At 50 and 60-years-old, respectively, Nelson footballers Kate Redgrove and Richard Kirby have been showing up players less than half their age on the pitch this season.
Kate plays for FC Nelson’s division two side while Richard represents the Richmond Athletic Stags in fourth division.
The pair are the oldest registered players in the region.
Kate says it has been quite a journey to become a Nelson Football ‘legend.’
She wasn’t allowed to play football at school in England during the seventies simply because she was a girl.
“I petitioned the headmaster and they finally let me play in goal, but it wasn’t what I wanted, I’d just stand there while the boys had all the fun.”
She says she has always been more of a musician than a physical person, but at 45-years-old she dropped 24kg.
“I just wanted to lift my mood a bit, it was probably a bit of a midlife crisis, but I realised I could return to football.”
Kate says she encountered a fair bit of unpleasantness from other players during her first season in Christchurch, roughly thirty years after her last game.
She says, due to her age, everyone assumed she had been playing football all her life.
“The reality was I was brand-new and once they realised that, they were very open about their disappointment.”
Memories of the Christchurch environment faded fast at FC Nelson when she joined the club after moving to the city at the end of 2016.
“My age isn’t an issue, these 16-year-old girls don’t see me as an old person, they see me as a teammate.”
Kate says she just kept “cracking on” and eventually found her confidence on the pitch.
“Now I think I’m producing something really useful for the team.”
Kate says her side got off to a shaky start without a coach, before a former All White took the reins in mid-May.
Peter Simonsen represented New Zealand 11 times between 1978 and 1985 and was part of the 1982 World Cup squad.
“He has a very good understanding for what we’re all about.”
While Kate is still new to the game, Richard has been playing football for more than 45 years.
“I grew up playing with Africans, so they taught me a fair few skills.”
He then went on to captain the Waimea College 1st X1, represent Wakefield FC, Christchurch University and Wanganui Athletic. He then went on to spend twenty years in Manawatu.
Richard came to Nelson 18 months ago and joined the Richmond club.
“It’s a great club, it is well run, and I’ve really enjoyed being here.”
He says his experience is his greatest asset.
“I don’t have the edge in speed that the younger ones have, but it’s just about trying to guess where they might go.
“There has been many a young person frustrated with me because they think ‘oh, here is a grey-haired old guy, he will be an easy beat.’”
The two footballers have recently been given ‘legend’ status by Nelson Bays Football but both were quick to dismiss that particular label.
“I’d be a legend if I got through a whole season without getting injured,” laughs Kate.