Black Ferns. He had made it a policy long ago that his date to the Halbergs was always one of the Black Ferns legends, that New Zealand Rugby wouldn’t think to invite themselves.
Trevor at the Halbergs with his guest, former Black Fern, Shannon Willoughby alongside Tyla Nathan-Wong
Trevor ran touch for us the whole 2016 club season. Being such a constant on the sideline, my teammates assumed he was my actual Dad. Easy mistake to make with me being one of the only pākehā in the team and what other local MP has ever cared so much about grassroots women’s rugby? This was the season he snuck out of the local Labour Party conference so he could get to our match and he would have gotten away with it had he not pulled a hammy in the second half.
Trevor marks touch back in 2016 as I shape up to throw.
During that 2017 election, Trevor managed to get leave to go to the Rugby World Cup in Ireland, where he was asked to take part in one of the Black Fern’s jersey presentations. You will still see him proudly wearing the Black Ferns jacket he was gifted at any opportunity. After the election, I headed off to play in the United Kingdom and was sure to send Trevor some merch from my English club. He wore this tie in the House on a number of occasions, despite it being unfortunately close to Waikato colours.
When Trevor called me on Monday to let me know his news, he was coy about his next steps. I assume he’d be off somewhere but he was quick to remind me that there is a World Cup here in Aotearoa to support first.
So cheers Trevor, for being the best work Dad I could have asked for. And how lucky for all of us rugby wāhine that he’ll now have even more time to be there on our sideline.