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Sue O’Brien will continue keeping “badminton fit” after 45 years. Photo: GORDON PREECE

Badminton life member honoured

The Badminton Thames Valley Junior Player of the Year trophy was renamed in honour of Sue O’Brien for her 45-year service.
Sue was made a Badminton Thames Valley life member in October last year and told The Profile she was “quite overwhelmed” but was “very honoured”.
“I thought it was an appreciation of all the years, I’ve always been passionate about the sport and it’s good when someone can say you’re doing a very good job,” she said.
“I first came to Waihī in 1976 from Auckland and was looking for something to do and I was actually wanting to join the tennis club but it was winter in 1977 and I met someone named Rhonda Kneebone, who said ‘would you like to come play badminton?’

“I actually didn’t know what badminton was and I had never played it before so I came along to the day club and a year or so later I joined the affiliated night club in Waihī and that’s where it all started really.”
Sue said she had been a Badminton Thames Valley committee member, secretary, acting president, a tournament organiser, coordinator for the Thames Valley Masters team, and her main highlight had been coaching between 200 and 300 juniors.
“When I’m coaching in Waihī I try and put enjoyable fun things in, they run around the gym a few times to warm up and then stand against the wall and do some exercises and then we go through all the different strokes that they need to know when they’re called,” she said.
“Then I have helpers – my main helper is Helen Brady who’s from our Waihī Badminton Club, and we show them how to serve, and then for half an hour at the end they have games.
“So it’s kind of a fun learning environment which I think is important for kids.”
Sue said some juniors she had coached went on to compete in senior Thames Valley teams and national teams. This included Taurian McConochie, who was the first recipient of the O’Brien Trophy for Junior Player of the Year in 2022.
Sue said she had also enjoyed keeping “badminton fit” while competing individually and with Waihī Badminton Club and Thames Valley Masters and Veterans teams.
“That was probably the highlight playing the interclub [for Waihī] because you really had to get into it, know the rules and play properly,” she said.
“As time progressed I played for the Thames Valley Masters in the number one team and I played that for a few years and I loved that and I still compete with the Veterans when they need me.
“I play for enjoyment but I’m competitive when I’m out there and I’ve won a few things over the years but I think keeping badminton fit, being dedicated to the sport and if you’re passionate about your sport you’ll always do well.”
The 75-year-old said she had no plans to put down her racquet.
“Every year I ask myself can I play? but i’ll be back this year and I’ll continue paying for as long as I can,” she said.
“I think if you stop when you’re older you can’t pick it up again, so you need to keep on no matter what.”