An overwhelmingly successful year for New Zealand sevens sides was recognised at the 50th Bay of Plenty Sports Awards, with those involved picking up many of the major honours.
Hosted by Sport Bay of Plenty, the 2018 Bay of Plenty Sports Awards were held at Tauranga's ASB Arena last night, to recognise and celebrate outstanding achievements by Bay of Plenty athletes, coaches and officials during the last year.
Black Ferns Sevens coach Allan Bunting made his way into the history books by becoming just the second coach in 50 years to win the Supreme Award.
Bunting, who also took home the BayTrust Coach of the Year award, joined fellow rugby sevens coach Sir Gordon Tietjens on the list of supreme winners.
It was an outstanding 12 months for his side who backed up a gold medal at the Commonwealth Games with a Rugby World Cup Sevens win. He was the assistant coach of the Black Ferns Sevens team from March 2012, before being named head coach in 2016.
Previously he was the skills coach for the All Blacks Sevens and assistant coach for the Wellington Lions Sevens teams. Between 1999 and 2009 he was a professional rugby player, playing for the All Blacks Sevens, Chiefs, Bay of Plenty Steamers and Tokyo Gas.
Speaking during the week about being named a finalist, Bunting said it was special to be nominated for an award in his home region.
"This is where I went to school and where I played my rugby. It certainly has a lot of meaning to it and I'm really grateful.
"It's definitely not me that would be receiving the award, it's on behalf of the team. The strength of this team is that it's always everyone together."
Black Ferns Sevens player Kelly Brazier, who was a finalist in the Holland Beckett Law Sportswoman of the Year category, was full of praise for her coach.
"He's wicked, he's very player driven. He leaves a lot to the players and the leadership group, lets us sort it out which obviously works well during the games because it's us on the field and we've got to sort it out for ourselves. He's very caring, very big on culture and just a really good guy," she said.
Sport Bay of Plenty sport manager Nick Chambers said Bunting faced some tough competition for the 2018 Supreme Award, including Commonwealth Games medallists Sam and Ben O'Dea, Frances Davies, Michaela Blyde and Scott Curry, but in the end it was his leadership and outstanding achievements during the last year which helped the judges come to a unanimous decision.
"He's a great leader and mentor to the national squad, and has helped the Black Ferns Sevens maintain a commanding position in international competition. Named Women's Coach of the Year at the World Rugby Sevens awards earlier this year, he's clearly earned the respect of his peers and the sports community," Chambers said.
The success of New Zealand sevens was further recognised in the Sportsman and Sportswoman of the Year awards.
Black Ferns Sevens player Michaela Blyde won the Holland Beckett Law Sportswoman of the Year and All Blacks Sevens co-captain Scott Curry took out the Bayleys Real Estate Sportsman of the Year award.
Beach volleyball duo Sam and Ben O'Dea were named the University of Waikato Adams Centre for High Performance Team of the Year.
In the junior division, rugby player Kaleb Trask's breakout year was celebrated with the Vodafone Junior Sportsman of the Year for a stellar year of achievements, including being part of New Zealand's Under-20 World Cup squad and a member of the Bay of Plenty Under-19 side who won the Jock Hobbs Memorial Tournament.
Blacksticks hockey player and Commonwealth Games gold medallist Frances Davies won the Eves Realty Junior Sportswoman of the Year trophy – an honour previously won by Olympians Luuka Jones and Molly Meech.
It was not all about the athletes, with numerous volunteers, coaches and officials in the open and secondary school space rewarded for their dedication and commitment.
Local legend Greg Rieger, from surf life saving, was named Advocate Print Official of the Year, and 10 local volunteers were honoured in the YMCA Service to Sport category for having made significant contributions at the regional or national level. This included husband and wife Noel and Jan Jones who have collectively given more than 80 years of service to badminton and athletics.
The year's Sports Awards also looked back at 50 years of local sporting achievements. Several past Supreme Award winners were in attendance during the evening and were honoured throughout the night including Wybo Veldman (1971 – rowing), Graeme Crossman (1975 – rugby union), Andrew Stevenson (1982 – rowing), Diane Collings (1987 – shooting), Nicky Cooney (1990 – springboard diving), Renee Fowler (1997 – golf), Dave MacCalman (2000 – paraplegic sport), Sarah Walker (2007/2009 – BMX) and Sir Gordon Tietjens (1998/2011 – rugby sevens).
Sport Bay of Plenty chief executive Heidi Lichtwark congratulated all the winners and finalists.
"It's a real testament to the depth of talent and dedication in our region that the sports awards have been running for 50 years.
"One of the best aspects of the awards is that we can honour the region's top athletes alongside the many community volunteers who help make our local sport system so strong."
Winners of the 2018 Bay of Plenty Sports Awards:
Sport Bay of Plenty Supreme Award:
Allan Bunting – Rugby Sevens coach
Bayleys Real Estate Sportsman of the Year:
Scott Curry – Rugby Sevens
Holland Beckett Law Sportswoman of the Year:
Michaela Blyde – Rugby Sevens
Eves Realty Junior Sportswoman of the Year:
Frances Davies - Hockey
Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology Secondary School Sportsman of the Year:
Sam Tanner – Cross Country, Athletics and Surfing
Vodafone Junior Sportsman of the Year:
Kaleb Trask - Rugby
Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology Secondary School Sportswoman of the Year:
Frances Lloyd – Taekwondo
BayTrust Coach of the Year:
Allan Bunting – Rugby Sevens
Donelley Sawmillers Secondary School Coach of the Year:
Kenrick Knowlson – Underwater Hockey
NZ Community Trust Junior Team of the Year:
Bay of Plenty Rugby U19 Boys'
University of Waikato Adams Centre for High Performance Team of the Year:
O'Dea Brothers – Beach Volleyball
YMCA Service to Sport:
Paul Wills – Cricket
Cliff Horne – Basketball
Chris McAlpine – Golf
Jan Jones – Badminton
Ken Richards – Tennis
Megan Richards – Hockey
Barrie Hawkes – Football
Noel Jones – Athletics
Dianne Harvey – Hockey
Sue Walker - BMX
Advocate Print Official of the Year:
Greg Rieger – Surf Life Saving
Ebbett Tauranga Club of the Year:
Geyser City Cricket Club
Bay Office Products Depot Secondary School Boys' Team of the Year:
Rotorua Boys' High School Touch Rugby Team
Bay Cardiology Secondary School Girls' Team of the Year:
Otumoetai College Senior A Girls' Volleyball Team
Aurecon Secondary School Student Contribution to Sport:
Bay of Plenty Principals' Association Secondary School Service to Sport:
Mark Elers – Rotorua Boys' High School