Over the next few months, sports reporter Jonty Dine is putting the spotlight on our off-field superstars. These people work tirelessly to make sport in our region happen – without trophies or medals to recognise their efforts.
In the 39 years Judy Totoro has been a scorer for the Nelson Giants, she has missed just a single game.
Only her son’s wedding could keep her from watching her beloved Giants from the scorer’s bench at the Trafalgar Centre.
The team’s number one fan, she has done everything for players – from babysitting their children, to providing baking and even a roof over their heads.
However, her involvement in Nelson Basketball extends well beyond just the Giants.
Judy has helped establish the Nelson junior basketball council, as well as several leagues, including the mini-ball league and Senior B’s which Judy recently retired from playing in after 32 years.
She, along with Pat Wadsworth, were instrumental in getting basketball into schools and creating the mixed summer league.
Not only would she help with the administration and organization, Judy also brought her toaster and tins of spaghetti every week to feed the players.
Judy is also the first to put her hand up to welcome new Giants players to the region.
“Every time imports came, I’d find out when they were coming and go and welcome them, and drop off some baking, sometimes cook a roast for them.”
She will also open her home to players in need of a bed.
Among those who lived at Judy’s include Josh Bloxham, American Josh Pace and New Zealand superstar Mika Vukona.
After the season, she will be right there at the airport to farewell them, often with tears flowing from both Judy the departing player.
“It can be really sad because you don’t know if you’re going to see them again. They are like family.”
Judy says she still keeps in contact with most of the players, through Christmas cards.
Her love affair with basketball began when her family moved to the region from Waiuru in 1975.
Among her many highlights in her scoring career include when the Harlem Globetrotters came to Nelson or when the city hosted Russia vs New Zealand.
“There was a little Russian umpire that didn’t speak English and I had no idea what I was scoring, that was one of the more stressful jobs, it was an international game!
At 72, she is also the oldest Nelson club netball player.
“I do notice I’m getting a bit slower.”
She says she will continue to stay involved in the game as long as she can.
“I just love basketball, so I’ve felt very privileged.”