Why Richie McCaw deserves NZer of the Year

By Moana Tapaleao, Gia Garrick

Richie McCaw was named as the KiwiBank New Zealander of the Year tonight. Photo / Greg Bowker
Richie McCaw was named as the KiwiBank New Zealander of the Year tonight. Photo / Greg Bowker

Former All Black captain Richie McCaw has been named Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year - adding yet another accolade to an already memorable 12 months.

The 35-year-old picked up the award at a ceremony at the Langham hotel in Auckland last night, at which golfer Lydia Ko was among others honoured.

The annual awards honour the contribution made by passionate Kiwis in all sectors of society. Last year's top accolade went to businessman Sir Stephen Tindall, founder of The Warehouse.

Presenting the award, Prime Minister John Key said: "One end of the country to the other we're jam-packed with people who do incredible things.

"Kids always ask: 'What's the coolest thing about being Prime Minister? The free things - the people.

"Richie McCaw, who is the greatest All Black New Zealand has ever produced - an amazing New Zealander.

"Louise Nicholas who has done more for sexual violence and sexual abuse than any other New Zealander.

"Rob Fenwick who has a real passion... For the environment that we as New Zealanders treasure and enjoy so much."

McCaw played a record 148 tests for the All Blacks, 111 of them as captain. Tonight, he looked dapper in a black tuxedo and was relaxed with fiancee Gemma Flynn and his parents, Donald and Margaret.

Richie McCaw was draped with a traditional Maori cloak after being announced as the winner of the award. Photo / Greg Bowker
Richie McCaw was draped with a traditional Maori cloak after being announced as the winner of the award. Photo / Greg Bowker

Flynn told the Herald it was once again a celebration of McCaw's hard work. "It's very well deserved. I just think it's a great evening to celebrate all Kiwis in general." Asked about her outfit, a figure-hugging sparkly black number, Flynn admitted she had only just bought the dress. "I picked it up today, actually, because I've been training ... It's a designer from overseas." Don McCaw quipped about his own outfit - a black tuxedo with bow tie - saying: "Mine probably comes from a hire shop." Both parents were quietly proud of their only son, Mrs McCaw saying that although she was always a bit nervous at such events, she was excited and proud.

All showed leadership, courage, humility, honour and respect, he said. Lydia Ko was named Young New Zealander of the Year.

She beat fellow finalists Sean Kelly, a young, internationally known fashion designer, and neuroscientist Malvinder Singh-Bains.

Richie McCaw was among three Kiwis in the running for the top award. The others were businessman Rob Fenwick and a campaigner for women's rights and victims of sexual violence, Louise Nicholas.

The chief awards judge, Cameron Bennett, said all three were "exceptional Kiwis" who epitomised what it was to be a great New Zealander.

McCaw said he was "hugely humbled" to be in the company of such great people.

"I'm the sort of guy who wants to give everything a crack.

"When you're an old man sitting back and reflecting... Whether you achieved it or not, at least you gave it a crack, and that's what I want to be thinking."

McCaw received a standing ovation when his name was read out as winner of the New Zealander of the Year award.

He was then draped with a traditional Maori cloak, and said:

"For 15 years I was lucky enough to do something I loved.

"All I did was play sport really...

"I got more joy really from seeing those around me achieve... And the impact you can have on other people is truly a privilege.

"Representing a country on the world stage... Being the little country going up against the big ones and winning, that's when you're proud to wear the silver fern on you chest.

"Travelling round the world and being able to say you're a Kiwi... That's what it's all about.

"Being able to give time to kids and the sport I love so much... And hopefully in the years going forward I'm able to do much more.

"It's pretty cool."

The Local Hero of the Year award went to Selwyn Cook, who owns 14 Z petrol stations in the Waikato that he uses to provide work opportunities for people with disabilities.

The Senior New Zealander of the Year honour was awarded to John Russell, principal of Naenae College in Wellington, for his work with students and mentoring the country's secondary school principals.

Other awards ranged from arts and science achievements to innovative ways to teach music. Helping people with disabilities play sports, technical innovation and achievements in health and agriculture were recognised too.

McCaw's latest achievement follows a memorable past few months for the former All Black.After the Rugby World Cup win in Britain, he announced his retirement from professional rugby before being appointed a member of the Order of New Zealand - the country's highest royal award - in the New Year Honours.

Lydia Ko was named the Young New Zealander of the Year earlier in the evening. Photo / File
Lydia Ko was named the Young New Zealander of the Year earlier in the evening. Photo / File

Last month, he announced his engagement to Flynn. McCaw - who was also shortlisted with former All Blacks coach Steve Hansen for the Herald's New Zealander of the Year awards - is now embarking on a new career, working as a pilot for Christchurch Helicopters.

For an interview with Richie McCaw, listen to the Mike Hosking Breakfast on Newstalk ZB tomorrow morning.

Golfer Lydia Ko earlier won the award for Young New Zealander of the Year.

She beat fellow finalists Sean Kelly, a young, internationally-known fashion designer, and neuroscientist Malvinder Singh-Bains.

Local Hero of the Year has gone to Selwyn Cook, who owns 14 Z petrol stations across the Waikato that he uses to provide work opportunities for people with disabilities.

And our Senior New Zealander of the Year is John Russell - principal of Naenae College - for his work with students and mentoring of the country's secondary school principals.

- NZ Herald

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