Melodie Robinson is the 2021 recipient of the NZRPA Kirk Award in recognition of her outstanding contribution and service to her fellow players and the game.
Her passion and commitment to rugby is long-standing which continually sees her successfully advocating and lobbying for players rights, particularly women, in the sport globally.
Already with a distinguished career both on and off the field, the mother of two constantly gives back to the game through her various governance roles. These range from grassroots with her old club College Rifles to the highest level of the international professional of the game with her appointment as an inaugural International Rugby Players representative alongside Brian O’Driscoll on the Rugby World Cup Limited Board.
The former double World Cup winning flanker has represented New Zealand in both 15s and sevens has been a ground breaker in many aspects of her life.
Her former Black Ferns teammate Anna Richards expected nothing less from Melodie.
“She is a highly intelligent woman who is driven and has made it through her hard work and sheer bloody mindedness. She has picked areas that are not easy for women to do well in and is excelling. Mel is pretty amazing. She was combative on the field and amazing fun off the field and is a great friend to me. It has been a privilege and a pleasure to know her as long as I have,” said Richards.
The proud Ngāi Tahu wāhine started out working in radio covering politics in Wellington. However, Melodie’s enthusiasm for sports continued to grow and she became a producer for xtramsn.co.nz.
The vivacious character has been a continual game changer, in often challenging circumstances. Melodie became the first female rugby commentator and host working for Sky Sports. In her role there, she covered multiple Rugby World Cups, 14 years of Super Rugby, numerous NPC fixtures, the Olympics and Commonwealth Games, Women’s Sevens and netball. Her work has paved the way for other female broadcasters including fellow players.
Former sevens star and colleague, Karl Te Nana who has known Melodie a long time, from her playing days in the Black Ferns, to working side by side with her on screen said “I think Mel’s competitive nature on the field has translated to her achievements off it.”
“To effect change, you have to be prepared to put yourself out there regardless of the consequences and despite many obstacles laid out in front of her at every corner, she has gained a seat at the top table. She not only is a leader but also a source of inspiration for women, our sports and our Māori/Pasfika people.”
While working full-time with Sky Sports, Melodie also completed a post-graduate diploma at the University of Auckland, to complement her degree in physical education from the University of Otago and her journalism qualifications.
Her passion for women’s sports saw her invited to take part in a global sports mentoring programme with ESPN in the USA after which she went on to complete an MBA at the University of Auckland. As her career flourished, she transitioned into a communications role at SKY TV.
Dedicated to empowering women in sports media, Melodie established The Wonderful Group to encourage more women and diversity in sports media. She also became the first New Zealander to have a role-model Barbie made in her likeness.
As Melodie’s career continue to progress, she was appointed TVNZ’s General Manager, Sport and Events in 2019, the same year she began her tenure on the World Rugby Player of the Year voting panel.
NZRPA Chairman David Kirk MBE, after whom the award is named, said of the former player, coach, mentor and advocate for change: “Unlike most sports awards, this award does not recognise sporting ability or achievements. It recognises a commitment to serve the game and all its constituents after the playing career has ended. Melodie was a wonderful and influential player and is an even more wonderful and influential leader and servant of the game in all sorts of ways today. She is the perfect recipient.”
Upon learning she was the 2021 recipient of the prestigious Kirk Award, Melodie was surprised. “I’m feeling extremely humbled by this award – David Kirk was my hero when I was a kid, so to have him ring me to let me know was quite a treat.
“To be honest with you, all the bits and pieces I’m doing – whether it be coaching my son’s team, or representing players at RWCL or board work for College Rifles and the Rugby Foundation – is essentially because I love rugby.
“I just want to make sure that the next generation gets to enjoy the game that has changed and continues to improve my life.”
Award history: The NZRPA Kirk Award was established in 2005 and named after NZRPA founding chairman and former All Black captain David Kirk MBE. Kirk led the All Blacks to their first Rugby World Cup title in 1987.
Previous recipients include Conrad Smith, Richie McCaw and Tana Umaga, in recognition of their off-field roles in helping to establish the commercial and employment partnership between the players and the game's administrators, which has underpinned the professional rugby environment and achievements ever since.
2016 recipient - Justin Collins
2017 recipient - DJ Forbes.
2018 recipients - Fiao’o Fa’amausili and Keven Mealamu
2019 recipients - Josh Blackie, Hale T Pole and Seilala Mapusua
2020 recipient - Andy Ellis
The NZRPA Kirk Award was named after the New Zealand Rugby Players’ Association Chairman David Kirk.
Former All Black, David Kirk, captained the All Blacks to their first Rugby World Cup title in 1987. A medical doctor, Rhodes Scholar and former advisor to the Prime Minister, David was awarded an MBE in 1988 for services to rugby. The former Fairfax Media CEO and Chairman of TradeMe, Kathmandu and Forsyth Barr sits on several boards, is a trustee of several charities and is the co-founder and partner of Bailador Investment Management. The author of two books, David was inducted into the World Rugby Hall of Fame in 2011. Unknown to many, David has served as the Chairman of the New Zealand Rugby Players’ Association since its establishment in 1999, and this award is named in recognition of his outstanding, selfless contribution and leadership in this regard.