Age shall not weary her
Maria Tutaia (L) and Irene van Dyk (R) of New Zealand pose with their gold medals during the medal ceremony at the Delhi 2010 Commonwealth Games. Photo: Getty
How old is too old for women when it comes to sport?
Clearly not 40, at least not for star Waikato and New Zealand goal shooter Irene van Dyk, who chose the occasion of her milestone birthday last month to announce she has no plans to retire.
For any opposition goal keeper, the thought of marking van Dyk has always been nerve-wracking. The thought that it isn’t going to end any time soon is positively stomach-churning.
On a big stage such as this Sunday’s ANZ Championships grand final between van Dyk’s Waikato/Bay of Plenty Magic and Melbourne Vixens, even more so. Throw in the fact the Magic have lost two grand finals and never won the trans-Tasman competition and, well, you wouldn’t really want to bet against her. Even at 40.
Leaving out sports which require high degrees of skill but less athleticism, such as golf, you rarely see women playing past 35. Usually having children gets in the way, but van Dyk had her daughter when she was in her 20s and returned to the game.
Australian basketballer Michele Timms was 35 when she won silver at the Sydney Olympics. The former Australian netball captain Sharelle McMahon, 34, plans to return to her sport after serious injury and then pregnancy. The current Australian vice-captain Catherine Cox is 36, yet still has much to offer her young teammates. Kiwi great Temepara George retired last week at 36. Layne Beachley was 34 when she won the last of her world surfing titles and now at 40 watches on as Stephanie Gilmore mows down her record.
But for van Dyk to still be at the top of her game at 40 is astonishing. She sits at the top of the goalscorers sheet for the season with 476 goals at 95 per cent and is a finalist in the player of the year.
The Magic and Vixens have met only once this season - on that occasion the Vixens won by one goal and Vixens defender Geva Mentor kept van Dyk to 25/30. The Vixens have been on the right side of a lot of close games this season - and winning close games was the difference between making the finals and watching them on TV. But the Magic have come home with a wet sail, and I like them for this one.
At the other end of the age scale …
I could have quite legitimately written about Matildas striker Kyah Simon every week for the past three months as the 21-year-old scored goal after goal for Boston Breakers in the US women’s professional league. She’s the leading scorer in the entire competition and has really established herself week-in week-out as an international class player this winter.
But that’s not what impressed me the most. It was her response to a tweet from a young fan, who wrote: ‘’I wish I was as talented and beautiful as @Kyah_Simon.’’ Instead of Simon replying ‘’Aw shucks, thanks’’, she wrote this: ‘’You don’t have to wish, #youcanbbetter’’.
There is no doubt Simon, from Quakers Hill, is ready for the responsibility of being the poster girl/role model for the new West Sydney club. She has an awfully difficult decision to make in coming months between West Sydney, assuming they have offered her a place, or remaining loyal to Sydney FC.
Let the bidding war begin.