Union role for Dearns

Mid Canterbury Rugby Union chief executive officer Tanya Dearns.

High performance sports coach and former Silver Fern, Tanya Dearns, is settling into the top job at Mid Canterbury Rugby Union.

She has moved to Ashburton to take up the role of chief executive officer.

Ashburton is the birthplace of her late-father John Cox, but she had only ever been here once before.

It was as a last minute fill-in for a speaking engagement many years ago, she said.

It was a fleeting visit.

“I like the feel, it has a good vibe,” she said, of the town since starting mid-February.

Tanya has more than 25 years experience in community-level and high-performance sport, as well as several elite netball coaching roles in New Zealand, Australia and the United
Kingdom but she still calls Tauranga home, even after living in Wellington for 14 years.

She has also worked in a government role for the Minister of Sport, been a TV commentator and a motivational speaker.

Tanya is keen to see the growth of grassroots rugby across the district which includes the addition of a Mid Canterbury Women’s Rugby Development Officer.

The role was in the pipeline before the retirement of former-chief executive Ian Patterson, she said.

Rugby faces some challenges ahead but Tanya said the opportunity to lead and work with such a proud rugby community was exciting.

“I was so jealous of rugby,” she said.

“It was the only sport in (New Zealand) that funds from the top down to grassroots. I’m
excited to be involved.”

She has no plans to reinvent the wheel but had hoped to have visited all of the clubs by
now, however covid had put a “kibosh on that at the moment”, she said.

“It’s frustrating, it’s so disruptive,” she said, of covid.

Tanya Dearns looks forward to working with such a proud rugby community.

Tanya saw the effects of covid on sport two years ago in Australia.

It played havoc on the Cairns netball competition where she was Cairns Netball operations manager, and she can see what could happen here.

There could be player shortages which end up with depleting club sides of players, she said.

“It’s a case of watch and wait.”

The Canterbury Combined Country competition, which will see four clubs from Mid Canterbury play against teams from North Canterbury and Ellesmere, is due to kick off April 9.

The end of the season is dictated by Heartland Championship play so there is not much wriggle room for any delays, Tanya said.

The championship starts August 20 with finals on October 22, 23.

There was also the start of the Watters Cup in mid-June which needed to be wound up by July 30.

Tanya has made contact with the district’s rugby club presidents and sponsors but is looking forward to some face-to-face meetings, as well as attending a few club training nights.

She has also made a point to travel around Mid Canterbury familiarising herself with the district, and its distances.

Tanya’s only time visiting Ashburton ahead of her job appointment was at a public speaking engagement at a Collegiate Rugby Club fundraiser in 2015.

The ‘It’s a funny old game’ event, organised by club stalwart Jarrod Ross, saw her appear alongside fellow speakers the late-Phil Kingsley Jones, Buck Shelford and Shane Cameron.

Tanya was a last minute fill-in for speaker Melody Robinson.

She arrived in the late afternoon, and was gone before dawn for flight out of Christchurch. Former All Black Jock Ross – who coincidentally is the most capped player for the Mid Canterbury province with an impressive 161 games – drew the short straw and drove her to Christchurch airport in the early hours of the morning, she said.

A fan of Netflix big crime series, following many sporting codes and family Wordle challenges, Tanya also likes having a family connection to Mid Canterbury.

Her grandparents, the late-Arthur Cox and Dorothy, nee Judge, lived in the district; her grandfather worked at the former-Canterbury flour mill for 40 years.

Her father eventually left Ashburton to work as a farm hand in the North Island, aged about 18 so Tanya’s closest known-family is now at Rolleston.

Husband, Grant, is based in Wellington having just started a one-year contract with Poneke Football Club as director of rugby.

It is the first time in three years Tanya and Grant are actually living and working in the same country.

The couple’s children, Kyra and Warner, are respectively in first year study at Victoria University in Wellington, and playing professional rugby in Japan. Warner, who completed
high school in Japan, played his debut game for the Japanese national side, The Brave Blossoms, last year.