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A year in sport like no other

Marist players celebrate their last gasp grand final win. PHOTOS/FILE

What a year in sport!

Has there ever been anything like it?

And how lucky have we been that we could attend sports events as spectators without any restrictions?

It is a privilege given what we see with the world’s biggest football leagues in Europe and America’s NFL, which attracts the world’s highest average crowds of 67,000, all played in cavernous empty stadia.

But how lucky are we that community sports could go ahead?

Although that looked highly unlikely in late March when the covid-19 level lockdown curtailed the start of the winter sports seasons.

Fortunately for most summer sporting codes, their championships had pretty much concluded, apart for one or two minor exceptions.

After six weeks of level four where nothing was permitted, and then further weeks of level two with limited contact, play finally got under way for football teams and the Dalefield premier hockey sides on the first weekend of June.

The hockey leagues, club rugby, and club netball finally commenced, while most school sports kicked into gear at the start of school term three, meaning severely truncated competitions.

Then when just when we thought things were moving along smoothly, the reintroduction of level two restrictions had games postponed, or played with little or no crowds. That led to innovations such as utes backed up to outside fence at Clareville, giving spectators a grandstand view of the action.

So how did the various codes fare?

Brilliantly, and I’m taking my hat off and drinking a big toast to all the sports administrators who toiled hard with regularly changing goalposts.

On the fields, turfs, courses, and courts, Dalefield were the star turn, cleaning up the Wellington premier men’s and women’s hockey championships, and had four men – Dane and Trent Lett, Jordan Cohen, and Benedict van Woerkom, and one woman – Felicity Reidy – named in the Central Falcons sides who won the men’s and women’s national premier league.

Is there a better sports club anywhere in New Zealand? I doubt it!

Gladstone broke new ground winning both the men’s and women’s leagues for the first time.

Wairarapa-Bush’s premier club rugby players had a severely truncated season of just one round plus playoffs.

But that didn’t detract from the season, which culminated with a final for the ages, with Marist overcoming a 22-point deficit to snatch a last-gasp 39-37 victory when James Goodger kicked an injury time penalty.

Due to its popularity among players, will a shortened club season be the way of the future?

Farriers Wai-Bush won four of five games in an abridged Heartland season, losing only to Whanganui.

Captain Kirk Tufuga’s star shone brightly, called into the Manawatu Turbos for the final stanzas of the Mitre 10 Cup.

Wairarapa United saved their best till last, with a 6-0 win over Waterside-Karori to avoid relegation from the Central Football League, while the women overcame a horror start and finished third in the W-League, and won the Kelly Cup knockout competition.

Douglas Villa won promotion to Capital Division Three with a second placing in Division Four.

Greytown dominated the division one of the football leagues going unbeaten throughout the season.

Te Rina Boyce puts up a shot in Harcourts championship win over Carterton Red.

Netball was the last sport to get under way, and again the season was dominated by Harcourts. The juggernaut won their 10th premier one title in 11 years, completing another unbeaten season.

The Masterton Golf Club completed back-to-back championships in the Duncan Cup – Wellington’s premier golf interclub trophy.

In the summer sports codes, Wairarapa finished the year with a washout and an outright loss in the Central Districts Cricket Furlong Cup series, with the final three games to played in January and February.

Red Star lead the Coastal Challenge, and United are in touch of the semifinals, with two rounds to play before the playoffs.

Seth Rance, Stefan Hook, Melissa Hansen, Monique Rees, and Anlo van Deventer proudly represented Central Districts at senior level.

Masterton wrapped up the Shirley Corlett Trophy for the pre-Christmas men’s tennis interclub, while Martinborough won the women’s championship. The more traditional interclub will hit off in late January.

Giants softball end the year having gone through the premier three intercity competition unbeaten, only to be promoted to premier two, and dropping their first two games. Giants Blue are one of two unbeaten sides in the Hutt Valley major B women’s championship.

We’ve also had national champions in bodybuilding – Bevan MacKenzie and fiancee Lauren Johnson, in powerlifting – Harry Kent, and father and son Pun and Joseph Teofilo, and promising athlete Liam Lamb took out the national under-20 3000m championship.

Our international stars continue to shine. Marcus Daniell and his Austrian doubles partner Philipp Oswald won the Sardegna Open in Italy, and finished the year ranked 45 in doubles.

Dane Lett and Megan Hull look set to continue their international careers at the Tokyo Olympics with the national hockey teams.

There are probably a few I have missed out, but if I have, it isn’t intentionally, and congratulations on representing Wairarapa.

This small province is immensely proud of your achievements.

Finally, a massive thank you to all the sportspeople, coaches, officials, and administrators who work so hard to bring us sport.

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