Van Dyk most loved NZ sports star

An immigrant has topped the list of New Zealand's most beloved sporting heroes, heading off a part-time underwear model and a rowing heart patient.

Silver Ferns netballer Irene van Dyk shot past All Blacks rugby first five-eighth Daniel Carter and Olympic rower Rob Waddell in a survey conducted by UMR Research.

Ever-smiling van Dyk, born in South Africa, left a "very favourable" or "favourable" impression with 87 per cent of 750 people aged 18 and over, in a survey carried out in March.

In the wake of van Dyk - the most popular athlete with both men and women - came Carter, who has modelled an underwear line, seen in a positive light by 82 per cent of respondents.

Waddell was seen favourably by 79 per cent, well ahead of Mahe Drysdale (64), who secured the sole New Zealand Olympic single sculls spot when his rival had heart problems in the trials.

All Blacks captain Richie McCaw and golfer Michael Campbell both rated 78.

But the survey of 359 men and 391 women revealed a lack of knowledge of many of the elite sports stars on a list of 22 provided by UMR.

One in three men were unsure who world champion shot putter Valerie Vili was, and nearly half could not place Silver Ferns netball captain Adine Wilson.

Vili won the supreme prize at the Halberg Awards in February.

Two in three women did not know Warriors rugby league captain Steve Price, and four in 10 did not know Black Caps wicketkeeper Brendan McCullum.

Blacks Caps captain Daniel Vettori scored 77 per cent, just ahead of his predecessor Stephen Fleming (76).

Only van Dyk and Carter topped 50 per cent in the "very favourable" category, ahead of Waddell, McCaw (47) and Vili (46).

All Blacks coach Graham Henry was at the other end of the lovefest, with 17 per cent having a "somewhat unfavourable" or "very unfavourable" opinion of him.

Another coach joined Henry in the basement, with 16 per cent having a negative view of cricket's John Bracewell.

Crash-tackling All Blacks loosie Jerry Collins was third-last, garnering a 12 per cent rating.

While 97 per cent of respondents had heard of van Dyk and Campbell, across both sexes Price, an Aussie, was unknown by nearly one in four (22 per cent).

Also high among the unknowns were rugby league coach Stephen Kearney (19) Wilson, Olympic triathlon silver medallist Bevan Docherty, McCullum, and Bracewell, all 18s.

More than half the 391 women surveyed did not offer any opinion on Price, Kearney, McCullum, Bracewell, rugby league player Reuben Wiki, and Docherty.

Unlike Bracewell, Henry was very well known, with only 5 per cent confessing to not knowing who he was.

Crusaders, and soon Australia, rugby coach Robbie Deans, was more liked but not as well known as Henry.

* most favoured by men: van Dyk (85 per cent); Carter and Vettori (83); Waddell and McCaw (81).

* most favoured by women: van Dyk (89); Carter and Campbell (80); Waddell (78).

* least favoured by men: Campbell (14), yachtsman Dean Barker (13); Collins (12).

* least favoured by women: Collins (11), Fleming (6), Campbell, Barker, motor racer Scott Dixon, league player Reuben Wiki (5).

* least known (or unsure of) by men: Wilson (46), Docherty (43), Price (36).

* least known (or unsure of) by women: Price (67), McCullum (60), Wiki (54).

- NZPA

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