Young sport stars inspired by camaraderie at awards event.

New Zealand sport's brightest young talents met yesterday to share stories, swap secrets and receive honours for both past success and future promise.

The group of athletes, ranging from a surfing world champion to a Commonwealth Games mountain biking medallist, often cross paths but rarely enjoy the chance to trade tips and tricks with their peers.

That changed for one afternoon at the annual New Zealand Herald Future Stars of Sport awards in Auckland, where each athlete received a trophy and a $1500 training grant.

Ella Williams (surfing), Jamie-Lee Price (netball), Sam Gaze (mountain biking), Gemma Jones (sailing), Brook Robertson (rowing) and Tai Wynyard (basketball, who was absent) were recipients of the awards - for what they've accomplished in their short careers as well as what may be to come.


In the almost 50-year history of the awards, some of the biggest names in New Zealand sport have been acknowledged, from Martin Crowe and Rob Waddell to Valerie Adams and, most recently, Lydia Ko.

This year's crop have already shown the potential to emulate that group of sporting royalty and, given they are each chasing the same target, the opportunity to compare notes was welcome.

"It's really cool because you get to mix with every kind of athlete, understand their sport and what they're going through," Williams said.

"We're all on a big journey here, just different sports, so it's pretty awesome to get to know these athletes and follow them in their journey."

It's a journey that has seen the athletes unwittingly intersect in the past but, now with a communal connection, they know they can reach across codes for advice.

"People like Brook were in Cambridge while I was staying there and you don't actually realise that they were around," said Price, the first netballer honoured since 1979.

"And Gemma, she goes to Millennium [Institute] and I'm there at the same time, but we didn't even notice it. It's just cool to meet new people in different sports."

The awards are partly aimed at shining the spotlight on some of those different sports, with young people, now more than ever, looking for inspiration across a plethora of activities.

Gaze is from one such pursuit, though he did find momentary fame when completing a Kiwi 1-2 by securing silver in the men's mountain bike race at this year's Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

While the 18-year-old would love his sport to receive more attention, he knew he needed only to look around the room to see he was far from alone.

"[Mountain biking] is just such a spectator-friendly sport. Mud, crashes and tears - what more could you want," he said.

"But I'm just one guy in one sport and there's thousands of other athletes around the country just like me.

"I have a huge amount of respect for these guys and I think it's a great way of showing what this country has to bring on the sporting stage."

That mutual respect was more than evident as the athletes mixed and mingled, grateful for a break from training but also the chance to contrast training techniques.

"I love doing things like this and meeting other athletes," Jones said.

"Seeing what's similar about their programmes and what's different - it's fascinating and I love all sports, so it's really cool just to chat with these guys."

Gemma Jones



Sport: Sailing

Hometown: Auckland

How she got started: Gemma's father, Murray Jones, is America's Cup royalty, having won four straight Auld Mugs from 1995-2007. Having grown up around the sport, including spending four years living in Valencia while Murray helped Alinghi defend the trophy, it was no surprise Gemma followed in her father's footsteps.

Career highlights: Jones represented New Zealand at the 2012 and 2013 International Sailing Federation youth world championships, competing in the 420 and SL 16 catamaran classes after coming out of the Optimist, a class in which so many of New Zealand's best sailors begin their careers. In 2013 Jones won a Prime Minister's Scholarship and was named Auckland University sportswoman of the year, while this year she was crowned the national Nacra 17 champion.

Hopes for the future: Currently campaigning for a place at the 2016 Olympics in Rio, Jones hopes to compete in the Nacra 17 multihull class, the newest discipline on the Olympic programme. It is a two-person mixed class and she is partnering Jason Saunders, with the pair set to chase qualification points in Europe throughout the next year.

Ella Williams



Sport: Surfing

Hometown: Whangamata

How she got started: Williams began surfing at 4, taking a bright pink board into the waves at Raglan, before moving to Whangamata at 7 after her parents bought the surf shop. With surfing in her genes, Williams was just 8 when she wrote on a poster that she wanted to be a world champion, fixing it to her bedroom wall as an ever-present reminder of her goal.

Career highlights: Ten years later Williams won the world junior championship in Brazil, gaining entry to the competition only a week earlier after another athlete pulled out. The victory earned her a nomination in the emerging talent category at the Halberg Awards and saw Whangamata's favourite daughter enjoy a street parade. This year Williams competed on the world junior tour and finished tied for fifth.

