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The Magnificent Seven


Taylor tops cream of the crop
In the third and final part of his top 21 in 21 years, CHRIS COGDALE reveals his top seven, the cream of the crop, of Wairarapa’s sports achievers and achievements of the 21st century.

7 – Dane Lett

Dane Lett, right, beating an Australian defender in the 2019 Oceania Cup.

Dane Lett has played 88 internationals for the Black Sticks since debuting in 2014 against Japan.

After that initial call up, it was a long wait before Lett would don the Silver Fern again, but since his recall in 2017, he has become an automatic selection.

An unassuming central defender with excellent distribution skills, Lett was an important cog in silver medal-winning team at the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.

He played in the inaugural International Pro League, and later qualified for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. However, the Black Sticks misfired at the Games, finishing a disappointing fifth in their group and missing out on the quarterfinals.

Lett has also been key in Dalefield club’s revival, helping the team to four titles in 2015, 2016, 2019, and 2020, the last two as player-coach.

6 – Richard Mason

Richard Mason’s victories in five national rally championships saw him recognised during the 2020 covid-19 lockdown as the NZ Rally Championship number one driver of all time, bettering greats Hayden Paddon and Possum Bourne.

Richard and Sara Mason during the 2008 Rally of New Zealand.

Mason won national titles in 2005, 2006, 2011, 2012, and 2014, the last four with wife Sara, making her the most successful female in the history of New Zealand motorsport.

Mason competed sporadically overseas, contesting Asia-Pacific Championship events in China, Japan and Australia, and winning the 2006 Rally of China.

In the 2009 Rally of Australia, Mason finished second in the production class ahead of fellow Subaru driver, Cody Crocker.

5 – Wairarapa United Football Club

Wairarapa United’s 2011 Chatham Cup victory sits among the top tier of achievements by Wairarapa teams, right up there with rugby’s Ranfurly Shield wins in 1950 and the late 1920s.

Wairarapa United’s Peter Rabo celebrates scoring the winning goal in the 2011 Chatham Cup final.

Wairarapa United had a tough road to the final, coming up against National League team Waitakere City in the quarterfinals and thrashing them 4-1 in abysmal conditions in Carterton. In the away semifinal against Northern League powerhouse Bay Olympic, a Seule Soromon goal was enough to secure a final against Napier City Rovers.

Soromon gave United the early lead in the decider before Rovers equalised. Peter Rabo sealed the victory with 10 minutes to play.

In Wairarapa United’s 25-year history, the club has punched well above their weight, with consistently high places in the Central League. Their women’s team returned to the W-League in recent years and have been championship contenders.

4 – Rebecca Mahoney

Rebecca Mahoney won two Rugby World Cups and was a trailblazing referee at international and domestic levels.

Mahoney was a talented first-five or fullback and played 14 tests for the Black Ferns from 2006 to 2011. She was in the World Cup-winning sides in 2006 in Canada and 2010 in England.

Rebecca Mahoney chatting with Inia Katia during a Wai-Bush club game.

She turned out for Wellington and Manawatu before retiring in 2014 and taking up the whistle.

She quickly gained prominence and became one of the first women appointed to NZ Rugby’s elite referee squad.

Mahoney went on to referee test matches, the Commonwealth Games Sevens, and the World Sevens circuit, including the World Cup. She was also the first woman to control a Ranfurly Shield match – Otago v North Otago, and an NPC match – Hawke’s Bay v Southland, both in 2019.

3 – Marcus Daniell

Marcus Daniell’s greatest achievement was only a few weeks ago when with Michael Venus, he won New Zealand’s first Olympic tennis medal.

Marcus Daniell playing a shot during the Tokyo Olympics bronze medal match.

The pair, who were regular doubles partners in Davis Cup fixtures, went into the bronze medal match in Tokyo against Americans Austin Krajicek and Tennys Sandgren on the back of a heavy semifinal loss to Croatian pair Marin Cilic and Ivan Dodig.

After a tight first set, which Daniell and Venus won 7-3 in a tiebreaker, they pulled away to win the second set 6-2 and become the first Kiwis since tennis great Anthony Wilding won a Games bronze competing for Australasia in 1912.

Daniell has won five ATP doubles titles, the first in Auckland in 2010, as well as 24 Challengers and Futures doubles titles. He has represented New Zealand in 18 Davis Cup fixtures since 2010.

2 – Shakira Baker

An Olympic silver medal, a Commonwealth Games gold medal, and a Sevens World Championship place Shakira Baker on the podium.

Shakira Baker, left, takes on Heather Fisher of Britain in the 2016 Olympics Sevens semifinal.

The former Greytown School and Wairarapa College student made the Black Ferns in 2011.

She played 13 tests as centre or wing for the Black Ferns, scoring eight tries — but it was in the abbreviated version of rugby where Bakerstood out.

She was awarded a silver medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics, after the ‘Sevens Sisters’ lost 17-24 to Australia in the gold medal match.

Baker tasted success, though, two years later with victory in the Sevens World Cup and at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.

1 – Ross Taylor

Hitting the winning runs in the inaugural World Test Championship final is only one of many highlights
in Ross Taylor’s illustrious career.

As a six-year-old, Taylor told then international Mark Greatbatch during a first-class match in Masterton that he was going to play for New Zealand.

Fifteen years later, he made his Black Caps debut in a one-day international against the West Indies. His T20 debut came later that year, and his test debut in South Africa the next year.

He has since become New Zealand’s leading scorer in tests with 7564 runs, at average 45.84. He has 19 test centuries, with a top score of 290. He also averages 48.20 and has scored 21 centuries in ODIs.

In 2020, Taylor became the first player to play 100 games for his country in each of the three formats.

When he does eventually hang up his bat, the modest Taylor will not only go down as one of NZ Cricket’s greats but one of New Zealand’s sporting greats.

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