Vale: Football loses pioneering women’s player and coach Nora Watkins

posted in: Football Ferns, News, Obituary

Football has lost one of its pioneering women players with the death of Nora Watkins (nee Hetherington) who was a member of the first-ever New Zealand women’s national side, and the first woman to be national coach.

She has died in Melbourne, aged 65.

She took up football with Upper Hutt and in 1975, when 18, she became a member of the first women’s team to represent New Zealand when the team beat Hong Kong 2-0 on August 25, 1975, at the inaugural AFC Women’s Asian Cup.

The New Zealand team won the Asian Cup, with Hetherington scoring in the final against Thailand.

Main photo: The first New Zealand women’s team, winners of the Asian Cup in 1975. Back row: Dave Farrington (coach), Barbara Cox (captain), Mary Ann Poole, Kathy Simenoff, Nora Hetherington, Carol Waller, Elaine Lee, Marilyn Marshall (vice-captain), Nell Jongeneel, Sandra Twiname, Sue Jacobs. Front: Raewyn Hall, Nadene Elrick, Carol Knox, Debbie Chapman, Isobel Richardson, Pene Mack (team manager). Photo credit: DB Soccer Annual 1975.

A year later, Hetherington moved to Miramar Rangers to play alongside her New Zealand strike partner Marilyn Marshall.

In all, she played 10 internationals for New Zealand, scoring twice.

She played for the Miramar Rangers first division side until 1983, and then coached the team in five of the next seven seasons.

Pictured with coach David Farrington are (from left) Maureen Jacobson, Kathy Hall, Joanne Nicholson, Marilyn Marshall, Nora Watkins (nee Hetherington) and Debbie Leonidas. Photo credit: Miramar Rangers.

In a tribute to her, Miramar Rangers said: “Her time at Miramar coincided with an era of unparalleled dominance in which they were Wellington WFA champions in 1975-83, 84-86, 88, 90-91, along with winning the Kelly Cup fourteen times.”

Miramar Rangers’ 1985 Women’s Premier Division side with Nora Watkins as coach (far right, middle row). Photo credit: Miramar Rangers.

Nora Watkins became assistant coach of the national team between 1989 and 1994, going to the 1991 FIFA Women’s World Cup in China.

In 1995, she briefly became the coach of the New Zealand team, for a two-match series against Australia.

In doing so, she became the team’s first female coach.

Nora Watkins’ daughter Michele has advised via social media that a service will be arranged in Wellington.

Nora Watkins (nee Hetherington) (1957—2023)


Through the publication of obituaries, Friends of Football tries to recognise the loss of those who have significantly contributed to our game.

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