The landscape of Nelson Netball would no doubt look very different today if not for its patroness Geraldine Hodgson.
The stalwart has dedicated more than 50 years to the game she loves, wearing almost every hat possible.
From player to umpire, president to patroness, her influence is entrenched in the region.
Geraldine’s legacy will also live on with an annual pre-season tournament named in her honour.
The 81-year-old was a Nelson representative player from 1960-65 and has since served as treasurer, executive, draw steward, tournament director and fundraiser, going as far as selling cakes on the side of the road to keep the club alive. She then became president in 1989 until 1995.
Despite her immense contributions, Geraldine’s passion has not wavered, and she can still be seen at Saxton on a Saturday supporting the up and coming generation of players. She is quick to dismiss her achievements and says none of it would be possible without the support of her late husband Ray.
“I was very fortunate in that my husband was just as keen on the netball as I am.”
Born in Tapawera, Geraldine moved to Nelson as a 15-year-old where she soon got a team together.
It was a different ball game entirely in the 1950s though, in fact, it wasn’t even called ‘netball’.
Known as ‘nine-a-side basketball’, young women would don a shirt, tie, gym frock, stockings and school shoes to play.
The court was unforgiving, so when tumbles did occur, they were as painful as possible.
“We had to have to good first-aid kit handy.”
Geraldine has overseen significant change in the game, including its name in the early 1960s.
“It was all basketball, and then to catch up with other countries it changed to netball.”
As the game began to grow in the region, Nelson couldn’t keep up with the demand and began creating makeshift courts in the Trafalgar Centre carpark.
Geraldine’s commitment was unparalleled, arriving at the Paru Paru Rd courts at 7.30am rain or shine, often umpiring up to five games and finishing late at night as she counted the canteen money.
Geraldine oversaw and was instrumental in the move of Nelson Netball to its current home at Saxton Stadium.
However, the humble Geraldine reiterates she did not do it alone.
“You can’t do these things unless you have a lot of support from others.”