The 30th Legend of Northland Sport was inducted at the Conbrio Northland Sports Awards held at the ASB Stadium recently.
Pero Cameron is a local Portland lad who attended Whangārei Boys' High School showing basketball talent from an early age.
Cameron played at the top level for 17 years, achieving more in basketball than any other New Zealander has, including winning a silver medal at the Commonwealth Games, competing at two Olympic Games, leading the Tall Blacks to a semi-final at the World Champs (and in doing so becoming the only non-NBA player to make the all-tournament team) and recently becoming the only New Zealander to be inducted into the International Basketball Hall of Fame.
Cameron mentioned on the night that he also played a variety of sports when growing up, rugby and cricket to name a couple. That fact, by the way, backs up the argument that our young people need to play a variety of sports and that early specialisation in one sport is not necessarily a good predictor of success as an adult.
Analysis of the 30 Northland Legends of Sport makes for some interesting reading, especially when you look at the sports that the different legends were involved in.
Predictably in this rugby-mad nation, our number one sport tops the list as the main sport with one-third of the 30 legends – players Peter Jones, Sid Going, Johnny Smith, Joe Morgan, Peter Sloane and Ian Jones, coach Ted Griffin, referee Pat Murphy, administrator Duncan Ross and player/administrator Richie Guy make up the rugby legends contingent.
Hockey comes in second with four on the list – Trevor Blake, Ross McPherson, Grant McLeod and Sandy Hitchcock (nee Bennett), reflecting this sport's huge stature and tradition in the north.
The comparatively minor sport of table tennis has incredibly had three players inducted - Neti Traill, James Morris and Garry Frew (the latter also being honoured for his sports journalism), which just goes to show that minor sports can produce great sportspeople (and again table tennis is a sport that has a significant history in Northland).
Amazingly, that is 17 of the 30 (57 per cent) that come from just three sports, which probably goes to show that tradition does play a big part in what sports people achieve in.
NZ's biggest summer sport cricket has two legends (Brian Dunning and Bryan Young), as does equestrian (Blythe Tait and Andrew Bennie). Both sports also have a significant history in Northland and when you then look at the five sports above that have multiple legends, they account for an incredible 21 of the 30 (70 per cent).
There are another eight sports that have one legend each – cycling (Laurie Byers), netball (Lyn Gunson), woodchopping (Innes Davidson), bowls (Audrey Russell), swimming (Michael Davidson), athletics (Bob Thomas), squash (Shelley Kitchen) and now basketball with Cameron being inducted this year. The late Dr Matt Marshall rounds out the 30 Northland legends, largely for his sterling work in sports medicine and drugs in sport.
Footnote – in last week's column featuring the Conbrio Northland Sports Awards the Tailored Legal Solutions Ltd Disabled Sportsperson of the Year Award was missed from being mentioned. This award recognises those athletes that overcome adversity and significant hurdles in their endeavours, whether as a result of congenital differences, injury, trauma or neurodiversity. This award was won by Cameron Leslie who won gold at the 2018 Pan Pacific Para Swimming Championship in the men's 150m individual medley.