Sevens: Sevens sensation savours double

By Shane Hurndell

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Hawke's Bay's All Black Sevens star won the supreme and senior awards on Saturday night. Photo/Glenn Taylor
Hawke's Bay's All Black Sevens star won the supreme and senior awards on Saturday night. Photo/Glenn Taylor

Gillies Kaka has been a regular haka leader for the world champion All Black Sevens team.

The 2013 Hawke's Bay Magpie has also been one of five core players in the side along with DJ Forbes, Scott Curry, Ben Lam and Bryce Heem. But he isn't counting his chickens as far as selection for the Glasgow Commonwealth Games is concerned.

"There's a few Super [Rugby] boys coming into the frame now so everyone is on equal terms again," Kaka explained after collecting the Hawke's Bay Sportsperson of the Year award at a function attended by 450 people in Taradale's Pettigrew-Green Arena on Saturday night.

The terms are so equal Kaka felt guilty about sneaking a Banoffee Tumbler dessert three nights out from the next sevens camp which begins in Mount Maunganui tomorrow. This camp will end with trials before a squad of 14 is selected to travel to Amsterdam for one week of training before a 12-strong squad is selected for the Games which begin on July 23.

"Obviously the 2016 Olympics in Rio is the main goal but Glasgow is a key step towards that goal," Kaka said.

Earlier on Saturday night, Kaka won the Hawke's Bay Senior Sportsperson Award. The two awards were early birthday presents for Kaka who turns 24 on Wednesday.

"I'm lost for words. I didn't come here expecting anything and to get two is quite humbling," Kaka said.

Although he is no stranger to award doubles, as he got a similar double at last year's Ngati Kahungunu Sportsperson of the Year function. The doubles at both functions came in the wake of his Player of the Tournament award for the World Cup-winning All Black Sevens in Russia last year and his role as an integral member of the team's World Series win as well as his role in the Magpies' Ranfurly Shield success.

A Havelock North club player when he isn't on international duty, Kaka praised the grassroots flavour of Saturday night's function which saw a Grassroots Club Performance of the Year award introduced for the first time.

"I remember when I left school and came to Hawke's Bay. Playing for Havelock North gave me my chance to make the Magpies ... grassroots is what makes everything tick," Kaka said.

Kaka had no qualms about the Magpies being pipped for the Senior Team award by the national title-winning Dodgers women's softball side.

"It's great to see a grassroots code like softball being recognised," Kaka said.

He pointed out his father and former New Zealand Maori and Wairarapa Bush midfield back Charlie Kaka has been the biggest influence on his career.

"Dad is also my biggest critic but I have to thank him for taking me everywhere during the early stages of my career."

The versatile sevens player added he was "blown away" by the fact his name will join the likes of his cousin Zac Guildford and AB Israel Dagg on the list of Hawke's Bay Sportsperson of the Year award winners.

There was a strong rugby flavour to Saturday night's function with international referee Chris Pollock becoming a back-to-back winner of the official award and a rugby ball signed by Richie McCaw raising $1500 for the Lowe Corporation Rescue Helicopter. Auctioneer and former Magpie Simon Tremain provided one of the evening's more entertaining moments when he went to kick the ball out into the crowd and it bounced back off the stage's lighting frames before going missing for a short time behind the stage.

It was obvious the forwards didn't have to do much kicking during his first-class career.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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