Southland rugby great Leicester Rutledge, world junior rowing champion Shakira Mirfin and Invercargill physiotherapist Karl McDonald have been honoured on the opening night of the 2020 ILT Southland Sports Awards.
The awards are being presented digitally for the first time this year, with a total of 13 awards to be handed out online at southlandtimes.co.nz over five nights.
The Creation Signs Official of Year category was expanded in 2020 to include team personnel and this year’s award has gone to Japan rugby team medic Karl McDonald.
As the lead physiotherapist and head of medical, McDonald had a front row seat as the home team became the darling of the 2019 Rugby World Cup, finishing pool play unbeaten and qualifying for the quarterfinals for the first time.
“I’m just rapt to receive this award,” he said.
“I still pinch myself about (the Rugby World Cup), it was amazing to be there, the home country, the home crowd, the way the fans in Japan got behind the team was just incredible.”
McDonald has re-signed with the Japanese Rugby Union through to the next Rugby World Cup, and is also looking forward to restarting his role supporting the referees on the World Sevens circuit when that tournament gets underway again.
Outstanding rower Shakira Mirfin is the 2020 recipient of the Mike Piper Trophy for commitment, integrity and excellence.
Mirfin, who is also a finalist in the Vodafone Junior Sportsperson of the Year award which will be announced on Thursday night, was recognised for the contribution she has made as part of the Leadership year of the Academy Southland programme.
Academy Southland manager Jason McKenzie said Mike Piper would have been proud to have someone like Mirfin coming through the Academy.
“She displays all those key attributes that Mike was about; commitment, excellence and integrity. Talking to her coach Jack Allan, she’s a fantastic mentor for other athletes, with a work ethic second to none and everything she does, she does with quality.”
Each year up to four Sport Southland Services to Sport awards are presented to recognise leaders who have made a major impact in their chosen sport, with former All Black Leicester Rutledge the first of this year’s recipients.
Rutledge was Wright’s Bush’s first All Black, going on to play 31 matches, including 13 tests on the side of the scrum for the All Blacks.
He played 113 games for Southland, later coaching and managing the Southland team, including being manager during the 2009 Ranfurly Shield win and 2010 Shield tenure.
“I was extremely lucky to play with some very good players and play in a really good side and that certainly helps if you’ve got aspirations of going higher. The success with the Shield era as a manager, it’s been a wonderful period,” Rutledge said.
The 2020 ILT Southland Sports Awards continue on Tuesday, June 30 at southlandtimes.co.nz from 7pm with the NZME Masters Achievement of the Year, the second Sport Southland Services to Sport recipient and the BDO Administrator of the Year.