Penny Simmons was a player of great natural ability who began playing at school in Nelson.
She was first seen playing at the NZ Women’s Indoor Basketball Association Tournament in Christchurch where she was selected for the South Island Team. She would go on to play for the South Island for three years and the North Island for nine years.
Penny’s inspiring play helped the representative teams she played for capture five national titles – one each with Nelson and Wellington, three with Hutt Valley but unfortunately none during her three years with Auckland.
Her international career began in 1960 and on her first overseas tour to Australia in 1964 she was the second highest scorer on the team. Her leadership qualities saw her named captain the 1967 New Zealand team on its tour of Australia.
Penny’s play was exemplary, she had a wide repertoire of shots and was known for her “buzzer-beating” ability. In addition to being an adroit defender, she was well known for her skill around the basket, or as we call it these days “in the paint”.
Penny’s achievements were even more remarkable given the tragic death of her first husband, New Zealand player Doug Harford, that happened at the peak of her playing career.
Penny was one of those players remembered with awe. She was a role model to many younger players, some that also went on to play for New Zealand.
We lost Penny at a young 70 years of age, thus a posthumous award as a New Zealand Basketball Hall of Famer would befit a player of Penny’s stature in the game.