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50 years of sports history

If you have any doubts about the quality of sporting talent in Wairarapa, the 50th Wairarapa Sports Awards will surely dispel those.

The Wairarapa Times-Age Sports Awards started as a modest ceremony in 1968 with just the “Sportsman of the Year” – that went to world champion rollerskater Marlene Macdonald.

It hasn’t all been plain sailing, with the awards going into recess for five years from 1976 until their revival in 1981. There was tinkering with team and junior awards introduced in the 1980s, but the biggest changes came during the past 15 years with categories created for volunteers, administrators, clubs, coaches, para [previously disabled], Lifetime Achievement and People’s Choice.

The 2022-23 awards, to be held with a gala ceremony at Carterton Events Centre, are a far cry from those early days.

Now our international sportspeople, the rising stars of the future, the grizzled old coaches and volunteers who have dedicated years to their codes, the whistleblowers in the middle, and the clubs and teams that have achieved on the national, regional and local scene, are deservedly recognised.

Making the final is an achievement, with national champions, national representatives, and some outstanding successes failing to make the final four. One category was of such high quality that three national champions and two national squad members missed out.

In the four awards I have been involved in, the quality across most categories is the highest and certainly the toughest to judge.

A panel of three independent judges were tasked with deciding the winners, each having 25 per cent of the vote, while the public vote also accounts for 25 per cent.

The range of sports is also the most diverse, with sports such as scootering, mixed martial arts, crossfit, archery, ice hockey, shearing, and drag racing in the mix, along with the traditional rugby, cricket, hockey, netball, football, swimming, and athletics.

The change to the Senior and Youth categories, with the splitting of each into sportsman and sportswoman awards, proved to be a success, with all four categories attracting exceptional nominations.

All category winners tonight will contend for the Wairarapa Times-Age Supreme Award. Since its inception in 2007-8, there have been some outstanding recipients of the Supreme Award, including the three-time winner, Black Sticks hockey international Dane Lett, who is a finalist tonight in the Senior Sportsman, two-time winner World Cup winning Black Fern and international referee Rebecca Mahoney, who is tonight’s guest speaker, world champions in powerlifter Brett Gibbs, sawyers Willie Buick and Faavae Sefo, and muay thai exponent Zane Hopman, and the history-making 2011 Wairarapa United Chatham Cup winning team.

Another highlight close to my heart is the Lifetime Achievement award. The only trophy not open to public nomination, the it is deservedly awarded to someone who has dedicated decades of service to their sport, has made a massive difference to their code or has consistently achieved at the highest level.

Also, at tonight’s ceremony, the Wairarapa Sports Education Trust will reward three of our future stars with scholarships to assist in furthering their aspiring sporting careers.

Only one in four of tonight’s finalists will go away as trophy winners, but that by no means decries the effort and determination all have shown to get where they are today.

It might be a cliche, but in my mind, they are all winners, and we need to recognise that and celebrate their successes, and tonight we do that.

Wairarapa has an incredible sporting history for such a small region, and each of tonight’s finalists adds to that heritage.

So, who are the winners of the 2022-23 Wairarapa Times-Age Sports Awards?

All be revealed from 6pm at the Carterton Events Centre, with the ceremony broadcast live on Wairarapa TV.

Chris Cogdale
Chris Cogdale
Chris “Coggie” Cogdale has extensive knowledge of sport in Wairarapa having covered it for more than 30 years, including radio for 28 years. He has been the sports guru at the Wairarapa Times-Age since 2019.

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