Tribute to Netball legend Monica Leggat
Monica Leggat - one of the true jewels in New Zealand Netball’s crown - has passed away at the age of 86.
In a lifetime dedicated to the game, Monica was renowned for her commitment and passion across a wealth of roles – among them Netball New Zealand President, and manager of the world champion Silver Ferns and New Zealand Under 21 team.
For decades, she was the lifeforce behind Netball in the Waikato.
And across nearly 70 years, all of her contributions to the game and community were voluntary.
The woman known fondly as ‘Mons’ was famous for her organisational skills, and her quiet and unassuming way of going about her roles.
Her passion for the game was evident. Even after receiving numerous honours recognising her dedication to netball - including a Life Member of Netball New Zealand - Monica was still devoted to helping the grassroots level of the game grow.
Even last season, she could be often found at the Trust Waikato Hamilton City Netball courts on a Saturday morning either in the control tower or the kitchen, or volunteering at age-group and national tournaments.
Those who knew her – and there were legions – describe her as Netball’s “treasure”.
Dame Lois Muir, who was the Silver Ferns coach during Monica’s era as manager, remembers a woman who had a lasting influence on all those who she was involved with.
“Monica was a wonderful person, a great team manager and a friend. She brought her incredible ability of caring for people to her management style. She was always so willing to give her time – she was there for anyone,” she said.
“With Monica and I, you just can’t call it friendship. It’s deeper than that. You have your highs and lows in sport and then you have your moments. She was a wonderful person to share that era with.”
There is little in Netball that Monica has not done from administrator and manager to side-line supporter.
Originally from Nelson, a province she represented on court, Monica moved to the Waikato where she immersed herself in education as a trained teacher and in Netball.
She started on the committee at Netball Waikato in 1973, but her expertise soon saw her elected as President - a role she held from 1975 to 1997.
She played a key role in the early 1980s moving Hamilton's Netball centre to Minogue Park, where she became known as “the voice” of Minogue Park.
Monica was instrumental in the smooth amalgamation of the four unions - Waikato, South Waikato, Riverlands and Thames Valley - to form the Netball Waikato Region, and held the role of President of Netball Waikato from 1997 to 2004.
When the Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic franchise was formed, Monica was the inaugural chairperson.
But to the New Zealand Netball public, Monica was probably best known for her role as a team manager.
Her hard-working approach and meticulous planning made her an ideal Manager for the New Zealand U21 Team and the Silver Ferns, from 1985 through to 1991.
During that era, Monica helped to guide the New Zealand team to win the World Games in 1985 and 1988, and the 1987 Netball World Cup in Glasgow.
She was also well-known as a manager of Waikato representative teams.
Not only was she revered for her devotion to the team – but also for her cooking skills. And she did it all while juggling a full-time teaching role at Fairfield College, and looking after a growing family, with her husband Ian.
Her daughter Denise (“Dee”) has followed in her footsteps, as manager of the Silver Ferns and the Northern Stars in the ANZ Premiership.
Monica’s willingness to continually share her knowledge and experience from grassroots level through to the international game was one of her strongest qualities. Monica has left a lasting impact on hundreds of people across all levels of the game through her generous mentoring and support she willingly offered. She had the ability to be forward thinking and lead others through change.
She was a leader in Netball administration at a national level too. She joined the Netball New Zealand Board in 1989 and served on the Finance and Planning Committee, the Tours Sub-Committee and the New Zealand Tournament Committee.
She was also elected President of Netball New Zealand in 2001.
But it was not just the Netball community which benefitted from Monica’s desire to give back.
She was a trustee on the Scottwood Trust – which assisted top athletes with their educational fees – and a trustee for the City Sports Foundation. She was a member of the Waikato Institute of Leisure and Sport Studies Board for many years.
The accolades were many for a life well lived.
Monica’s dedication was first recognised in 1988 when she received the Netball New Zealand Service Award; she became a Life Member in 2002.
There were many recognitions beyond Netball too. In 1999 Monica was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit (MNZM) for services to netball and the community.
In 2003 she received the Halberg Trust ‘Service to Sport’ award, and in 2011 she was awarded the New Zealand Sport and Recreation ‘Lifetime Achievement’ award.
The following year, she received an honorary Master of Science (Sport and Exercise Science) degree by the Waikato Institute of Technology. She was also made a Life Member of Netball Waikato.
Her contribution to the community was also recognised with a Hamilton City Council Civic Award in 2001.
Most recently, Monica was the recipient of the prestigious Hare Puke Leadership in Sport Award at the 2018 Waikato Regional Sports Awards. This award is only presented to relevant, deserving participants, and Monica was only the fifth person - and the first woman - to receive the award.
But it wasn’t about the honours for Monica. She took great delight in mixing with those involved with the game – from players and management to sponsors and fans. She loved being involved in Netball - no task was deemed too big or too small.
Netball New Zealand send their heartfelt sympathy to Monica’s husband, Ian, and their children Peter, Anne and Denise and their extended family.