The mixed martial arts master, the double rowing world champion and her talented sister, and the world-ranked tennis prodigy are the top candidates for accolades at the 2019 Ray White Whanganui Sports Awards at the Function Centre this evening.

The judging committee looked over around 120 nominations in nine categories from individuals, to teams and coaches, to choose the standout performers from the national to international scene for the period of October 2018 through to September 30 this year.

Judging was done in October by the new-look committee of Keith Smith, Ian Glenny, Jared Smith, Cath Cheatley and Robbie Matthews.

As with every year, it was the junior categories to the fore with highest amount of nominations for the Moore Markhams National Junior and the Velo Ronny's Bicycle Store International Junior sportspersons of the year grades.

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The Treadwell Gordon Junior Team of the Year category was also hotly contested between teams from the region's three largest cradles of sporting prowess — Whanganui Collegiate, Whanganui High School and Marton's Huntley School.

It is not surprising, therefore, that having guided all those various squads, there is a larger than usual group of contenders for the Mars Petcare Coach of the Year.

At the end of the night, all the award category winners will be in contention for the Ray White Wanganui Supreme Award, and although this has occasionally gone in some left-field directions, it is common-place that the Mitre 10 Mega International Senior Sportsperson of the Year winner is the likely recipient.

This year's collection are a host of expats who all come home to visit mum and dad, before heading back out to conquer the wide world.

A two-time Supreme winner, once shared with fellow nominee Chris Harris, rower Kerri Gowler was back to her best in Austria for the 2019 world championships, as she and women's pairs partner Grace Prendergast reclaimed their place at the top of the podium.

The gold medal winning women's eight including Kerri and Jackie Gowler, fourth and second from the left respectively.
The gold medal winning women's eight including Kerri and Jackie Gowler, fourth and second from the left respectively.

Gowler and Prendergast then shared another gold medal with fellow awards nominee and her younger sister Jackie Gowler, as the women's eight also won gold.

A former world champion, Harris and partner John Storey came second in their B Final, which still qualified their double sculls boat for Tokyo 2020.

Having completed the final semester of her US college scholarship, tennis prodigy Paige Hourigan has done very well stateside, claiming her first ITF singles title last year while currently holding a ranking of 220, along with 437 for the WTA.

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After winning the UFC Interim Middleweight title in April during the qualification period for the awards, undefeated Israel Adesanya made it a double with his unification victory over the lineal champion in Aussie-Kiwi Robert Whittaker in early October – becoming the hottest face in mixed martial arts (MMA) in the process.

Israel Adesanya celebrates winning the UFC middleweight world title belt.
Israel Adesanya celebrates winning the UFC middleweight world title belt.

As well as the main awards, there will be the Mediaworks Services to Sport Recognition recipients, the Rivercity Gas Disabled Sportsperson Recognition award, the Sport Whanganui Roll of Honour, and the announcement of the latest inductees into the Whanganui Sports Hall of Fame.

The guest speaker will be the inspirational Cam Calkoen, who was born with cerebral palsy but has still been very successful in sports, including this year when he climbed the 6000m Mt Kilimanjaro in Africa.

The nominees are:
David Jones Motors Masters Awards
Aramoho Whanganui Rowing Club Masters Crew; Back to the Future Waka Ama Team; Howard Hyland (Waka Ama); Kent Darlington (Squash); Krystine Davies (Inline Speed Skating); Martin Pennefather (Cricket).

Stihl Shop Wanganui Club of the Year
Aramoho Whanganui Rowing Club; Rangitikei Area Distance Riders; Rivercity Boxing Club; Wanganui Tramping Club; Whanganui Awa Paddlers; Whanganui Collegiate School Athletics Club; Whanganui Collegiate School Hockey Club; Whanganui Swimming Club.

Mars Petcare Coach of the Year
Alec McNab (Athletics & Cross Country); Anna Symes (Hockey); Gary Clark (Inline Speed Skating); Greg Fromont (Athletics & Cross Country); Karl Battersby (Basketball); Lisa Murphy (Netball); Richard Drabczynski (Athletics); Sascha Mayes (Equestrian); Steve Simpson (Rugby); Tyler Scott (Rowing); Walter Edmonds (Netball); Warren Herbert (Cricket).

