Farah Palmer, a pioneer of women’s rugby, will become a dame

Palmer, who was born in Te Kuiti in 1972 but reared in Piopio, participated in a number of sports as a child, but she did not begin playing rugby consistently until she attended Otago University.

Initially a prop, she switched to hooker and embarked on a decade-long odyssey with the Black Ferns, where she eventually became captain and led New Zealand to three World Cup victories.

Former Black Ferns captain Farah Palmer.
Former captain of the Black Ferns, Farah Palmer. (Reference: Getty)

Throughout the course of her playing career, she got a doctorate in 2000 and began teaching at Massey University the following year.

In 2007, Palmer was appointed an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit.

Her scholastic prowess and rugby expertise led her to become the first woman selected on the New Zealand Rugby board.

Despite her remarkable success on and off the field, Palmer is hesitant about her new position.

“That was quite surprising. I felt thinking ‘why me?’” she remarked.

“All of those type of things that you ask yourself and I did hesitate for a long time before accepting, but incredibly humbled.”

The uncertainty was so severe that Palmer concealed the letter from her family and hasn’t opened it again since.

“I didn’t get past the first couple of lines,” she added, chuckling.

“I hurriedly folded it back up and tucked it back in the envelope and hid it somewhere I believed nobody could find it. It is seated there. I need to go back and have a good read of it.”

Palmer stated that while she will eventually read the remainder of the letter and become a Dame Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit, “it will take a bit to get accustomed to it.”

Dr Farah Palmer hoists "Nancy" after winning the 1998 Rugby World Cup.
Dr. Farah Palmer hoists “Nancy” after capturing the Rugby World Cup in 1998. (Based on Photosport)

“That comes with a great deal of responsibility, and I had to consider that before accepting. Not only do I represent myself, but also countless women and Minorities who have accomplished incredible feats in rugby.”

She stated that as a teen, she “had a grand vision of making a difference” but “didn’t really know what it entailed or entailed”

“Yet, the only individuals that mattered to me were Mori and women.” I had many strong women in my whnau, and being Mori was important to me, so I wanted to follow in their footsteps.”

According to the 50-year-old, rugby offered the means for this to occur.

“Playing rugby challenged how people saw women, how they should appear, behave, and be, and I enjoyed that aspect of the sport,” she added.

“I’ve taken it a step further by attempting coaching, media, player development, and governance before finding my place in governance.”

Hamish Bond
Hamish Bond (Source: Photosport)

Modern New Zealand athletes are also honored

Hamish Bond and Eric Murray were awarded Companions of the New Zealand Order of Merit for their services to rowing as part of the New Year Honours.

Bond and Murray won gold medals in the coxless pair at the 2012 and 2016 Olympic Games, setting world and Olympic records in London.

From 2009 and 2016, Bond and Murray were unbeaten in the men’s coxless pair with 69 consecutive victories. In the coxless pair, they won seven straight World Rowing Championships.

Bond was also a part of the men’s eight crew that won gold in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

He is the only New Zealander to win three consecutive Olympic gold medals. Between 2016 and 2019, he participated in road cycling, earning bronze in the time trial at the 2017 Pacific Championship, gold in the same event in 2018, and bronze in the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.

From 2004 and 2016, Murray represented New Zealand in rowing in four Olympic Games.

Paul Coll was appointed an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for his contributions to squash.

In 2022, he became the first man from New Zealand to top the Professional Squash Association World Rankings.

Coll became the first man from New Zealand to win squash gold at the Commonwealth Games when he triumphed in Birmingham.

Nathan Fa’avae was similarly recognized for his contributions to adventure racing, outdoor education, and the Pacific community, as were Zoi Sadowski-Synnott and Nico Porteous for their contributions to snow sports.

Sadowski-Synnott told 1News that she was “very shocked” to get the honor.

She said, “This is a tremendous honor, and I’m thrilled.”

“When I was a child and first began snowboarding, I was so inspired by those who came before me in every part of the sport, and it’s incredible to be in this position today.

“But sure, that’s kind of why I do it today, so that the next generation has someone to look up to and knows there is a path for them to take.”

Fa’avae is a seven-time world champion in adventure racing (mountainbiking, kayaking, and hiking) and has pioneered the sport for women in New Zealand.

Former Silver Ferns head coach Leigh Gibbs was named a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for contributions to netball, while former New Zealand Olympic Committee chief executive Kereyn Smith was similarly honoured for services to sports administration.

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