Eleven New Zealand women, led by Dame Ruia Morrison, have been honoured for their services to sport in the 2020 Queen Birthday Honours list.

To be a Dame Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit:

Dame Ruia Mereana Morrison, MBE – services to tennis

New Zealand has never seen a women’s tennis player who’s achieved as much as Dame Ruia Morrison – in a career where she smashed barriers and helped others do the same.  

In her heyday – from the late 1950s to the early 1970s – Morrison was a trailblazer for both women and Māori in tennis.

The girl from Tikitere, Rotorua, of Te Arawa and Ngāti Tūwharetoa heritage, was the first Māori to play at Wimbledon in 1957 – the 21-year-old getting there thanks to a massive fundraising concert featuring Māori bands.

She would compete again for the next three years – making it as far as the fourth round, but even more importantly, making a lasting impression on the tennis world. She was invited to return to Wimbledon in 2013.

Morrison was a national champion 13 times – her most memorable victory over the legendary Australian Margaret Court in the 1960 New Zealand singles final.  She captained New Zealand’s Federation Cup team against five nations, and would become a coach and a mentor to many aspiring tennis players.

In 1960 she was honoured with the MBE, and she’s a life member of Aotearoa Māori Tennis and Tennis NZ, and a member of the Māori Sports Hall of Fame.

Morrison, now a sprightly 85, still lives in Rotorua and remains a big tennis fan.

Dame Ruia Morrison (centre) with the Maori King, Tūheitia Paki, at the 2020 ASB Classic to present Serena Williams with a special korowai. Photo: Getty Images.

To be an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit:

Margaret Mary Baker – services to Special Olympics

A key member of the Special Olympics since 1985, Baker has coordinated the Hawke’s Bay Special Olympics programme for more than 30 years, and travelled to World Games coaching the NZ swimming and golf teams. She organises trips for Hawkes Bay athletes to compete and raises funds for teams and events.

Mary Joan McFarlane – services to swimming

In 2019 alone, McFarlane spent 232 hours volunteering on the pool deck at national swimming events, more than any other New Zealand technical official. In a 50-year volunteering career, she started officiating at swimming events in 1970, qualifying as a national starter in 1983, and has officiated at international swim meets at the Pacific Games and World Masters.

To be a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit:

Kathleen Margaret Farrell – services to netball

Since the 1950s, Farrell has been a volunteer with netball in the Waikato – as an administrator, player, umpire, coach and manager. She established the successful Verdettes club in 1970 and a midweek netball competition. As a coach, her teams have won the national club champs and the NZ U21 title, she’s been instrumental in running club competitions at Minogue Park Netball Complex, and she’s filled many executive roles within Waikato netball.

Colleen Janice Lyons – services to netball and education

A top netball umpire and administrator, Lyons has been involved in every aspect of the game since 1965. Since becoming an umpire in 1972, she continues to control games at all levels. She’s chaired Netball Otago and been a trustee of Dunedin’s sport and recreation Edgar Centre. As a teacher – and assistant principal – at Queen’s High School till her retirement in 1982, she coordinated more than 30 netball teams every year.

Phillis Meti with the 2019 Smash in the Sun trophy she won in Phoenix, setting the world record for the longest drive. Photo: supplied. 

Phillis-Jean Meti – services to sport, particularly golf.

A three-time world long drive golf champion, world record holder and current world No.1, Meti has also represented New Zealand in discus and shot put at the 2003 Oceania Games and Youth Olympics, and at two waka ama world championships. She also played netball for the Cook Islands for eight years in the Pacific Challenge Cup. A strong advocate for youth – particularly girls – in sport, Meti teaches golf and coaches waka ama crews.

Maxine Khrona Shortland – services to netball and governance

A former top player, Shortland is a director of Netball New Zealand with 40 years of experience in netball, including manager, coach, administrator, governance and parent netball convenor. She coached Bay of Island College to win the inaugural national schools title in 1993 and again in 1994. She is also a business leader with 25 years in governance, including Global Women NZ.

Reverend Janice Ellen Stead – services to sport and the community

After playing for New Zealand in nine cricket tests between 1966 and 1972, Reverend Stead went on to promote women’s cricket to a wider community through TV and radio commentary. She was on the Canterbury women’s cricket executive and is a life member of Canterbury Cricket. She was also heavily involved in table tennis – on the Canterbury Table Tennis committee for more than 25 years and playing for New Zealand in the Australian veterans champs.

Karen Vercoe – services to sport and governance

Playing for New Zealand in rugby and touch rugby, Vercoe worked in schools as a Sport Fit co-ordinator and for an outdoor pursuits trust, and has been a Hillary role model. A graduate of the University of Auckland Business School, she’s now chief executive of the Te Arawa Lakes Trust and chair of the Data Iwi Leaders Group.

Heather Margaret Williamson – services to netball and the community

After helping establish the Tokoroa Netball Centre, Williamson has been on the centre’s management committee for more than 50 years, holding almost every role. She played for South Waikato and has coached and umpired to high levels – writing national exam papers and selecting umpires for national tournaments. She was Sport Waikato administrator of the year in 1995.

The Queen’s Service Medal:

Vanessa Ann Taylor – services to bowls and the community

Taylor has been recognised for her significant contribution to the Stokes Valley Bowling Club – making it more accessible and widely promoting the club and the sport. As secretary of the club for seven years, she helped Stokes Valley win Bowls NZ club of the year in 2018 and Wellington club of the year 2020, and helped raise funds to give all members a free uniform.


Suzanne McFadden, the 2021 Voyager Media Awards Sports Journalist of the Year, founded LockerRoom, dedicated to women's sport.

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