First female president

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Darion Gray is Celtic Rugby Club’s first female president in its 100-year history.

Ashburton-raised, she follows in the footsteps of previous president Kevin Donaldson and before him, Paul Summerfield, who was in the role for many years.

Darion’s association with Celtic goes back 18 years and began when her son Cathal joined the Under 6 team.

She managed Celtic’s youngest team for a while and later her daughter Eimear played for the club.

She was the JAB club captain for many years.

“I’ve loved my involvement with the club over the years.

“It’s family-friendly, very sociable and there’s a lot of good people involved.”

Darion said there was plenty of knowledge and support to call upon in her role as president and generations of players and supporters at the club.

Celtic, which has Marist affiliations, has around 400 players across all grades.

The club owns and maintains its own grounds off Keenans Road and financially it ticks over well.

Regular fundraising helps pay for the likes of insurance, mowing and fertiliser expenses and maintenance.

“A rugby club is an expensive place to run and costs are ongoing, but a lot of people get involved to support us.

“Club members put up their hand to help out in the bar or kitchen at home games, which is an important source of funds,” Darion said.

The other good thing about Celtic was that it was community-focused and funds raised over the years had supported food drives, women’s refuge and other local charities.

Darion played school rugby at Ashburton College in her youth and has always had a keen interest in sport.

She spent an extended 12 years overseas on her OE, living in the UK and Ireland, and met her future husband, Kieron.

The pair moved to New Zealand in 2001 and settled into life in Ashburton.

Darion works as a sports co-ordinator at Ashburton College, but spends a decent amount of her free time involved with Celtic.

The length of her term as president is undetermined, but she is looking forward to seeing the upgrade of the women’s changing shed, which has been made possible through a grassroots rugby grant and will involve club volunteer labour.

Looking ahead, an upgrade of the main men’s changing rooms is also planned.

-By Mick Jensen