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Fleet Sports Officer taking it in

The Navy’s newest Fleet Sports Officer has been away a long time, but he’s always missed it.

13 September, 2023

Lieutenant Commander Mark Harvey oversees most things sport and recreation in the Navy, bringing with him over 20 years in the high performance space across a variety of national and  international sporting codes.

He joined the Navy in 1982 as an Ordinary Seaman/gunner, straight off a Southland farm. He moved to Physical Training Instructor and eventually commissioned from the ranks in 1996.

While posted to the Officer Training School, he started working the National Fijian Rugby team as the Strength and Conditioning Coach. LTCDR Harvey subsequently took leave to carry on with Fiji and attended the 1999 Rugby World Cup in France and England.

It was a world that would see LTCDR Harvey leave the Navy in 2000, in pursuit of other Strength and Conditioning opportunities. He worked with a variety of rugby teams including North Harbour, Blues Super Rugby and finally the All Blacks 7s team for seven years, all as a Strength and Conditioning coach. He was also fortunate to be assistant S&C coach for the All Blacks from 2012 to 2016.

A particular highlight came in 2018, when Captain Shane Arndell (who remembers PTI Harvey drilling him as a young sailor) escorted Harvey and the NZ Sevens team around the Commonwealth War Graves at Messines, Belgium – including the grave of All Black legend David Gallaher, who lost his life on 4 October 1917.

Deciding it was finally time to spend more time at home he picked up a role as Rehabilitation specialist with NZ Warriors before a brief stint with NZ Breakers in 2019. His latest role was three years with New Zealand Police as a Physical Education Officer.

“I consider myself fortunate and privileged to have done what I have done. Back then it was more who you knew that got you in the door. You then just had to make sure you did a good enough job to keep the role.”

His return back to Navy came with a phone call late last year while working at Police College in Porirua. “I was actually driving to the airport to head back to Auckland for the weekend when the caller asked if I was interested in coming back to the Navy.

“I actually thought it was a mate winding me up but it was legit and I was asked to at least consider the offer to return to the Navy as Fleet Sports Officer. I was just going through the Terrace Tunnel and I said yes by the time I got to the other end.”

He says it was a “no-brainer” decision. “I’ve always missed many aspects of the Navy and there were so many reasons to say yes and not many to say no to be honest. Those previous 19 to 20 years were some of the best experiences and learnings of my life.”

He’s watched the Navy evolve from the outside looking in and is now excited to be part of these changes going forward.  “It’s a new generation still blended with some solid core values, and it’s quite refreshing. I see these young people and even reconditioned older models like myself and I see a real sense of purpose and pride. If I was joining again I’d be in there.” 

One of Fleet Sports Officer’s roles is to advise Deputy Chief of Navy and Commanding Officer HMNZS PHILOMEL on all things sport. He feels there is still a sense of ‘coming out of COVID’ with sports but recognises that sport and recreation in general still has a vital part to play with maintaining general health and wellness of Navy personnel. “Our people are still our holy grail. Sometimes it’s not how much you know it’s how much you care,” he says.

“Sports and fitness and recreation is such an important component for mental health and wellness. We need to provide an opportunity for people to have some form of release. Competing at Inter Service level may be the goal for some while others might just want to enjoy the banter and fun associated at Intership/lunchtime circuit environment. I’m here to see those options are there.”