It is hard to believe Michael Paardekooper actually never played a competitive game of hockey.
The late Cromwell businessman loved the game and was a real driver of its growth in the Central Otago region.
For his efforts he was posthumously awarded the Pakistan Trophy at the New Zealand Hockey awards over the weekend.
The trophy is presented to an individual who has demonstrated outstanding contribution to the administration of hockey in the previous year.
Paardekooper died in January this year.
Those present at the awards heard how he had proudly been a big part of the Black Sticks tri-series in Cromwell last May. He was the president of the Central Otago Sports Turf Trust and was the driving force behind Cromwell’s sand hockey turf which was eventually redeveloped into a water turf. The water turf then held a tremendously successful Black Sticks Tri Nations tournament in May of 2018.
Paardekooper ensured the whole community became involved in the event with support from the Cromwell Community Board and the Central Otago District Council.
He surpassed his goal to secure $25,000 in sponsorship packages after 75 businesses took up his offer. The event and facility resulted in a great flow-on effect with growth in the Central Otago Hockey Club.
Young players took up the game after watching a week of top international hockey involving the women’s sides from Japan, New Zealand and Australia.
Paardekooper was a visionary of sorts. He saw solutions where others saw problems. He was also a community leader who supported and empowered people wherever he could.
His wife, Gai, said it was an absolute thrill to receive the award in Auckland.
Her husband had never played the game but he was a great believer in the community and how sport could help the community.
Paardekooper, along with Terry Emmitt, and others worked for many years to get a much-needed sand-based turf for Cromwell and later got a world-class water-based turf. The group built up the amenities in Cromwell and then worked hard to get businesses and local bodies in behind last year’s tournament.
It was the first time a New Zealand team had played in Otago for more than a decade and it was a coup for a place like Cromwell.
Gai Paardekooper said it was one of the first hockey tournaments played in a smaller centre which made money and had created plenty of interest in the town.
She said winning the award was a great tribute.