Oct 14, 2019

WLA AGM 2019: Bios for Nominees

Ursula Johnson


I first started playing lacrosse when I was 14 at Avondale College in Auckland. I loved playing so continued playing at school and for a club and was lucky enough to be able to compete at the U19 World Cup in 2007. When I moved to Waikato in 2010, I knew that I wanted lacrosse to remain part of my life. The decision to start women’s lacrosse here was a given, so along with my partner Dean Forman, the conversation quickly became how do we do this? We hatched out a development plan and since then I’ve had multiple roles within lacrosse in both governance and operational positions. Notable previous roles within the WLA include President, Women’s High School, Intermediate School and Club League coordinator, Head Umpire, U15, U18 and Senior Women’s Team Head Coach, Club and School Coach positions, as well as being a player.  Recently I’ve been focusing on coaching and umpiring, coaching the NZ U23 Women’s Team at two Asia Pacific Tournaments in 2017 and 2019 and umpiring at the recent U19 Women’s World Cup. I’ve also been involved within cricket governance, being a board member of the Waikato Valley Cricket Association.

I love lacrosse and all the opportunities the sport provides. It’s been incredible seeing so many boys and girls pick up a stick and develop as players, resulting in multiple Waikato players representing New Zealand. It seems I’m not alone in the view that lacrosse is awesome, as people in Waikato have embraced lacrosse over the last few years which has led to rapid growth. As our sport transitions from a new, minor sport, to a mainstream sport, we will need to change our approach with strategy and structures at both a governance and operational level to ensure we are meeting the needs of all of our participants. I believe I have the necessary skill set and knowledge to be able to bring people together to create a shared vision that will guide our decision making while making these necessary changes to future proof our sport.


Xavier Cox


I’m applying for the role of president as I see it as a great opportunity to get more involved in the management side of lacrosse and help grow my knowledge of what keeps the sport running. As a young enthusiastic management student who has a passion for sport, I bring many different views and ideas to the table. There is nothing I want more than to see this sport grow and develop in the Waikato. I have already had involvement in the growth from coaching intermediate, college and Waikato lacrosse and wish to continue this journey.


Matt Gould


My name is Matthew Gould, I don’t come from a lacrosse background in fact last year was my first time watching my son play box lacrosse and this year I was the manager of the Boys under 15 and under 18 teams for the Nationals in Auckland.

In 2008 My family (Wife and 2 children ) moved from Europe to New Zealand. The communication and people skills I have used in my sales background have been a valuable asset in the roles I have had since being in NZ.  I have spent 7 years with Department of Corrections, 3 years with NZ Police and currently with another Government agency.

As a member and on the committee of our local judo club I know the challenges the  I’ll use the word “minority” sports face here in NZ. I find lacrosse an awesome game and want to see the continued growth of the sport. I have a vested interest in both the girls and boys development.

From being on the side-lines to being involved with this sport, I have seen and heard things and have heard the grumblings and dare I say it the feeling of “us and them, them and us” within the sport. And while there are some passionate people involved, some appear to have their own agenda. I don’t want Waikato lacrosse to have a monolithic approach and growth.

I would like for those involved from the parents just dropping kids off to umpires, coaches, managers etc to have a strategic approach and to grow the sport without the division. So we have a clear and defined pathway from junior kids at school, up to representing Waikato and New Zealand. A pathway where we are all working together for the common goal yet be flexible to change if and when needs arise.  There is no reason why Waikato can not be the center of NZ lacrosse. We definitely have the players, the people and the skills.

From the limited time I have been involved I have seen a lot of people willing to point fingers, but not many willing to pull their thumb. People may ask why I would want to be involved? Now I could just turn a blind eye to all the politics, let our son and daughter play the game till the leave school and not care. Or I can see a problem, step up and be part of a solution and help change.

This is a wonderful game, If I don’t get selected…… well…. I will still keep doing what I am doing. Being one of the parents that steps up to help with scoring, putting goals out or in, picking up sports gear, doing wall ball etc.


Rachel Blake


With my daughter moving away to uni, I’m stepping down from my role as chair of Te Awamutu College lacrosse club, and TA Sports Lacrosse Club. I’m keen to continue in a governance role for this amazing sport. My priorities include making sure the sport’s administration remains open and transparent, continues in a strong financial position and that all business undertakings are conducted in an ethical manner.

My background includes 10+ years as a PR and communications manager for various U.K. organisations and 5 years as the CEO of Te Awamutu’s Chamber of Commerce whilst my children were young. I’ve returned to my original skill set and work as a wastewater and stormwater design engineer in my own business.
I believe my facilitation and communication skills would be an asset to the organisation and I look forward to helping it set itself up for future growth.


Tara Vrensen


I have been the Treasurer for Waikato Lacrosse for the last year and it has been an incredible learning curve. It has had its challenges but also some enjoyable times.

For the forthcoming year if I am elected I would like to cover off the below and have processes in place so we are all working collaboratively together to get the best for both the Men’s and the Women’s side of lacrosse.

  • Budgets worked on together to achieve maximum value for smart spending.
  • Financial planning for the future
  • All of us in the association working together to achieve what is best for the sport of lacrosse.

