Shannon netball stalwart Karla Puhipuhi has been named an ANZ Local Legend for her commitment to netball in her community.
Puhipuhi was one of six people from throughout New Zealand named by ANZ as a Local Legend, introduced for the first time this year to celebrate unpaid volunteers who support New Zealand's netball players.
The award meant a $10,000 grant for her Shannon Pumas club including a courtside gazebo, tracksuits, and new hoops, plus $1000 for herself.
Puhipuhi said she and the Shannon Pumas club were grateful.
"Tracksuits are something our club has wanted since we were founded nine years ago. It was a really special moment when we wore them to our first game. They gave everyone a sense of unity," said Puhipuhi.
"This grant means that there is sustainability here; knowing that we're able to supply our teams with gear. Having a gazebo to put up for our older community members, young kids or officials is going to be amazing. I can't wait to put it up," she said.
Puhipuhi was nominated by her sister Lyndal Puhipuhi, because of her long-standing commitment and efforts that ensured that netball thrives in the Shannon community no matter the player's socioeconomic position or skill level.
"Karla has been involved with community netball for 14 years. She restarted the Shannon Pumas and created an open-to-all summer league - all with a whanau-friendly environment," her sister said.
Karla resurrected the Shannon Pumas in 2017 after noticing secondary school students didn't have anywhere they could continue playing netball after leaving high school.
It would have meant travelling to Levin or Palmerston North and joining clubs there if they wanted to play, and many were without transport.
Puhipuhi said she had always been passionate about netball and understands the connection between playing sport and improved wellbeing.
"There's definitely a correlation between mental health and sport. Looking at the kids these days they're dealing with so much, but sport is a release for them," she said.
"Netball has been my passion since I was young. The reward is seeing them have that lightbulb moment. It's the excitement from that and that they keep coming back to netball practice."
"I've been coaching for 15-plus years now. I love being able to pass on the knowledge that has been given to me."