Irene van Dyk MNZM (née Viljoen; born 21 June 1972) is a South African–born New Zealand netball player. She is one of the world's best-known netball players and the most capped international player of all time.
She formerly captained the South African national netball team, representing them a total of 72 times, but moved to New Zealand in 2000 where she plays for the national team, the Silver Ferns. She became a citizen of New Zealand in 2005. She won the Halberg award as the New Zealand Sportswoman of the Year in 2003 and was again nominated in 2005.
Her move to New Zealand and almost immediate placement in their national team caused some minor controversy, as the only rule in netball at the time for players switching between nations was a ban on playing for more than one nation in a calendar year.
She lives in Wellington, but played for the Waikato/Bay of Plenty Magic in the National Bank Cup, New Zealand's former domestic netball competition which ended in 2007. She plays for the same team in the ANZ Championship which replaced the National Bank Cup in 2008. She is a primary school teacher, and has one daughter named Bianca with her husband, Christie. Irene van Dyk is a Christian and supported the "Lifeathon" fund-raising event for Christian music radio network Life FM.
A 2003 biography about her is called Changing Colours by Russell Gray. She shoots 300 goals a day just for fun. Her husband Christie analyses her play.
As a player Irene van Dyk is renowned for her peerless and consistent shooting volume and accuracy boasting shooting percentages that have rarely been seen in netball before. Her commanding height (said to be 190 cm but suspected to be a few cm taller) combines well with her natural athleticism and strong hands enabling her to dominate her opponents.
Perhaps the most striking weapon in her arsenal is the extremely wide split of her legs on receiving the ball. She uses this in order to manoeuvre herself closer to the goalpost thus increasing her chances of making the shot or rebounding upon a missed shot.
She made her debut for the South African national side in 1994 and went on to captain the side and represent them a total of 72 times. She was part of the silver medal winning South African team who beat New Zealand preliminary rounds of the 1995 Netball World Championships and went on to lose to Australia in the final.
|Irene van Dyk
Since moving to NZ Irene's game has grown dramatically with notable improvements in her ball handling/security, movement and space awareness. She is also much stronger physically than she used to be and this has only added to the nightmare image she often presents to opposing players and fans alike
On 5 July 2004 she came on at the start of the 3rd quarter of the third test match in a series against Australia and scored 24/24 to turn the match around. And then she went to Australia in November 2004 where the Silver Ferns were defeated 2-1 by a determined Australian team. Features of that series were the apparently poor quality of the umpiring, the loss of Australian Captain and Goal Keeper Liz Ellis from part of the 1st Test and all of the 2nd Test after being injured during a clash with van Dyk, and the noticeable increase of calls going against van Dyk penalising her for stepping and contacting other players.
In the winter of 2005 a one off Test was played in Sydney where the Silver Ferns would gain revenge over their old rivals from Australia. Irene van Dyk would once again be a dominant factor in the win and would cement her position as the world's greatest goal shooter especially against Australia's own formidable shooting weapon — Catherine Cox whose own form fell away after being worn down by New Zealand's Goal Keeper Vilimaina Davu. Once again the standard of the umpiring was questioned this time mainly by the Australian team and coach. Final score—50-43. Both teams then went on to prepare for their next clash scheduled for October in Auckland New Zealand.
In recent years Irene has played national league netball for the Waikato Magic and in 2005 spearheaded them to their first National Bank Cup title. Incidentally their win broke the six year stranglehold the Southern Sting had held over the competition.
In October 2005 Irene would once again rise to the occasion and help in presenting Australia with a debilitating loss. In a match notable for the loss of Australian Captain Liz Ellis for three quarters of the match, New Zealand were simply too good for Australia with their speed, ball handling, uncompromising defence and shooting accuracy.
Partnered with impressive Goal Attack - Jodi Te Huna, Irene's composure, class and athleticism came to the fore and Australia appeared to have no response to this and the overall effort of New Zealand which was at once scintillating and merciless. Final score—61-36. New Zealand would go on to record an undefeated year for 2005 including a successful end of year tour to the Caribbean where they would trounce Barbados and Jamaica and blood several newer players.
New Zealand faced Australia, the defending champions, in the finals of 2006 Commonwealth Games held in Melbourne. In that Final, Van Dyk once again performed with skill and determination in what was an enthralling battle against Australian Goal Keeper and home town girl Bianca Chatfield who gave a sterling, if ultimately unsuccessful performance, against the World's most recognisable netball player. (Liz Ellis wasn't available due to injury.) New Zealand went on to win the final 60–55, avenging their defeat in the 2002 Commonwealth Games final and claim a famous victory over the rivals. Van Dyk played an important role with her 90% plus shooting percentage steering New Zealand home. When she moved back from South Africa she had a daughter named Bianca, she was born in 1997 and has followed her mother in netball.
On September the 23rd 2009, Irene played in her 100th test for New Zealand, a 52-36 win over Australia although New Zealand lost the series 3-2 overall. In 2010, van Dyk was chosen to lead the New Zealand team in the Opening Ceremony of the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi. The 2010 Games also saw Irene van Dyk become the most capped player in Silver Ferns history, surpassing the previous number of 110 attained by Lesley Rumball. In June 2012 Irene celebrated her 40th birthday on National TV and announced she has no plans to retire.