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First Silver Ferns captain to join Maori Sports Hall of Fame

The 2009 Maori Sports Awards will honour the late Margaret Matangi for her achievements in netball, most notably her history-making role as the captain of the first New Zealand national netball team in 1938. Margaret Kahurangi Matangi (Iwi: Te Ati Awa; Marae: Owae (Puketapu) (Bell Block Taranaki)) was born in New Plymouth in 1911, the second of 12 children to Tioro and Hinehau (nee Karena) Matangi.

Margaret was educated at Bell Block and Fitzroy schools before attending New Plymouth Girl's High School because, as she later explained, "We were from a farming family, but I was schooled in town, because my parents wanted us to have every opportunity."

Her athletic talent was revealed when Margaret won the New Plymouth Girls' High School senior athletics championship as a third former and for the next three years.

After secondary school Margaret enrolled at Auckland Teachers Training College. Meg, as she was now known, represented and captained basketball (netball) teams for Taranaki, Wellington, Auckland, Auckland University and New Zealand Universities.

In July 1938 she was selected to play for and captain the first ever New Zealand netball team to compete in Australia.

When Meg finally completed her training, her first teaching role was at Auckland's Grafton Primary School, then as a sole charge teacher at Tarata Primary School in Waitara, and then back to Auckland, where Meg gained a reputation as a fine teacher of special needs and IHC classes. Specialist training in this area took her to Christchurch before her return to Auckland where her work for the intellectually handicapped was recognised with the first Rotary Club of Auckland Vocational Award.

In 1976 Margaret Matangi was awarded an MBE, personally presented to her by Queen Elizabeth II in February 1977.

Margaret died in Hawera on 2 August 1990, aged 79 years, and is buried at the Hawera Cemetery.

She will honoured with posthumous induction to the Maori Sports Hall of Fame at the 2009 Maori Sports Awards, presented at the Telstra Clear Pacific Events Centre, Manukau on Saturday 5 December and screened on Maori Television on Sunday 6 December at 9.00 pm.

Slideshow Image: The first Silver Ferns: the 1938 New Zealand Basketball (Netball) Team. Captain Margaret Matangi is seated, third from the left. (PHOTO: NNZ Archives)