For the past four years, every Saturday afternoon, on the side-lines at Southbridge Rugby Club, Shona Mehlhopt has been screaming herself hoarse.
“I was the manager, then I was on the committee, and then the treasurer for 11 years, so I felt I needed a break, which has been lovely, I just came down to support the teams each week from the sideline.”
Now though, she’s back on it… so to speak. Becoming the first female president in the club’s 142-year history.
But when it sounded like there might not be anybody willing to take on the club’s top role, up stepped Shona again. “It was scary because I’d been asked but I said no, no, no but there was talk that we didn’t have one and I thought, no, I’m ready. I talked to the husband and decided that I’m ready to give it a go and stand up there for our community and our rugby club.”
The fear of being the first female president soon subsided as she looked around the district. “Another women inspired me; she was the president of the Ellesmere A&P Show and I thought if she can, I can, so that made me even more determined.”
The women of Southbridge, who can also be proud of former club junior and now Canterbury Rugby Union Vice President Julie Patterson are having no trouble with the glass ceiling; although Shona may need to keep an eye on their glass tables. “My biggest challenge? Probably keeping the committee under control… or myself haha, instead of dancing on the tables, I won’t be allowed to do that anymore hahaha.”
The news that this passionate club member is now in the hot seat was greeted with that usual country banter. “We had the school reunion, so I got it all weekend, it just went on, it was congratulations Madame President and then I was Mrs Trump … haha … it was a big weekend; my voice was very tired by the end of it.”
Although one might think the Mehlhopts will take a while to get tired of Shona’s achievements.
“It feels amazing because I’m not from here originally. I was born and bred in Wanaka, so to come here and be able to tell my parents where I’m at now, is absolutely amazing, they’re excited and inspiring.”