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Netball cancelled in memoriam

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GONE TOO SOON: Harbourside Netball chief executive Helen Dodge died unexpectedly on Monday.PHOTO/SUPPLIED
GONE TOO SOON: Harbourside Netball chief executive Helen Dodge died unexpectedly on Monday.PHOTO/SUPPLIED

Netball games today and throughout the last week were cancelled to mark the passing of a local who dedicated years of her life to the sport.

Harbourside Netball chief executive Helen Dodge died unexpectedly on Monday after suffering from a brain aneurism at the age of 55.

A funeral was held in Tauranga on Thursday and another service will take place today in Gisborne, Mrs Dodge's hometown.

Family friend Antoinette Rolls said local matches had been cancelled because of her passing but "she wouldn't have been happy about that".

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"You didn't cancel netball for anybody, not even her."

In a eulogy given at the funeral, long-time friend and Harbourside Netball Centre board member Christine Young described Mrs Dodge as "one very special lady".

"Helen described her volunteers as 'ordinary people doing extraordinary things' but in fact this is Helen who was a humble, modest, one of a kind, truly loved, best friend and extremely respected by us all," she told those at the Tauranga service.

"Helen, you are our matriarch and you have left not just a hole but a huge crater in our lives. This will never be filled. But one thing is guaranteed, your legacy will live forever at Harbourside Netball Centre."

President of Netball New Zealand Bev Douglas also spoke at the funeral and said she had a "make it work attitude".

"Helen gave her life to netball," she said. "I have only known Helen for a very short time and my own special thoughts are of a woman with a beautiful smile and welcoming presence. One that I will never forget. Someone who can reach out to people ... She loved all aspects of netball from her babies (ANZ future ferns) to senior and rep players.

"Helen Dodge, a life too short, but one that has had a huge impact on so many others."

Shirley Hooper, a locally based Netball New Zealand director, told the Bay of Plenty Times Weekend Mrs Dodge would be missed "enormously".

Mrs Dodge was elected on to the board of Netball Waikato Bay of Plenty Zone about four years ago, Mrs Hooper said.

"She was fantastic at that. She was really wise. She was one of those people who quietly got on with things," she said. "She made quiet observations that you always knew to listen to because they were sound and based on very good intuition.

"I have huge admiration for what she did."

Mrs Hooper had known Mrs Dodge for about 10 years and said she would be missed by many people.

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"She had such a mana about her. She had an army of volunteers to do all matter of things and she never wanted the limelight. It was never about her. It was always about her team.

"The [Harbourside netball] centre's like a family. They will miss her enormously."

Chairman of Netball Waikato Bay of Plenty Zone John Wiltshire said she was able to bring her expertise from grassroots netball to the board table and was able to give a lot of input into both community and high performance netball.

"When she said something, you listened. She was a very influential person," he said.

"She was also a very modest person so she'd never be blowing her own trumpet."

She rolled up her sleeves and got stuck in setting up before Magic games in Tauranga and also set up a programme to allow disabled people to play netball, Mr Wiltshire said.

"It will be a tremendous hole. We're still in shock.

"We had a board meeting a week or 10 days prior. The fact that next time we meet she's not going to be there is something we can't get our heads around," he said.

"She was a great sort, just one of those people who lights up a room ... even though she never would have acknowledge it, she just made a difference."

Netball Waikato Bay of Plenty Zone chief executive Tim Hamilton said Mrs Dodge was an iconic figure in the sport in the wider zone area.

She helped the organisation to grow and was central to holding Magic games in Tauranga. She always got stuck in and nothing was ever too hard, he said.

"Her life and her contribution has been cut way too short ... she'll be sadly missed."

Mrs Dodge is survived by husband Bruce, daughter Lisa and grandchildren, Michael, Kadon and Ashton.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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