Love and laughter as community rallies to celebrate former Fern Brooke Stilgoe

When Brooke Stilgoe (nee Rangi) ran onto the pitch in Brisbane on February 18, 2004, she became the 119th Football Fern and part of footballing history.

It wasn’t until 2020 that debutants were recognised with an official cap and so when New Zealand Football were asked, they jumped at the opportunity to present Stilgoe (41) with her debut cap during a community-led fundraiser in Whakatāne.

NZ Football General Manager WWC Legacy and Special Projects Paula Hansen said:

“The home FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2023 provided an opportunity for New Zealand Football to reconnect with and honour the women who laid the foundations that the Ford Football Ferns are built on today.

“Recognising former Football Ferns with their debut cap is part of our commitment to honouring and celebrating them.

“Unfortunately, we were unable to be there on the day, but we knew Natalie Broadhead (WaiBOP Football) would uphold the mana of the cap and occasion when she officially presented Brooke with her cap and a named football Ferns shirt.”

Brooke Stilgoe receives her Ferns cap from WaiBOP Football’s Natalie Broadhead. Photo: Wainui Creative.

Brooke Stilgoe was diagnosed with brain cancer three years ago.

She has been courageously fighting the disease in Australia, where she has been living with her husband and children. She returned home to Whakatāne in early April 2024.

Friends and family have rallied to celebrate and support Stilgoe and her family, and organised an event to support the family, bringing together her love for football, friends and family.

The inaugural Brooke Stilgoe Cup was held on Sunday April 7 at Rex Morpeth Park, Whakatāne. It saw her hometown football team, Whakatāne Town, take on Edgecumbe Plains Rangers.

Main photo: Brooke Stilgoe leads out the teams who played for the cup in her name. Photo: Wainui Creative.

The day also acted as a fundraiser for Brooke and Terry Stilgoe’s children, daughter Liv (10), and sons Lockie (9) and Tay (4).

The Stilgoe family … supported by the local football and business community. Photo: Wainui Creative.

All the day’s bar proceeds from Whakatāne Town were given to the family, as well as the takings from numerous raffles held on the day, thanks to the support of many local businesses who pitched in.

Brooke Stilgoe played her local football for Whakatāne, Kawerau and Kahukura.

Brooke Stilgoe … Football Fern #119. Photo: Wainui Creative.

Further afield, while studying in Pennsylvania, she was selected as one of 11 players in the country to represent the All-American Football Team, also captaining the Lock Haven University Football Team.

The large team of friends behind the event thanked all who donated or supported it.

“Brookie is just such a beautiful person inside and out, and her diagnosis has left us all devastated,” says friend Liz Taylor.

“She has, and continues to fight with such determination and grace, and we want to bring everyone who loves her together for a day full of love and laughter and really honour the incredible person she is.”

Whakatāne Town hope the inaugural Brooke Stilgoe Cup is the first of many contests played with their former Football Fern in mind.

“We hope to create a lasting legacy for Brookie just like the major impact she’s had on both the Whakatāne District football community and all those she’s touched throughout her life to date.”

How to help the family

A Givealittle page has been set up for the family. Those wishing to donate can do so at:


This story was first published by WaiBOP Football and is reproduced here by permission. We thank WaiBOP Football for sharing this content.

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