I have been the President of Huntly Gymnastics Club and Head coach for 4 years. We wrote a new constitution to bring the club into the 21st century and for the changing needs of our members. There was 20 members when I first took over, now we have over 200. I am also the bean counter to Te Awamutu Club lacrosse and help with the financial side for Te Awamutu College.

I work at the YMCA as the Recreation Manager and Gymnastics Co-ordinator full time.

On a personal note I have been married for 20 years and we have 3 children, 1 rower, 1 lacrosse player and 1 hockey player who is waiting to play lacrosse when old enough.

I would like to continue in the role of Treasurer for some continuity within Waikato Lacrosse to help facilitate the changes that need to happen and having some background knowledge to help the new committee.

Thank you for your time in reading and considering this application.


Angela Makara


My name is Ange Makara and I have resided in the Waikato area for the last 12 years having previously lived in the Thames Valley/Coromandel district.

I would love the opportunity to take on to the WLA Secretary role and be able to support and grow lacrosse in the Waikato alongside my younger children who currently all play lacrosse for their Junior & High Schools, New Zealand and in the men’s league alongside my partner.

My previous experience in a similar role has been with the Thames Valley Junior Rugby, Whangamata Junior Rugby, Whangamata Pony Club as well as team manager for Thames Valley Junior Rugby, Coach and Manger for Cambridge Netball teams and in my previous job for 10 years. I have a vast amount of experience in lots of different sport codes and welcome the opportunity to embrace the sport of Lacrosse.

Good luck for the season


Eric Messick

League Director

I have 29 years of experience in lacrosse playing, refereeing, coaching, operations, and governance. I’m a founding member of the Waikato Lacrosse Association (WLA, est. 2003). We had no idea what lacrosse would look like when we established it in our region 16 years ago. Since then, I’ve enjoyed seeing the Association and the people within it grow and accomplish so much. We have been successful and I am keen to continue the work growing our sport.
Playing: Penncrest High School (PA, USA), Lafayette College (Division 1 NCAA), University of London (South of England Men’s Lacrosse Association), West Virginia University (Nation College Lacrosse League), Tamaki Titans (Northern Region Lacrosse Association), Waikato Men’s Rep Team (WLA), Hamilton Devils (Waikato Lacrosse Association), New Zealand Men’s National Lacrosse Team (attackman at 2 world championships and other tournaments)

Refereeing: Refereed hundreds of games (indoor and field), trained several new referees, international referee contacts, knowledge of referee pathways (World Lacrosse), excellent knowledge of World Lacrosse rules and other lacrosse rules.

Coaching: Coached many new players across several teams. Just finished a tourney as Waikato U18 head coach and master coach. Currently NZ U18 head coach.

Operations: Experience in all lacrosse operations including setting the draw and managing scores, funding, logistics, organising personnel, etc. Self employed with knowledge of business practices and operations. Collaborative and pragmatic.

Governance: Former president of the New Zealand Lacrosse Association and WLA. Former chairperson, secretary, treasurer of the WLA. Experience in governance outside of lacrosse. Experience in developing policies and procedures, doing strategic planning, managing conflicts of interests, working to standards and legislation.


Lucas Thom

Development Director – Men’s

I have been a part of lacrosse for 5 years and have never had the same passion for any other sport. I would love this role because it would give me a great opportunity to help other people develop the same passion that I have found for the sport.


Becca Bryan

Development Director – Women’s

I am happy to express interest in the role of development director for Waikato lacrosse. I have been involved with lacrosse since it began in Waikato in 2010; as a player, coach, umpire, team manager, supporter and almost any other role you could throw at me. The most enjoyable thing I have done to date, is developing the players around me. I have coached at school, club and rep levels for most of those 9 years and now I’m ready to take a step up by becoming the development director. More recently I have been going out to our intermediate schools to give them introductory sessions, and it has ignited a drive within me to carry on this work, at a larger scale. My experience with lacrosse and management outside of lacrosse, puts me in a great position to take up this role. Lacrosse and the development of it is my passion and I can’t wait to see it grow and prosper even more in the future.


Dean Thornton

Health & Safety Officer

Hi, my name is Dean Thornton,

I’m a Lacrosse ‘Dad’. My daughter has been actively involved in playing, coaching, and umpiring at school, club, and representative levels.

I realise that this sport, and the opportunities and enjoyment that it provides for people does not happen without the hard work that goes on behind the scenes.

Therefore, I would like to be considered for the Health and Safety role on the Waikato Lacrosse Committee.

H&S is something that I am very familiar with and have successfully managed compliance, and acted as chairperson for this role in my place of work over the last 20 or so years.

Although a factory environment is different to the sports field, I am sure that this experience would be invaluable to the Waikato Lacrosse organisation.


William Chisholm

League Coordinator – Men’s

Over 14 years lacrosse experience, first beginning in Canada and the last 5 years here in the Waikato.

Received accreditation from the Canadian National Coaching Certification Program in Multi Sport (Global) 2009

Contributed to many sports (ice hockey, rugby, lacrosse, to name a few) in variety of areas, player, referee, coach, club delegate, program facilitator, league coordinator.

Currently active in Te Awamutu College Boy’s lacrosse programs, Te Awamutu Marist programs (mens, womens, youth), Waikato Lacrosse Intermediate League.

Hands on experience and knowledge of working directly with established multi sporting clubs in the Waikato, understanding their needs and dedicated to providing their players an outstanding participant experience.

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