ABOVE: Andy Rowe with fellow Marlborough administrator Denise Lloyd. Credit: Stuff Ltd.
Andy Rowe led Kiwi efforts to bring world-class hockey to our shores over the past decade. But the Air Force engineer from Blenheim has never forgotten that the grassroots is what drives and grows our game.
For someone who has chaired the Major Events Committee since its inception you’d think the highlights of Andy Rowe’s 10 years on Hockey New Zealand’s Board would feature a shopping list of world-class events that we’ve hosted.
From the last minute request from the FIH to host the 2011 Champions Trophy to the new FIH Hockey Pro League which New Zealand has been a successful host of since it started in 2019, we’ve certainly stamped our mark on world hockey events in the past decade.
Despite being one of the main drivers behind our hosting successes, Rowe knows what he’s most proud of and that’s the growth of our grassroots game over the 10 years pre-Covid.
“We’ve achieved 11 years of year-on-year participation growth. We’re the only sport in the country that I’m aware of which has done that through all the ups and downs of the last decade.”
“The Vantage Black Sticks and our big events are absolutely crucial and they’re our flagship but it’s really important we stay in touch with the grassroots that drives and grows the game.”
Rowe, who finishes up on the Board at this month’s AGM, knows his grounding in the grassroots game stems from the fact he is one of only a few Hockey NZ Board members to come one of the country’s smaller Associations – Marlborough.
“When I put my name forward I saw representation from smaller associations as a gap in the Hockey New Zealand Board. We can be geographically isolated, most of our good players will eventually leave, and we might think differently.
“But none of us know all the answers. You just have to have a pragmatic view of what’s best for the sport”, says the aircraft engineer.
“In engineering you have to find a solution. You can’t make the piece of steel go somewhere it doesn’t want to go so you have to compromise and find a way around things with an end goal in sight.
“Just a dumb engineer” but a deep thinker
Rowe jokingly describes himself as “just a dumb engineer” but those who have worked closely with him describe the Marlborough man as a deep thinker who will always ask the insightful questions. They also say he has a really open and engaging style with an ability to connect with all.
“I enjoy people. I like to enjoy what I’m doing and that rubs off on people around me. I enjoy the way I operate and the outcomes that brings.”
“We’ve got an amazing group of people at all levels. The camraderie you get through a sport is really noticeable in hockey.”
Rowe’s love of hockey began at Otaki College before joining the Air Force and moving to Blenheim. After his playing and coaching days it wasn’t long before he joined the Board of Marlborough Hockey and was soon project managing the installation of a sand turf and years later a water turf.
“My wife Marion said she felt like she was a hockey widow. We were having the Association meetings at our house so I didn’t think that was a fair comment,” he chuckles.
The kids and grandkids all played a bit of hockey, adding “they didn’t have a lot of choice as my wife is a nurse so they had to come to hockey”.
Bringing the Black Sticks to Blenheim
One of the things Rowe believes Hockey NZ has done incredibly well is to move the Vantage Black Sticks matches around the country including bringing them to his beloved Blenheim in 2015 to play the classy Argentinian women.
“It’s given smaller areas some exposure – the Cromwells, the Blenheims and the Nelsons. The model and thinking behind it is really good. I just keep getting asked when’s the next game here in Blenheim.”
His first major event was the Owen G Glenn FIH Men’s Champions Trophy in 2011 which New Zealand took on with only a few months’ notice following the FIH’s decision to move the tournament from India.
“We got a call to say there’s an opportunity with 14 weeks’ notice. We navel gazed for about three seconds and then said of course we can. It wasn’t necessarily our best event, we’ve got better at it but for a first up it was pretty good. It was a clear case of Kiwi can-do attitude to deliver a world-class event in such a short space of time.”
Rowe says it’s fantastic to now host the annual FIH Hockey Pro League but our challenge is to increase spectator numbers once the competition returns post Covid.
Another of his achievements is leading hockey’s Strategy Delivery Review which looked at in his words “why we do what we do and who is responsible for what”.
“We’re way ahead of most sports in terms of being willing to lead a review of our own sport and make changes that are best for our players. The Performance Network came out of that.”
Rowe sees the main challenges ahead for hockey are financing the professional side of the game, and ensuring the sport’s growth is not just in numbers but in capability.
“Covid also has to change the way we think in terms of what are the things we really need to focus on. The nice to haves aren’t going to be so easy in a post-Covid world.”
While Rowe’s enjoying his semi-retirement in the Marlborough Sounds, he feels he still has plenty to give to the sport.
“I’ve put my name in the hat for a position on the Oceania Board. I’m always keen to help – I just haven’t told my wife.”
- Hockey NZ Board member 2011-2021
- Marlborough Hockey Chair and Life Member
- Marlborough representative player and coach
- Royal NZ Air Force coach and player, and NZ Combined Services coach
- Awarded RNZAF Gold Badge for contributions to hockey – highest RNZAF sporting award