Hopes for the future: Williams wants to make a living doing what she loves - but it won't be easy. The elite tour is tough to crack and, even after earning the results to gain entry, the women's section, with lower prize money and fewer endorsement deals, means only those at the very top end of the sport can flourish. But Williams has the drive, talent and support to realise her aim and join fellow Kiwi Paige Hareb on the circuit.

Tai Wynyard



Sport: Basketball

Hometown: Auckland

How he got started: Tai has solid sporting genes, with dad Jason last week winning his sixth world lumberjack title and mum Karmyn a decorated timber sports champion. Karmyn also played on a US college basketball scholarship and, with Tai standing 2.04m at just 16, pursuing that particular path was a logical choice for her son.

Career highlights: Wynyard was in New York this year attending the annual Jordan Brand Classic, an event aimed at some of the best young basketballers in the world.

Then in July he became the youngest ever Tall Black when he took the court against South Korea and, now part of the Breakers' academy, Wynyard scored 12 points and grabbed nine rebounds in 15 short minutes during the club's first preseason game.

Hopes for the future: Already a big young man, Wynyard has a big goal to match - he wants to follow in Steven Adams' footsteps and play in the NBA.

With John Calipari - 2012 national championship-winner with the University of Kentucky - among the college coaches rumoured to be interested in recruiting Wynyard, that dream could become reality in just a few years.

Brook Robertson



Sport: Rowing

Hometown: Nelson

How he got started: Robertson began rowing in 2007 and quickly displayed an aptitude for the sport, competing for Nelson College at the annual Maadi Cup regatta until 2011.

He won a bronze in the under-16 double scull in 2010 and followed that with victory in the under-18 quad, before being part of the under-18 four that won the prestigious Springbok Shield

Career highlights: Having first earned selection for the national junior team in 2011, Robertson was part of the under-23 eight that in 2013 won the world championship gold medal in Austria.

He and his crewmates repeated the achievement this year in Italy while also representing New Zealand on the senior elite circuit, winning bronze at the Sydney world cup event and taking fifth at Lucerne.

Hopes for the future: Robertson is in the New Zealand summer training squad at Lake Karapiro and, with Olympic qualifying year next year, he will be part of the eight trying to ensure New Zealand have a presence in the blue riband event at Rio in 2016.

And, if the crew is unable to qualify, Robertson has also set his sights on claiming a place in the four.

Sam Gaze



Sport: Mountain biking

Hometown: Cambridge

How he got started: Gaze has been on two wheels since he was a child, either riding his road bike around the streets of the Waikato or dragging his father's heavy mountain bike to the start line before flying past competitors twice his size.

Gaze used to spend his spare time watching videos of professional riders and plotting to join their ranks.

Career highlights: After claiming a junior title on the road at the Tour of Canberra in 2011, Gaze turned his attention to the mountain.

He has excelled in the under-19 ranks, last year earning the No 1 world ranking, while he also won the elite national championships.

At the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Gaze completed a Kiwi one-two after finishing closely behind compatriot Anton Cooper.

Hopes for the future: Gaze has his eyes on earning a professional contract with a European mountain biking team, while he is also targeting a place at the Rio Olympics.

But that's not to say the teenager's future lies away from the road, with the prestige and financial security offered by the discipline proving an attractive proposition.

Jamie-Lee Price



Sport: Netball

Hometown: Auckland

How she got started: Jamie-Lee, daughter of former Warriors captain Steve Price, gained her netball ability from mother Jo, who played at representative level in Australia. She was born in Sydney and moved to Auckland aged 8. Jamie-Lee attended Mt Albert Grammar where she played for the school's premier netball team from Year 9 through to Year 14.

Career highlights: This year Price earned a contract with the Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic, and also made the New Zealand squad which won the Fast5 series in Auckland this month. Price was a Silver Ferns triallist before the Commonwealth Games in July, made the NZ A team which played England recently, and is part of the national development squad.

Hopes for the future: Having initially left her international eligibility up in the air, Price this year committed to NZ and joined the development squad. The mid-courter is on the fringes of selection for the Silver Ferns and a call-up to the national side appears a matter of when and not if.

See a photo gallery of previous winners: