It has been just over a year since All Black Sam Cane's potentially career-ending injury, breaking his neck in a victory over the Springboks.
But it's his amazing comeback from that injury, competing in the 2019 Rugby World Cup and named to play in Saturday's Rugby World Cup quarter-final against Ireland, is one of the reasons he has been named a finalist of one of the top categories of this year's 51st Bay of Plenty Sports Awards.
Cane is one of four men named as finalists for the Sportsman of the Year Award. He is up against Callum Gilbert, who's had a lot of international canoe slalom success this year including making history when he recorded New Zealand's best K1 men's result at the opening of the ICF World Cup, professional golfer Luke Toomey, whose latest accolades include winning the Carrus Open in front of loved ones on his home course in Tauranga just last weekend and securing back-to-back tournaments on the Jennian Homes Charles Tour. Nathan Harris, who made his debut with the Māori All Blacks against Fiji in the home and away series earlier this year.
The talented Bay of Plenty athletes are among the 74 finalists - junior athletes, international sports stars, coaches, officials and volunteers - of the 2019 Bay of Plenty Sports Awards, which celebrate all aspects of sport from grassroots volunteers through to elite athletes.
More than 130 nominations were received for 17 award categories including the top honours of Sportsman and Sportswoman of the Year and the Supreme Award.
The day after winning Bay of Plenty Rugby's Supreme Award, Black Ferns captain Les Elder has been revealed as one of the finalists for one of two top awards at the 2019 Bay of Plenty Sports Awards. It's been a memorable year for the well-respected athlete, having taken on the role of captain of New Zealand's women's rugby team, the Black Ferns, who are building towards the 2021 Rugby World Cup.
She is one of five women up named as finalists in the Sportswoman of the Year category. Those also up for the title includes Bay of Plenty Olympians and Black Sticks Samantha Charlton and Rose Keddell, who also won gold at last year's Commonwealth Games gold medal-winning teams, Natalie Peat - a surf lifesaver whose success over the past 12 months has seen her selected for the New Zealand team that will attend the International German Cup and Orange Cup events and Eva Morris, captain of New Zealand's synchronised swimming team, the Aquaferns, which competed at the Fina world championships in South Korea this year.
Finalists in the open Team of the Year category include the men's and women's white water rafting teams that placed first and third respectively at the world rafting championships, as well as the Tauranga women's volleyball and Bay of Plenty women's squash teams.
Three-time Official of the Year winner Kelly Hudson (hockey) and 2018 winner Greg Rieger (surf life saving), once again make their mark in the officials category alongside Glen Jackson (rugby), Joanne Miller (surf life saving) and Sarah Garnett (hockey).
Triathlon features strongly in the Coach of the Year category with Craig Kirkwood and Chris Willett named finalists. They'll go up against other outstanding coaches John Bryant (surf life saving), Clayton McMillan (rugby) and Lara Teixeira Cianciarulo (synchronised swimming).
Sport Bay of Plenty sport manager Nick Chamber said the quality of nominations made the judges' task very difficult.
"The number of nominations reflects the depth of talent we have across the Bay of Plenty and our passion for sport in the region," Chamber said.
The Bay of Plenty Sports Awards will be held on November 22, at the Rotorua Energy Events Centre. Tickets are available at sportbop.co.nz.
2019 Bay of Plenty Sports Awards finalists:
Sportsman of the Year:
Sam Cane (Rugby), Callum Gilbert (Canoe Slalom), Luke Toomey (golf), Nathan Harris (rugby).
Sportswoman of the Year:
Samantha Charlton (hockey), Rose Keddell (hockey), Lesley Elder (rugby), Natalie Peat (surf life saving), Eva Morris (synchronised swimming).
International Sportsperson of the Year:
Peter Burling (sailing), Sam Meech (sailing), Luuka Jones (canoe slalom).
Coach of the Year:
Craig Kirkwood (triathlon/athletics), John Bryant (surf life saving), Clayton McMillan (rugby), Chris Willett (triathlon),
Lara Teixeira Cianciarulo (synchronised swimming).
Official of the Year:
Greg Rieger (surf life saving), Kelly Hudson (hockey), Sarah Garnett (hockey), Joanne Miller (surf life saving), Glen Jackson (rugby).
Team of the Year:
Tauranga Women's A Team (volleyball), NZ Men's Racing Team (white water rafting), Bay Of Plenty Women's Team (squash), Open Women's Racing Team (white water rafting).
Junior Sportsman of the Year:
Hayden Wilde (Triathlon), Tuhoto-Ariki Pene (Mountain Biking - Downhill), Lochlainn O'Connor (Surf Life Saving),
Tom Waldin (Sports Climbing).
Junior Sportswoman of the Year:
Mahina Paul (Rugby 7s),
Shinae Carrington (Water Polo), Emma Diprose (Kick Boxing).
Club of the Year:
Mount Maunganui Surf Life Saving Club (Surf Life Saving), Te Puna Rugby Club (Rugby), Lake City Athletics Club (Athletics),
Rotorua Mountain Biking Club (Mountain Biking).
Service to Sport:
Embargoed until Sports Awards evening.
Secondary School Sportswoman of the Year:
Kyra Mita (Rotorua Lakes High School - Waka Ama / White Water Rafting), Olivia Cummings (Otumoetai College - Cross Country / Triathlon), Megan Williams (John Paul College - BMX), Molly Shivnan (Mount Manganui College - Swimming / Surf Life Saving), Khiarna Williams (Trident High School - Netball / Volleyball), Eloise Sharpe (Tauranga Girls' College - Underwater Hockey).
Secondary School Sportsman of the Year:
Jack Egan (Aquinas College - Canoe Slalom), Finn Anderson (Tauranga Boys' College - Canoe Slalom), Oliver Puchner (Tauranga Boys' College - Kayaking), Henry Booker (John Paul College - Sport Climbing), Zachary Howe (Tauranga Boys' College -
Underwater Hockey), Jack McManaway (Tauranga Boys' College - Volleyball).
Secondary School Coach of the Year:
Alex Fierro and Sam Thompson (Mountain Biking / Cross Country), Kelly Saunders (Otumoetai College Underwater Hockey), Ben Ormsby (Tauranga Boys' College Volleyball), Duncan By De Ley (Tauranga Girls' College Rowing).
Secondary School Boys' Team of the Year:
Rotorua Boys' High School Golf, Tauranga Boys' College Underwater Hockey, Tauranga Boys' College Volleyball, Tauranga Boys' College Kayaking.
Secondary School Girls' Team of the Year:
Otumoetai College Underwater Hockey, Otumoetai College Volleyball, Trident High School Volleyball, Tauranga Girls' College Rowing.
Secondary School Student Contribution to Sport:
Amy Brunt (
Western Heights High School - Netball / Flipperball / Waterpolo), Lucy Turner (Katikati College - Netball), Michael Jones (Whakatāne High School - Rugby), Marujke Hattingh (Mount Maunganui College - Water Polo / Swimming).
Secondary School Service to Sport:
Embargoed until awards evening