Michaela Blyde brings us a unique interview, with her mother, Cherry Blyde.
As a young country kid growing up on a dairy farm, I never imagined my parents doing anything other than milking cows. So when I found out that my mum, Cherry Blyde, was announced in May as the first female President of the Taranaki Rugby Union, I was very surprised!
Although Mum had a short rugby-playing career, she has done many other roles in the rugby world. She’s coached me and my little brothers Liam and Cole at the Clifton club from the ages of five to under 13s, been the junior convener at Clifton, manager of the Taranaki Women’s Sevens team when I was playing, was the TRFU secondary schools liaison officer from 2013-15, and done all the uniform washing and oranges at halftime in between.
This was the perfect opportunity for me to sit down with Mum and chat to her about her new role, but also about the things that many people do not hear about. And whoever reads about a daughter interviewing her mum for a magazine?
So Mum, you are the first female president of the Taranaki Rugby Union in 136 years. How does it make you feel hearing that?
Very honoured. It’s special to be the first female president. I am very proud and hopefully it won’t take another 136 years for there to be another female in the role.
A lot of people know you as the mum of a Black Ferns Sevens player, a past Black Fern after missing out on the Taranaki netball team, and married to a dairy farmer. But give us an insight on yourself. Were you always a sporty kid growing up?
I grew up in a small town called Normanby in south Taranaki. My family were always sporty; my Dad was a very good cricket player, he represented Taranaki in cricket as a bowler and batter. My brother, Chris Sutton (or ‘Uncle Crack’ to you), played rugby for the Taranaki Bulls on 45 occasions before becoming a referee. We all participated in athletics growing up, and I guess that is when I started picking up my speed. That’s probably where you get it from!
Like kids these days at school, we all went out on the field at lunchtime and interval and played bullrush, so it was just in my nature to be a sporty person. I was always active and loved participating in some sort of competition. Netball was my first love and I played for age grade representative sides before transitioning to rugby. My first job after finishing high school was a chairside dental assistant before meeting your dad (through rugby as well) and going to dairy farming.
A common question I get asked in interviews is about who we idolised or who our role models were growing up (I always say you and Dad), but I’ve never asked who yours was? Which athlete did you aspire to be like?
I can remember when I was younger and obviously netball was my passion, so Sandra Edge was the netball player that I wanted to be like. She was an outstanding athlete. Otherwise, I was someone who wanted to do things properly and my way, so I worked hard and did the extras. I have to admit, I’ll accept defeat but I don’t enjoy it, which all four of my kids inherited!
“We have a good younger age group of females playing rugby and we are working very hard on our premier age group to be a lot more competitive and professional.”Cherry Blyde
What do you want to see different in the women’s game in Taranaki while you are President of the TRFU?
The role of the President is a governance role, so I don’t make major decisions. I am there to support the staff, support the clubs going forward. But I would love to see our women’s game grow in numbers, which it is because we have wonderful staff at the TRFU who are working very hard in growing our game. We have a good younger age group of females playing rugby and we are working very hard on our premier age group to be a lot more competitive and professional. La Toya Mason is our women’s high performance manager at the TRFU and is doing an amazing job growing our game and getting more girls to sign up to play club rugby.
We have to admit, Mum, the women of the Blyde family are dominating and receiving a lot of the spotlight. We have to claim that right!
Absolutely, and it’s awesome to see you play at the highest level possible for women’s rugby. But we can’t forget your brothers; Christopher is doing very well, following the Blyde family footsteps and farming. Liam and Cole are playing great rugby for Clifton and enjoy their careers outside of rugby too. I’m very proud of my children.
Let’s quickly talk about Dad. How has he influenced you in your rugby career?
My husband Stephen has given me the freedom for me to be able to do this. Obviously with him being ‘the farmer’, he has given me the opportunity to go off the farm and guide my children the way that I have been able to. He has been very supportive in anything that I have wanted to do, even though he was slightly apprehensive about me working in an environment that was male-dominated. Not because he didn’t think I could do it, but mainly because he didn’t want me to feel intimidated or uncomfortable in the role. With his support, I know and I feel I have the confidence to do the role, while also knowing that things at home and on the farm are getting done because he is a very hard worker – too hard, sometimes!
What’s your advice to women who are in similar roles to you in an environment that is male-dominated?
Just be yourself. I think you just need to have that belief that you can do the job well. You are there for a reason – obviously people have seen something in you and believe that you have something to offer in the environment. So be yourself, don’t be afraid to put your hand up and speak your mind. Like they say, there are never any silly questions.
Michaela Blyde is a mainstay of the Olympic champion Black Ferns Sevens and was the 2018 NZ women’s sevens player of the year.
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