There was no way to split New Zealand rowers Kerri Gowler and Chris Harris at the 2017 Ray White Whanganui Sports Awards at War Memorial Hall last night.

Gowler and Harris were joint winners of the International Senior Sportsperson of the Year award, and conversely they were called up to the dais again to share the Supreme Award at the end of the night, when judged alongside their fellow category winners.

The expats are the pride of their Aramoho Whanganui Rowing Club and have had an outstanding year on the water as Rowing NZ begins the buildup for Tokyo 2020.

The 23-year-old Gowler, a previous Supreme winner in 2014, teamed with Grace Prendergast to win the women's pair gold at the World Rowing Championships in Sarasota-Bradenton in the United States back in September.


This followed up the pair's gold medals at the World Cup regattas 2 and 3 in Poznan, Poland and Lucerne, Switzerland respectively over June and July.

The Poland victory came at a 'world best' time of 6m 49.08s, with official world records not kept by the sport due to different conditions at regattas.

But the 32-year-old Harris could match it, as he rebounded from a disappointing Rio Olympics to re-team with former men's double partner John Storey and dominant their season.

Like Gowler and Prendergast, they also won gold at the World Rowing Championships at Sarasota, which followed up their World Cup regatta golds in Poznan and Lucerne.

Only once in finals series of those races did they come second - the semifinals in Sarasota to the French crew - but they then took six seconds off their previous time to win the world championship, with the Polish and Italian crews taking the minor placings.

Chris Harris, left, and John Storey after their world rowing championship victory in Sarasota, Florida.
Chris Harris, left, and John Storey after their world rowing championship victory in Sarasota, Florida.

It was a good night for AWRC members as Luke Watts was named the National Senior Sportsperson for his good season on the national scene, claiming men's senior singles and doubles silver medals at the New Zealand Rowing Championships in February, to follow on from his fourth consecutive North Island singles gold in January.

As a follow up to her Junior award at the Wanganui Secondary School Sports prizegiving, Taihape Area School's karate world champion Erika Elers claimed the International Junior Sportsperson award.

Elers, a second generation fighter, won the 14-16 age group title against a stacked field in Shito-Ryu, at the 11th International Karate Do Kai in Osaka, Japan.

The National Junior Sportsperson prize went to Collegiate's Liam Back, who has been selected for the New Zealand team to compete at the World Schools Cross Country Championships in France next year.

Back won the New Zealand Secondary Schools Under 16 title earlier in the year, described by Olympic medallist Nick Willis as one of the hardest events to win on the local scene.

The 15-year-old also had success at the Dome Cup and Wellington championships in the Under 18 grades.

Despite increased competition in her grade, inline speed skater Krystine Davies won another Masters Award, after she was champion of her Masters Ladies grade at the World Marathon Championships over 42km at L'Aquila in Italy on May 28.

Davies also came third in the Open Ladies section of the Haag Holland race the week before, setting the fastest time recorded for her age group.

For the second time, the Coach of the Year award went to kayaking guru Brian Scott, after his charges won six golds, four silvers and seven bronze at the New Zealand and Oceania Canoe Sprint Championships on Lake Karapiro in February.

Scott had further success at the Canoe Racing Series and World Masters Games with multiple medals amongst his people.

The redemption of Marton rugby was recognised in them receiving the Club of the Year award.

Marton entered a dark patch in 2015 when they withdrew from Premier club rugby right before the start of the season, folding back into just one senior team.

Yet over those next three seasons they rebuilt themselves from the grass up - coming runnerup in the Senior competition in 2016, and following that up with an unbeaten campaign this year to earn promotion back into Premier for 2018, as they have replenished their playing numbers.

The end of an era was also recognised as the wildly successful Whanganui High School mixed touch team received the Junior Team of the Year.

Brought together five years ago by coach Sean Brown from some of the school's finest athletes from other codes, the WHS squad made four consecutive finals at the national championships, beating the best from the powerful Auckland schools and elsewhere.

Their narrow runnersup positions in 2013-14 were followed by the 2015-16 titles, with 14 squad members receiving New Zealand callups over that time, while Tyrone Houltham and Blair Osborne were named MVP's of their tournaments.

Most of this extraordinary group of teenagers are now completing their schooling, although they have paved the way for the next generation as WHS sent an all-girls team to the tournament for the first time in seven years.

And there was little rancour in the selection of the 2016 Wanganui rugby squad as Team of the Year.

The "Heartland Invincibles" had one of the great NPC campaigns with 10 straight victories to retain the Meads Cup.

From this group, four of them made the NZ Heartland XV, with top tryscorer Te Rangatira Waitokia also being named the Heartland Player of the Year at the 2016 NZ Rugby Awards.

Legendary captain Peter Rowe was later named vice captain of the NZ Provincial Barbarians to face the British & Irish Lions, with the Barbarians also managed by Wanganui's manager Chris Back.

The award recipients are

NZCT National Senior Sportsperson of the Year: Luke Watts (Rowing).

Stirling Sports National Junior Sportsperson of the Year: Liam Back (Athletics).

Stihl Shop Wanganui Club of the Year: Marton Rugby Club.

Mars Petcare Coach of the Year: Brian Scott (Kayaking).

Treadwell Gordon Junior Team of the Year: Whanganui High School Mixed Touch Team.

Ali Arc Senior Team of the Year: 2016 Steelform Wanganui Rugby Team.

David Jones Motors Masters Award: Krystine Davies (Inline Speed Skating).

Velo Ronny's Bicycle Store International Junior Sportsperson of the Year: Erika Elers (Karate).

Mitre 10 MEGA International Senior Sportsperson of the Year: Chris Harris and Kerri Gowler (Rowing)

Ray White Wanganui Supreme Award: Chris Harris, Kerri Gowler.

Other awards

Rivercity Gas Disabled Sportsperson Recognition: Grant McCullough (Indoor Bowls, Bocce); Jacob Spooner (Wheelchair Rugby).

NZME Services to Sport Recognition: Mark (Boofy) Green (Rugby); Trevor Fowler (Water Skiing); Paul Maguire (Football); Kate Osborne (Netball); Frances Bayler (Hockey).

Sport Whanganui Roll of Honour Inductees (25+ year's volunteer service to sport): Grant Clark (Softball, Golf); Trevor Strong (Football); Peter Follows (Golf); Pat Follows (Golf); Felix Bell (Netball); Janice Vipond (Harriers); Naomi Wilson (Hockey).

Whanganui Sports Hall of Fame Inductees: Peter Henderson (Rugby); Alan Lints Sr and Alan Lints Jr (Hockey).

Tupoho Scholarship Recipients: Shamara Brooks (Rugby, Touch); Benet Kumeroa (Weightlifting); Jesse Malcolm (Boxing); Tonianne Robinson (Waka Ama).