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OBITUARY: Ethna Rouse

If records were to be kept for cramming as much sport as possible into a lifetime, New Zealand Test representative Ethna Rouse would surely rank amongst the top echelon.

Rouse, who passed away last week aged 85, played one Test and three One-Day Internationals for New Zealand, and 19 years for Canterbury, after making her debut as a 16-year-old in 1953-54.

A left-hander, she played in the first Test of the New Zealand team’s 1971-72 tour of South Africa, scoring 1 and 35, and three ODIs in the 1973 World Cup in England, with a highest score of 48 against England at Exmouth.

Playing out of the Western Women’s club and, following amalgamation, the Lancaster Park club, Rouse (nee Woods) was a fixture in the Canterbury team until her retirement in 1973, scoring two first-class centuries and one List A hundred.

Her marriage to Jack Rouse threw her into an acclaimed Canterbury sporting family.

Jack’s sister Mary also played Test cricket; another (Jean) played for Canterbury, and Ana Tini – who married Jack’s older brother, played for New Zealand in the 1956-57 Australian Women’s Championship.

Quite apart from her playing career, Rouse gave great service to the game as an umpire and coach and can be credited for introducing the great Debbie Hockley to cricket after persuading her to play for the Western club as an 11-year-old.

Hockley, who made her first-class debut as a 15-year-old and went on to become New Zealand’s greatest women’s player, remembers Rouse as a strong character with firm opinions on how to play the game, and the strategies within it.

“I was so lucky to have that experience from the start,” said Hockley. “Ethna was the first to get me interested – I think she sent an open invitation to my school, to which I responded.

“If it wasn’t for her, I might have gone off on a completely different tack, playing softball or something else, so I’m very grateful to her for starting me off.”

Rouse was also a keen netballer, playing premier club level in Christchurch, coaching Canterbury age-group teams and Canterbury Country, and was a New Zealand Netball-qualified umpire.

Throughout this time, and right up until she was 80, she also played tennis. Daughter Jo Utley said her mum treated this as her “fun” sport, and in her younger days, as a way of keeping fit for cricket.

“Mum just loved sport; she knew it, understood it, and was really good at it,” said Utley.

“For someone who only stood about 1.57m tall, she was quite strong; had a good throwing arm and was really fit. She had great hand-eye co-ordination and was a deep thinker when it came to strategy and tactics.”

Rouse was selected for the New Zealand Test side in 1971-72, first touring Australia before continuing to South Africa for what was a controversial series at the time – the side was the last international cricket team to visit apartheid South Africa before reunification in the early nineties.

Utley recalled how difficult it was for women in that era to find the time and resources to play sport, particularly in terms of touring overseas.

“There was just no time. In those days women were expected to look after the family and household affairs and my mum was no different,” she said.

“As well as bringing up myself and my brother, she was an excellent dressmaker and sewist – making wedding gowns and frocks, which helped with the finances.

“She was a strong character. She wasn’t afraid to speak her mind; had firm values and loved teaching and coaching – she had a real ability to impart knowledge and connect, especially with youngsters.

Rouse was an honorary member of New Zealand Cricket and, in 2004, received the QSM for service to the community.

She is survived by her daughter Jo and three grandchildren.

Her funeral will be held at 1pm on Tuesday at the chapel of John Rhind Funeral Services in Richmond, Christchurch.

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