Treadwell Gordon Junior Team of the Year
Aotea Empire Dance Crew; Huntley School 1st XI Cricket; Huntley School Triathlon; Whanganui Collegiate School 1st XI Boys Hockey; Whanganui Collegiate School 1st XI Cricket; Whanganui Collegiate School 1st XI Girls Hockey; Whanganui Collegiate School 1st XV Rugby; Whanganui Collegiate School Boys U17 Coxed Quad Scull; Whanganui Collegiate School Girls U15 Octo Scull Crew; Whanganui Collegiate School Junior Athletics Relay Team; Whanganui Collegiate School Junior Girls Cross Country; Whanganui Collegiate School Senior Girls 4 x 400 Relay; Whanganui High School Athletics; Whanganui High School 1st XI Boys Hockey; Whanganui High School Phillips Electrical A1 Netball.

Ali Arc Senior Team of the Year
Aramoho Whanganui Rowing Club Henley Royal Regatta Four; Wanganui Bowling Club Champion of Champions Fours; Wanganui Car Centre Kaierau A1 Netball; Wanganui Marist Football Tournament Team; Whanganui Marist Cricket; Whanganui Premier Mens Rink Hockey.

Moore Markhams National Junior Sportsperson of the Year
Alex Hamblyn (Sprint Kayaking); Amorangi Rayner (Olympic Weightlifting); Ana Brabyn (Cross Country & Athletics); Aria Bannister (Squash & Swimming); Aspen Fell (Artistic Roller Skating); Blake Hogan (Rowing); Callista Booth-Richards (Figure Skating); Charlotte McKinlay (Rowing); Connor Hoskin (Hockey); Cyprezz Manakau-Atkins (Boxing); Emma Fawthorpe (Artistic Skating); Ethan Bryers (Swimming); Georgia Abraham (Swimming); Georgina Bryant (Triathlon); Jack Overweel (Track Cycling); James Gray (Smallbore Target Shooting); Joel Clark (Cricket); Jorja von Pein (Alpine Skiing); Joshua Valentine (Speed Skating); Kara Adrole (Netball); Katie Ramage (Mountain Biking); Lili Calitz (Olympic Weightlifting); Lilly Carpenter (Equestrian Show Jumping); Lola Crump (Skiing); Lucas Martin (Athletics); Mitchell McDowell (Cowboy Action Shooting); Paloma Janse (Taekwondo); Patrick Madder (Hockey); Phoebe Collier (Rowing); Rebecca Baker (Hockey & Athletics); Sam Sherriff (Cricket); Shaniqka Wall (Rugby); Sophie Redmayne (Hockey & Athletics); Sophie Williams (Athletics); Tara Raj (Golf); Travis Bayler (Athletics); Tui Wikohika (Snowboarding); Wilson McKee (Roller Hockey); Zane Mills-Nossiter (Sprint Kayaking).

NZCT National Senior Sportsperson of the Year
Andrew Jones (Speed Skating); Brendon Sharratt (Cycling); Egelani Taito (Boxing); Lisa Allpress (Thoroughbred Racing); Seth Reardon (Off Road Motorcycle Racing).

Velo Ronny's Bicycle Store International Junior Sportsperson of the Year
Andres Hernandez (Cross Country & Athletics); Ben Strang (Rugby); Caleb Gilmore (Super Bike Racing); Cameron Russell (Sprint Kayaking); Chase Morpeth (Speed Skating); Chloe Benadie (Badminton); Emma Osborne (Athletics); Genna Maples (Athletics); George Lambert (Cross Country); Isabella Wassilieff (Archery); Jack Clifton (Sprint Kayaking); James Rountree (Motocross); Jess Watkin (Cricket); Jordyn Leiasamaivao-Turvey (Volleyball); Keightley Watson (Judo); Kyle Hoskin (Cycling); Liam Back (Cross Country & Athletics); Lucas Thompson (Sprint Kayaking); Rebecca Baker (Cross Country); Rebekah Phillips (Polocrosse); Renee Teers (Inline Speed Skating); Sarah Lambert (Cross Country); Sophie Brooke (Sprint Kayaking); Tayla Brunger (Athletics).

Mitre 10 MEGA International Senior Sportsperson of the Year
Chris Harris (Rowing); Israel Adesanya (Mixed Martial Arts); Jackie Gowler (Rowing); Kerri Gowler (Rowing); Paige Hourigan (Tennis).

Other awards
Mediaworks Services to Sport Recognition
Rivercity Gas Disabled Sportsperson Recognition
Lee Brooks (Equestrian).

Sport Whanganui Roll of Honour
Whanganui Sports Hall of Fame Presentation