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High interest in youth awards

Today, CHRIS COGDALE profiles the region’s rising sporting talent in the two categories that received the most nominations – the new Youth Sportswoman and Youth Sportsman.


Ava Wilson – Swimming

Ava Wilson won three gold medals at the 2022 national secondary schools championships in the 400m freestyle, the 100m and 200m breaststroke.

She also claimed silver in the 100m and 200m freestyle and bronze in the 100m individual medley.

In January, Wilson won a gold medal in the 2.5km and silver in the 5km in her age grades at the national open water championships on Lake Taupo. Those results earned her selection for the New Zealand team to compete in Australia later this year.

Emma McLeod –
Cricket, Hockey

Emma McLeod starred in the New Zealand team, which made the semifinals of the inaugural Under-19 T20 World Cup in South Africa in January 2023. She played in every match, opening the batting twice, and was player of the match against Rwanda, scoring a rapid-fire 59.

At the national under-19 tournament at Lincoln, McLeod became the first Central Districts female player to score a century at an under-19 tournament, with 100 not out, and finished the tournament as the top batter with 322 across all games, with an average of 131. She also debuted for the Central Hinds, scoring 53 against Canterbury.

In hockey, McLeod played for St Matthew’s and the Dalefield premier side.

Hannah Donald –
Hockey, Crossfit

Hannah Donald is a national under-17 crossfit champion and NZ Hockey age group squad member.

Over the two days at the crossfit nationals in Cambridge, Donald competed in seven gruelling workouts, including gymnastic rig work, Olympic weightlifting, a 3km run with a jerry can, rope climbing, barbell work and other exercises. She won four of the events to win the overall title.

Donald was also selected for the national hockey super camp attended by the best under-18 and under-21 players from the country. She captained the Wairarapa College 1st XI who finished fourth in the Federation Cup.

Sovaia Sabutu – Netball

In what is believed to be a first for a Wairarapa secondary school netballer, Sovaia Sabutu was named as one of 24 players to attend a trial for the national secondary schools’ team in the build-up to the 2025 Youth World Cup.

Sabutu played in the Wairarapa College team that won the last two Wairarapa premier one titles and was last year named Netball Wairarapa’s senior player of the year – an outstanding achievement as she had played much of the season as a 15-year-old.

She caught the eye of the national selectors while playing for Waicol at the Lower North Island secondary schools tournament.

Sabutu is also part of the Central Pulse development programme.


Boston Moylan –
Mixed Martial Arts

Boston Moylan is a former AMTA youth flyweight champion and a national age group representative.

Moylan represented New Zealand in 2022 in the NZMF Blackgloves team and competed at the IFMA Youth tournament in Kuala Lumpur in August and the WKA international tournament in Wales in November.

He is the WKA International Glory Gold winner, WKA International K1 silver medallist, and WKA International Muay Thai bronze medal winner. He has a record of five fights, six international fights, and 10 wins.

Harrison Dudley – Football

Harrison Dudley was named in the national secondary schools Under-19 team to tour Southeast Asia in April.

He was named after a training camp and trial game in Auckland in February, after previously attending a similar training camp and trial for the South team.

Dudley’s potential earned the attention of the Wellington Phoenix, and he joined the professional club’s academy in 2022.

With the demise of Wairarapa United before the start of the 2022 season, Dudley played for Waterside-Karori, who finished a credible fifth in the Central League.

James Church –
Cricket, Swimming

James Church is an exceptional swimmer and cricketer.

Although having won medals at national championships for swimming, Church scaled back his swimming to focus on cricket. He represented the Rathkeale First XI, Wairarapa Under-17s, and Wairarapa Senior Men, earning selection for Central Districts for the national under-17 tournament.

Church was the leading wicket-taker for Rathkeale, Wairarapa under-17, and Central Districts under-17.

He was in the Wellington development programme for swimming and competed in National athletics in the 1500m and 3000m.

Samson Jansen Middleton – Ice Hockey

At just 16 years old, Sam Middleton was a member of the New Zealand under-18 team that won the 2023 International Ice Hockey Federation [IIHF] Ice Hockey World Championship, Division III, Group B, held in Cape Town, South Africa, in March 2023.

Middleton was an under-18 representative for Canterbury Ice Hockey Team 2021/2022. Because the Wairarapa-Wellington region doesn’t have an age group representative ice hockey team, he was invited to join the Canterbury team to compete at Nationals.

He has also competed in the Wellington Premier Mens’ Ice Hockey League, playing in the winning team. He captained the Wellington Youth Development Team, the Pirates 2022 – the winners of the Wellington second-grade competition.

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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