SunLive         

On few occasions, other than this Friday’s November 22 Bay of Plenty Sports Awards, is there such a glittering line-up of the region’s sports stars assembled in one place at one time.

The 45th Bay of Plenty Sports Awards recognises all facets of sports high achievement from Bay of Plenty athletes and coaches through to officials and administrators.

The gala dinner, to be held at ASB Arena at Baypark, is the opportunity for stakeholders in Bay of Plenty sport to relax a little and celebrate the sporting achievements of our people during the last 12 months.

The Bay’s very first sports awards was held in 1969, with golfer Una Wickham winning the then ultimate prize of Sportsman of the Year. This year’s finalists are a galaxy of Bay of Plenty sporting stars that perform on the world stage.

Looking back through the first two decades of supreme winners reveals names that have long since faded from the headlines.

The first winner as the 1970s arrived was legendary marathon runner Jack Foster, a Rotorua resident who didn’t take up running until his early 30s. Foster was selected to represent his country at the 1972 and 1976 Olympic Games and won silver at the 1974 Commonwealth Games in Christchurch.

Rower Wybo Veldman received the supreme award in 1971, with legendary para-athlete Eve Rimmer winning in 1972. Tauranga golfer Mike Nicholson, who achieved the rare double of the New Zealand stroke play and amateur match play titles, scooped the top prize in 1973.

Ross Hynds became the second para-athlete to win the big prize in 1973.

Rugby ruled supreme in the following two years, with local All Blacks Graeme Crossman and Greg Rowlands taking centre stage at the Bay of Plenty Sports Awards. While it is many years since Rowlands retired from rugby, he still holds the record for Bay of Plenty appearances, with a remarkable 161 games for his province.

Squash player Bruce Brownlee, who annexed the British Amateur championship in 1976 to become the first Kiwi to win a squash major tournament, won the Bay’s major sporting award the following year. Mark Taylor made it three out of four for rugby, in 1978, with rower Grant McAuley becoming the last supreme winner in the 1970s.

In the early days, the supreme winner mostly came from the traditional Kiwi sports. However, as the 1980s arrived, so did the diversity of the winners. In 1986 alpine skier Simon Wi Rutene reigned supreme. He dominated the national tiles for many years and represented New Zealand at the 1984, 1988, 1992 and 1994 Winter Olympics. Tony Truss came from the minority sport of clay target shooting, to take out the supreme title in 1991.

A glittering line-up of individual stars, will contest this year’s Bay of Plenty Supreme Sportsperson award, along with the Team of the Year accolade.

Sportswoman of the Year will be contested by Lisa Carrington (kayaking), Julie Edwards (rowing), Samantha Charlton (hockey), and Zoe Stevenson (rowing).

The Sportsman of the Year is between Peter Burling (sailing), David Monk (blind lawn bowls), Sam Sutton White (white water kayaking), and Max Jacobs (kite boarding).

Seeya at the Bay of Plenty Sports Awards.

Sideline Sid
Sports correspondant & historian
www.sunlive.co.nz