Keen competition for top awards

The Taranaki Maori Sports Awards have once again attracted a strong field of nominees, especially among the junior athletes.

That has been traditionally been the strength of the awards and this year is no exception, with several national age-group representatives and rising stars vying for top honours in both the junior sportsmen and sportswomen categories in New Plymouth on Saturday night.

Up and coming rugby league stars Curtis Rona (North Queensland Cowboys), Kurtis Rowe (West Tigers) and Haimona Hiroti (New Zealand under-16s) are among those up against talented athlete Sonny Hotene-Russ in the junior men's.

It's a similar story in the junior sportswomen's category, which has a diverse field featuring netballers, touch players, volleyball players and equestriennes. Rio de Janeiro sevens squad member Gayle Broughton, netballer Mairangi Tamati, outstanding sprinter Zoe Hobbs and national Equestrian Mounted Games rep Lauren Terrill head a strong field.

In the senior men's awards, boxer Samuel Rapira, who recently announced his decision to turn pro, will be favoured to win, while the senior women's field is more evenly matched with top surfer Thandi Tipene and netballers Jane Parker and Jamie Te Pau Konui fighting it out.

The only certainty in the awards is that Tenderlink Taranaki rugby coach Colin Cooper will win the coach category - he is the only nominee.

There will be a poignant moment during the awards when the late Fabian Niwa receives a special commemoration. His name was synonymous with the martial arts discipline of Kenpo in Taranaki and New Zealand and he made a significant contribution to the lives of many Taranaki youngsters.

Silver Ferns coach Waimarama Taumaunu will be the guest speaker for the awards evening, which will be held at the Plymouth Quality Hotel.