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Big night for Southland Boys’ High School at ILT Southland Sports Awards

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Nathan Burdon

07 June 2024, 10:30 AM

Big night for Southland Boys’ High School at ILT Southland Sports AwardsSouthland Boys’ High School First XV after winning the national title. Photo: Supplied

Southland Boys’ High School’s historic national first XV title was celebrated during the 70th annual ILT Southland Sports Awards tonight (7 Jun).

The Awards, the longest-running of their kind in New Zealand, are presented by Active Southland on behalf of the Southland Amateur Sports Trust.

Boys’ High rewrote the history books with a maiden Top Four national title in Palmerston North last September.

The Jason Dermody-coached side beat home team Palmerston North Boys’ High School 20-19 in their semi-final and then overcame favourites Westlake Boys’ by three points, 32-29, in the final, despite missing several key players due to injury.

To put the Invercargill high school’s efforts into context, a South Island school hadn’t won a game at the tournament since 2013 and Boys’ High was just the third South Island team to win the tournament since its inception in 1982. 

The school’s last, and only, final appearance was in 1987 and they also won the Moascar Cup, the Ranfurly Shield of secondary schools rugby, for the first time.

The history-making feat contributed to four of the awards presented at the Ascot Park Hotel.

Boys’ High claimed the Kia Southland Team of the Year award, Dermody was named Good Tech Team Coach of the Year, and the team also picked up the Southland Times Sporting Moment, which was decided by public vote.

Revered coach Peter Skelt, who has been part of the Boys’ High first XV coaching group since 1989, was honoured with a BDO Services to Sport award for his contribution to badminton, cricket and rugby.

Skelt was a national title holder and New Zealand representative in badminton and part of Slazenger Cup-winning Southland teams. He was also a member of the dominant Southland Hawke Cup cricket team during the 1980s and later coached the side.

He has overseen generations of young rugby players, including co-coaching the Southland development team to a national title and being part of the Stags management group during two Ranfurly Shield tenures.

The ILT Senior Sportsperson of the Year and One NZ Junior Sportsperson categories featured arguably their strongest lineup of finalists in recent memory, with a star-studded group of national and international competitors in both categories.

Adventure racer Fynn Mitchell took out the junior category after a year which included leading the FEAR Youth team to seventh at Godzone and ninth at the Adventure Racing World Champs in South Africa, where they were the youngest team to ever take part.

Mitchell also made his international senior debut, finishing third equal in a United States team competing in the Faroe Islands and was the youngest, and only fifth-ever, person to successfully finish The Revenant, one of the most gruelling endurance events in New Zealand.

Corbin Strong. Photo: Supplied

World Tour professional cyclist Corbin Strong claimed the senior sportsperson title as he continues to build a reputation as one of fastest developing riders in global cycling.

Strong produced top 10 finishes in UCI events around the globe, including an impressive Tour de France debut where he banked two top 10 and five top 20 finishes over the 21 stages of the world’s most famous bike race.

Southern Queens Boxing, which has created a free and inclusive environment for rangatahi to thrive both inside and outside the ring over the past two years, was honoured with the Community Trust South Community Impact award.

Highly regarded cycling commissaire Erin Criglington won the Creation Signs Official of the Year, her resume including most of New Zealand’s top road and track meets, events in Switzerland and France and her appointment as chief commissaire for the 2023 Track Asia Cup, a Class One competition in Thailand. 

The night’s other BDO Services to Sport recipient was Fiona Ward, who is celebrating 30 years as Southland’s secondary school sport director.

During that time Ward has supported thousands of young people to take part in hundreds of regional events, including developing new opportunities based on the needs of rangatahi.

Ward has played a key role in several successful hostings of the marquee South Island secondary schools netball tournament and South Island secondary schools athletic championships.

The NZME Masters Achievement award went to track cyclist Ruth Whelan who not only continues to dominate her age group at national level, but returned home from October’s UCI Masters World Championship with a full set of medals including bronze in the team sprint, silver in the individual sprint and a gold medal in the 500m time trial.

The evening was also an opportunity to celebrate the sporting career of blind athlete Hannah Pascoe.

Pascoe’s journey included running from the Surf to City to the New Year Marathon, triathlon, the Westpac Chopper ride, para-cycling on the international stage and becoming the first blind woman to ride the length of New Zealand with cousin Kara Roderick-Wandless.

The pair completed the trip in 19 days, raising nearly $30,000 to support other blind athletes.

ILT Southland Sports Awards 2023-2024 finalists and recipients:

ILT Senior Sportsperson of the Year: Corbin Strong

Finalists: Sheldon Bagrie-Howley (bowls); Ethan de Groot (rugby); Amy du Plessis (rugby); Kate Heffernan (netball); Tori Peeters (athletics); Leon Samuels (shearing); Tom Sexton (cycling); Corbin Strong (cycling).

One NZ Junior Sportsperson of the Year: Fynn Mitchell

Finalists: Cormac Buchanan (motorsport); Alex Crosbie (motorsport); Benji Culhane (hockey); Marshall Erwood (cycling); Kiseki Fifita (rugby); Caitlin Kelly (cycling); Fynn Mitchell (adventure racing); Jack Taylor (rugby).

Kia Southland Team of the Year: Southland Boys’ High School first XV

Finalists: FEAR Youth (adventure racing); Gore Interclub bowls (bowls); Southern Lads (multisport); Southland Boys’ High School first XV (rugby).

Good Tech Team Coach of the Year: Jason Dermody

Finalists: Shaun Cantwell (athletics); Jason Dermody (rugby); Julian Ineson (cycling); Lance Smith (athletics).

Creation Signs Official of the Year: Erin Criglington

Finalists: Erin Criglington (cycling); Nicky McNaught (squash); Pete Pasco (cricket); Cassie Watt (rugby).

NZME Masters Achievement of the Year: Ruth Whelan

Finalists: Dwight Grieve (athletics); Greg Houkamau (touch); Gail Kirkman (athletics); Julie O’Connell (bowls); Ruth Whelan (cycling).

Community Trust South Community Impact Award: Southern Queens Boxing

Finalists: Inclusive Activity Murihiku; Kā Taoka i Tuku Iho Charitable Trust; Southern Queens Boxing; Southland Triathlon and Multisport Club.

BDO Services to Sport: Peter Skelt (badminton, cricket and rugby), Fiona Ward (secondary school sport).

Southland Times Sporting Moment: Southland Boys’ High School first XV

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