Fun fine but winning better

Former Silver Fern Joan Harnett-Kindley has been competing in tennis at the New Zealand Masters...
Former Silver Fern Joan Harnett-Kindley has been competing in tennis at the New Zealand Masters Games since 1994. PHOTO: MILO LONG
Joan Harnett-Kindley takes playing tennis at the Masters Games almost as seriously as winning the Netball World Cup.

But the former Silver Fern’s netball days are long gone, and since her husband, Don, reignited her passion for tennis, she has carved her craft in another sport.  

The Wānaka woman, who represented the Silver Ferns from 1963 to 1971, including captaining 45 games and winning the 1967 World Cup, loves tennis, and despite a dodgy knee, she still plays twice a week and will take part in the Masters Games starting today.

Harnett-Kindley has played tennis at the games since 1994, playing mixed doubles with her husband, who one year won the men’s doubles with All Black Brian Lochore, while Harnett-Kindley won with his wife, Pam.

From singles, women’s and mixed doubles, Harnett-Kindley used to ace them all, but her escapades would be scaled back this year, after her husband could no longer participate and "at nearly 81 years of age, I do not play singles".

She will team up with long-time women’s doubles partner Penny Campbell, of Wānaka, and hopes to be in the hunt for glory.

"It’s fun and it’s competitive.

"I just don’t like playing just for the fun of it. I have to be competitive, I have to play for something — and I like those gold medals," Harnett-Kindley said, laughing.

Her collection had grown to about 20 golds, and a couple of silvers too, but it was about the social interactions as well and connecting back to her netball career.

Harnett-Kindley, who was named player of the tournament at the 1967 World Cup and was runner-up in 1963 and 1971, met a woman at a previous Masters Games against whom she played netball in Hong Kong in 1971.

"That was really interesting catching up."

She was an advocate for the Masters Games, having previously been a patron, and was delighted to see people returning after the cancellation two years ago.

"I think it’s great that so many people still want to come and do it.

"It gives them the opportunity to compete again. Anyone that was a sportsperson, in any sport, loved the competition, and that’s why I like it.

"Because it’s still a competition, but it is more on the friendly side and you do meet such a lot of new people, and enjoy some of your old people that you don’t see very often.

"It really is a great getting together time for everybody."

The Masters Games start today and the opening ceremony will be held at the games hub, at the University of Otago, tonight.