Nonu surprise finalist for Welly sportsman of year
All Black Ma'a Nonu is the intriguing choice among the finalists for Wellington sportsman of the year, announced today.
Nonu joins All Blacks team-mate Conrad Smith, swimmer Gareth Kean and hockey Black Stick Kyle Pontifex on the shortlist for the men's award at The Dominion Post sportsperson of the year dinner on June 21.
Cut loose by the Hurricanes last year for being a disruptive influence, Nonu signed with the Blues then was part of the All Blacks' World Cup-winning side. His international form saw him named one of six finalists for the IRB's player of the year award.
Smith has strong credentials, having won a World Cup then taken over the Hurricanes captaincy with the team at a low ebb. Under Smith's leadership they exceeded expectations over the early stages of this season, with the award period finishing on April 1.
The sportswoman category is an even one, with two confirmed Olympians Kate McIlroy (triathlon) and Tash Hind (swimming), and another likely one, hockey Black Stick Anita Punt. Mandy Boyd, who made the singles, pairs and fours finals at the national bowls championships, rounds out the finalists.
Coach of the year will also be keenly contested between Pero Cameron, NBL championship winner; Ricki Herbert, whose Phoenix made the A-League playoffs; Gary Hurring, coach of Olympians Gareth Kean and Samantha Lucie-Smith, and Waimarama Taumaunu, Silver Ferns coach.
The Saints and Phoenix will fight out the teams category with BNT Mason Motorsport, the national rally champions.
In the emerging category, world under-20 rugby champions TJ Perenara and Lima Sopoaga are men's finalists along with US college-bound basketballer Steven Adams; while Lucie-Smith, golfer Julianne Alvarez and orienteer Lizzie Ingham will contest the women's award.
A public vote will decide sports personality of the year between All White Tim Brown, Silver Fern Katrina Grant, All Black Cory Jane and athlete Melissa Moon.
The judges were Grant Nisbett, Deslea Wrathall, Lynne Klap, Suzie Muirhead, Andrew Eade and Dominion Post sports editor, Jonathan Millmow.
Finalists in the main categories: Sportsman: Gareth Kean (swimming), Ma'a Nonu (rugby), Kyle Pontifex (hockey), Conrad Smith (rugby). Sportswoman: Mandy Boyd (bowls), Tash Hind (swimming/surf lifesaving), Kate McIlroy (triathlon), Anita Punt (hockey). Team: BNT Mason Motorsport, Phoenix (football), Saints (basketball). Coach: Pero Cameron (basketball), Ricki Herbert (football), Gary Hurring (swimming), Waimarama Taumaunu (netball).
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The Dominion Post