The unparalleled achievements of Ngapuhi's Portia Woodman on the international stage over the past 12 months saw her pick up the Supreme Sportsperson Award at the 2018 Te Taitokerau Maori Sports Awards.
With other engagements preventing Woodman being there in person, the Mid North whanau of the Black Ferns rugby sevens star — apparently ranked 9th most influential player in world rugby according to one source — picked up the award on her behalf at this year's ceremony held at the Waitaha Event Centre at Copthorne Hotel and Resort Bay of Islands in Waitangi on Saturday night.
Jim [Larkin] to me is absolutely typical of the New Zealand volunteer person who gets off his backside to help people. He was the glue. We just can't afford to lose people like Jim.
Having just returned home after being a vital cog in the Black Ferns win at the opening leg of the international women's sevens circuit at Glendale, the Black Ferns Sevens speedster was also named Open Female Sportsperson of the Year earlier in the evening.
It was the second year in a row Woodman has picked up the two gongs after the Te Taitokerau awards evening had been reanimated to its rightful place on the Far North events calendar in 2017.
The other marquee award of the night went to Vodafone Warriors and New Zealand Kiwis star Adam Blair (Te Rarawa), who was named Open Male Sportsperson of the Year.
Unable to make it to the occasion as he is currently on tour with the New Zealand Kiwis in England, Blair's award was accepted on his behalf by the CEO of Rugby League Northland (and Hokianga Pioneers stalwart), Phil Marsh.
The other big awards of the night saw Killarney Morey (Te Rarawa) picking up the junior female sportsperson gong, while Kaitaia College wrestler Arapo Kellner (Ngapuhi) was named junior male sportsperson.
Preparing to join the Northern Mystics' wider train on squad next month, Morey was given the nod by the awards judging panel for her achievements in netball and AFL, while Kellner was picked for representing New Zealand at the Youth Olympics in Buenos Aires earlier this month by competing in the 60kg Greco Roman class.
Silver Ferns coach Noelene Tauroa (Ngapuhi, Ngati Whatua, Ngati Rehia) was named Coach of the Year; while the Team Tai Tokerau women claimed the Outstanding Team award for their triple gold medal run at the world outrigger canoe championships in Tahiti, as well as their domination of waka ama regattas on both local and national stages.
Other winners included Cameron Leslie (Ngapuhi), named Disabled Sportsperson for his achievements in wheelchair rugby and parafed swimming; renowned Kaeo boxing exponent Rusty Porter (Ngati Kahu ki Whangaroa, Ngapuhi) presented with a Service to Sport award; Yves Brown from Kerikeri picking up the Official of the Year for her efforts in traditional Maori games; Veronica 'Ronnie' Tamati (Te Rarawa) emerged as a popular joint winner of the Community Service Award — alongside the KaiMatariki club — for her efforts promoting league and waka ama in the North Hokianga; while Nicole Robinson (Ngapuhi) won the Sports Administrator award for her commitment towards promoting the codes of rugby and league from Kaikohe.
The biggest cheer of the night, however, came when Pawarenga United — comprised of Taiao, Ohaki and Morehu marae — was announced Outstanding Marae for organising the world famous Pawarenga Sports Day event on New Year's Eve.
A highlight of the evening occasion was a short address by special guest, Sir Graham Lowe.
"It's my absolute honour and privilege to be here," Lowey assured the gathering, before going on to speak about the unifying power of sport, and how sport was both underfunded and under-appreciated by government for its ability to empower communities particularly in more remote areas such as those in the Far North.
He also reminded everyone there to always grab any opportunities which came along with both hands, and paid tribute to his dear friend, Kaitaia league identity Jim Larkin.
"I was so lucky in my career to have volunteers who helped and guided me. Jim to me is absolutely typical of the New Zealand volunteer person who gets off his backside to help people. He was the glue. We just can't afford to lose people like Jim," Lowe said.
The evening concluded with a moving ceremony which saw Ngapuhi accepting the right from Ngai Takoto to host next year's event.