The Waitaki Sports Awards are not the Halberg Awards, and you won’t find much heated debate after our top sporting achievers are honoured on March 19.
Still, it is always interesting to look at the list of finalists and try to predict some winners.
Sports awards are notoriously tricky. I was on the judging panel for the Otago Sports Awards for six years, and on the panel of the Waitaki awards for a couple of years, and I have spent my share of time wrestling with comparisons and arguing somebody’s case.
The problem, of course, is that it is not a science equation. You can never really prove that one sporting achievement is better than another, unless it’s the same sport being compared.
. . . IS TOUGH
So, let’s have a look at who might be walking on to the stage in a couple of weeks.
Sportswoman of the year seems fairly clear. Morgan Henderson is a super rugby player but Courtney Duncan’s international achievements, albeit in a lesser-known sport, give her the whip hand.
Sportsman of the year, hmm. I think it has to be between rower Mark Taylor and cricketer Nathan Smith – and I mean that as no disrespect to cycling supremo Tim Rush. Smith was a regular at first-class level but Taylor represented New Zealand at a junior world championships. Too close to call.
Team of the year will surely be national champion rowers Jared Brenssell and James Scott, while Abbey McKenzie might have to wait until she coaches the Southern Steel before she trumps swim king Narcis Gherca as coach of the year.
It will again be the junior categories that will have caused the judges the most headaches. So many great kids, so many vastly different sports.
I might lean towards Scott as top junior sportsman – Llew Johnson possibly has next year’s award sewn up after making his Volts debut at 17 – but the junior sportswoman category is insanely tough to predict. Taneisha Fifita is the next big thing in netball, but pocket rocket Jasmine Hunter did amazingly well to make the New Zealand girls touch team. And Cheyenne Cunningham was a regular in a provincial rugby team. Help!
IN TODD WE TRUST
Jason Todd is better known around these parts as a snooker ace.
Turns out he is also a gun with a cricket bat in his hands.
Todd has scored plenty of runs for Union at various levels throughout his career, but he took it up a notch recently when he walloped a remarkable 180 for the Union senior reserve team against Oamaru at King George Park.
As always at a time like this, we turn to North Otago and Union cricket statistician Scott Cameron to crunch the numbers.
Todd’s innings was the third-highest in the history of the Union club, but the second-highest if you count only North Otago club fixtures.
The club record is 192 scored by Lindsay Robertson in a Dick Hunt Trophy challenge game against North End in 1981, and second is Doug Papps with 182 against Oamaru in 1937.
Todd’s knock matched the immortal Ronald McDonald’s 180 scored against Oamaru in 1929.
If all clubs could produce equally in-depth statistics, that would be marvellous.
Young gun Mackenzie Phillips provided a highlight for North Otago at the final round of the southern tennis league in Dunedin at the weekend.
Southern Lakes, as expected, was far too strong, winning its 16th straight title. The Queenstown-based team thumped North Otago 11-1, but Phillips avoided a clean sweep with a straight-sets singles win.
North Otago fought hard in a 7-5 loss to Southland, and was beaten 9-3 by Otago.
LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN
North Otago will again have a strong influence on the fortunes of the Netball South side in the Beko League.
The great Georgie Salter continues as coach, schoolgirl sensation Taneisha Fifita has made the final squad for a second year, and rising coach Abbey McKenzie is again on board as observation coach plus statistician.
Waitaki Boys’ High School pupil Blain Hamilton had a great weekend at the New Zealand mountain biking championships at Lake Hawea.
Hamilton finished fourth in the under-17 men’s cross-country.
Very cool to find out last week that Oamaru man Herbie Familton was New Zealand’s first Winter Olympian (see the ODT for more).
I had absolutely no idea, much to my shame.
Note: I am quietly ditching the “God help me” segment of this column. No, the church lobby hasn’t got to me. I’d just rather Meiks Speaks generally focused on the positive things in local sport. Yes, I’m getting soft in my old age.)