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OPINION: That Taranaki's new Maori Sports Person of the Year is a boxer is quite appropriate for 2012.
This is the year the awards were almost stopped in the last round.
A month ago the awards were in limbo and looking for sponsors. Once the Bank of New Zealand joined the stable led by OMV New Zealand Ltd, organisers decided to go ahead. It was a close call.
So when Sam Rapira collected the award at the Plymouth Hotel on Saturday night there will have been both elation and relief among those in the audience.
Rapira, who has just announced his intention to turn professional, could bring the first pro fight to Taranaki in a generation. He shared the stage with a cast of remarkable Maori sports people and leaders, including coach of the year Colin Cooper and Silver Ferns coach Waimarama Taumaunu. It was a coup to recruit guest speaker Taumaunu, who spoke at these awards when they were resurrected in 2007 after a nine-year hiatus.
Her insight into the demands she places on our top netballers was as enlightening as it was daunting.
But the evening for over-achievers had a constant undertone of under-achievement. Many who should have been in the running for awards were not.
This event should be a celebration of all that is best in Maori sport, not some of it.
Entire sporting codes - notably cricket - were absent from the field of nominees.
The names read out on Saturday night might have included any or all from a list including Jason Eaton, Jarrad Hoeata, Kurt Baker and Jamison Gibson-Park - all named in the current Maori All Black squad - Moana-Jane Scott (netball and touch), Ngatai Walker (junior cricket coach), Jamilah Gupwell, Daneka Wipiiti, Keshia Grant, Chantelle Ngaia and Alana Cassidy (netball).
Cooper, the successful Taranaki rugby coach, was an outstanding coach of the year, but the fact he won the award by default underlined an unfortunate level of either modesty, reluctance or apathy.
It was a point MC Rangi Hiroti made from the podium. For every person nominated there was probably someone as worthy who was not, he noted.
To put this into perspective, the Taranaki Maori Sports Awards organisers are facing the same battle for nominees as their counterparts are in other competition, in and out of sport. And that is sad.
These awards provide a wonderful platform to celebrate Maori sporting achievement.
Organisers say they are looking at how to make the awards a greater success next year. Let's hope they succeed. The other two organisations to sponsor sections of the awards - Parininihi ki Waitotara and the Waitara District Services and Citizens Club - made it clear how proud they were to be involved.
The event also receives significant backing from TSB Community Trust, media organisations, Sport Taranaki, Te Puni Kokiri and management consultants Tihi.
That's strong backing at a time when sponsorship is at a premium.
The 2012 function was an outstanding night. A more complete field will make 2013 a lot better.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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