Sporting highlights of 2013

NATHAN BURDON
Last updated 05:00 30/12/2013

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January got Southland sport off to a busy start with Invercargill hosting the Colgate Games and Bluff providing the venue for the Southland Mountainbike Club's hosting of a round of the national series.

Cyclist Jeremy Presbury won two gold medals at the Youth Olympic Festival in Sydney, while the Otago Volts won the domestic T20 competition to qualify for the Champions League.

Dylan McNeice won his debut iron-distance event with victory at Challenge Wanaka, while local Gina Crawford defended her title.

The Southland sevens team turned in its best ever performance at a national finals tournament, qualifying for the top half of the draw for the first time before losing to Auckland in the plate semifinal.

The Highlanders kicked off what would be a disappointing season in February with a 41-27 loss to eventual champions the Chiefs, the loss further compounded with No 8 Nasi Manu sustaining a season-ending leg injury.

Wayne Evans became just the seventh person to swim the Foveaux Strait when he successfully navigated the 34km from Stewart Island to Bluff as part of the 50th anniversay celebrations of John van Leeuwen's maiden crossing.

Wanaka's Braden Currie took out the Coast to Coast.

In March, Taramoa teen Wade Marshall won the all round rookie rodeo title, while Jason Rutledge was called up as injury cover by the Highlanders, after earlier spending time with the Hurricanes.

The Southland Sharks announced a major signing with the addition of Leon Henry and Michael Hendry defended his NZ PGA Championship title at The Hills.

Central Otago club rugby hit the headlines in April when three All Blacks turned out in one game, with Justin Marshall making his debut for Wakatipu and Andrew Hore and Tony Woodcock turning out for Maniototo.

In a surprise move, Natalie Avellino was dumped as the assistant coach of the Southern Steel for reasons which were never made entirely clear.

Invercargill rugby league club He Tauaa celebrated its 30th anniversary in May, while Sir Graham Henry took aim at Southland referee Keith Brown after a game between the Crusaders and Blues. Henry was later forced to apologise.

Josh Bekhuis re-signed for a further two years with the Stags and Gary Low became the first Southlander in 26 years to be selected in a New Zealand indoor bowls team.

Southern Steel wrapped up their 2013 season in June, finishing with a seven loss-six win result which saw them finish sixth overall.

Tragically, race walker Lesley Cantwell collapsed and later died after winning a gold medal at the Oceania championships in Tahiti.

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Gore golfer Vaughan McCall finished in a share of second place at the Woodlands Country Club in the United States to qualify for the US Amateur.

In July, the Southland Sharks beat the Nelson Giants to claim the franchise's first NBL title, and provide Southland sport with arguably its highlight of the year.

Sonia Manaena banked her second world powerlifting title and Lisa Owen and Kristen Froude both won bronze medals at the world under 23 rowing championships.

The Aqua Ferns, a team made up almost entirely of Southlanders, made its synchronised swimming debut at the world swimming championships in Barcelona.

The Hills was confirmed as the venue for the New Zealand Open for the next three years and Jhaniele Fowler capped off a stunning season by being named the Most Valuable Player for the trans-Tasman netball competition.

August saw Invercargill darts player Warren Parry go close to knocking over world no 19 Paul Nicholson in the opening round of the Sydney Masters professional tournament, the Winter Games were staged in Central Otago and the Southern Steel announced they wouldn't be resigning midcourter Courtney Tairi.

Veteran hooker Jason Rutledge was ruled out of NPC contention after damaging a pectoral muscle in the Galbraith Shield final, which saw defending champion Woodlands beat Star.

Jeremy Presbury won silver in the sprint at the world junior track cycling championships in Glasgow, with Josh Haggerty winning silvers in both the team pursuit and scratch race and Alexandra's Liam Aitcheson taking silver in the team pursuit and points race.

In September, Southland rugby captain Jamie Mackintosh, who will play for the Cheifs in 2014, brought up his 100th game for the province in a thrilling win over Otago at Dunedin Stadium.

The Highlanders also announced that All Blacks Andrew Hore and Tony Woodcock wouldn't be part of the team next season.

The Southland Rams went down 36-14 to the Canterbury Development team in the final of the South Island provincial rugby league competition, while Matt Tautari took out the Southland matchplay golf title.

Jacob Duffy was forced home before the start of Otago's Champions League T20 tournament in Sri Lanka with a hamstring injury, while the Silver Ferns beat Australia 55-51 in the opening game of the Constellation Cup in Invercargill, but went on to lose the series.

Phillipa Gray and Laura Fairweather claimed silver in the time trial at the Para-cycling world road championships in Canada, with fellow Southland cyclist Gabby Vermunt teaming up with Emma Foy to win bronze.

In October, Te Anau's Gail Kirkman claimed a world title with victory in the heptathlon in the 60-64 years age group at world masters athletics championships.

David Hall joined Mackintosh in Rugby Southland's centurion club, brining up his 100th game against Hawke' Bay.

The Stags would lose 49-28 to eventual title winners Tasman in the semifinal of the NPC championship for a four-win, seven loss record for the season.

John Hardie was named Rugby Southland player of the year, selected alongside Josh Bekhuis and Elliot Dixon for next year's Highlanders campaign.

Dixon and Chiefs player Robbie Robinson were named in the New Zealand Maori team alongside Nick Barrett, who also picked up a contract in the Chiefs wider training squad.

Otago and Southland rivers hosted the 2013 world jetboat marathon championships, while Invercargill accountant Erin Criglington became the first Southland cyclist since 2004 to win a rainbow jersey when she won an individual pursuit title at the world masters cycling championships in Manchester.

In November, Rugby Southland announced it would be advertising the Stags head coaching job which David Henderson had held since 2011.

Phil Culling took over from the outgoing Nick Jeffrey as the general manager at Cycling Southland, while Ryan Duffy made his first class debut for the Otago Volts, scoring 18 and 16no against Canterbury.

Ricky Gutsell won the Southland marathon, his sixth victory in the past eight year.

The Highlands Motorsport Park was opened to great fanfare, with a total of 25,000 people attending the first three day event.

Auckland's James Oram took out the Tour of Southland, a race which featured plenty of success for local riders.

Cam Karwowski became the first Southlander in nearly two decades to wear the yellow jersey, while Matt Zenovich became the first local in 10 years to win a stage when he was first across the line in Te Anau.

Tom Scully took out the sprint ace classicification.

This month, Australian Martin Dent scorched his way through the Kepler Challenge to break the eight-year record in the 60km mountain race by four minutes.

Dan McKenzie was the best of the Formula Wyndham class in the Wyndham Street Race at the end of another successful Burt Munro Challenge, with local rider Greg Baynes winning the Burt Munro Trophy 50-mile beach race and Christchurch's Ryan Hampton defending his title in the Bluff Hill Climb.

Southland athletes returned from the New Zealand secondary schools championships with five gold medals.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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