Supreme athlete

‘An incredible journey’ .

‘An incredible journey’ .

Gisborne-raised All Black George Bridge capped an incredible year with the overall sportsperson award at the Bronwyn Kay Agency Sporting Excellence Awards last night. Bridge, pictured here in action against Australia at Eden Park in August, was not able to make the awards held at the Showgrounds Event Centre but talked to the audience via an audio visual link. NZ Herald picture
His awards were accepted by his parents Chick and Crispin, pictured with Bronwyn Kay (left). Bridge was also named sportsman of the year while Auckland-based Blacks Ferns rugby international Charmaine McMenamin was sportswoman of the year. Swimmer Michael Pickett won the junior sportsman category and surf lifesaver Briana Irving junior sportswoman. Long-time dog triallist Merv Utting was inducted into the Tairawhiti Legends of Sport. Picture by Stephen Jones Photography

George Bridge has just returned to New Zealand from the Rugby World Cup in Japan and the Gisborne-raised All Black now has the top Tairawhiti sports award to go with his bronze medal from that tournament.

Bridge was named best sportsman and the supreme winner at the Bronwyn Kay Agency Sporting Excellence Awards at the Showgrounds Event Centre last night.

The winger told a sell-out audience via audio-visual link it was nice to get messages of support from Gisborne.

“It’s special for me to have backing from my hometown.”

Another Gisborne-raised rugby player, Charmaine McMenamin, a blockbusting loose forward for the Auckland Storm and Black Ferns, was named sportswoman of the year.

Merv Utting, who has pursued dog trialling for 55 years, was inducted into the Tairawhiti Legends of Sport.

As well as making 61 finals from 1974 to 2018 with 22 different dogs, Utting said he had a “top wife” who had supported him for 50 years.

Bridge’s impressive game against the Wallabies at Eden Park and selection for the 2019 Rugby World Cup fell outside the qualifying period for the awards but he made an eye-catching debut for the All Blacks against Japan, won a Super Rugby title with the Crusaders in 2018 and was on course to win another.

His mother, Chick Bridge, said following her son’s fortunes had been an incredible journey.

“George has had an amazing year and we couldn’t be prouder.”

She and husband Crispin recently returned from Japan after watching games in the Rugby World Cup.

Mr Bridge said George’s career path included leaving for Christchurch at the age of 17, working as a labourer and at building sites for 15 months and grafting away playing rugby in Canterbury.

His son and the team were cranky for a couple of days after their world cup semifinal loss to England, he said, but came together well for their victorious playoff for third against Wales.

Mr Bridge said Japan did a fantastic job of hosting the tournament.

  • More on the Sporting Excellence Awards in the sports section of the paper today, and there is also a story on Tairawhiti Legend of Sport inductee Merv Utting in the Focus on the Land section.

George Bridge has just returned to New Zealand from the Rugby World Cup in Japan and the Gisborne-raised All Black now has the top Tairawhiti sports award to go with his bronze medal from that tournament.

Bridge was named best sportsman and the supreme winner at the Bronwyn Kay Agency Sporting Excellence Awards at the Showgrounds Event Centre last night.

The winger told a sell-out audience via audio-visual link it was nice to get messages of support from Gisborne.

“It’s special for me to have backing from my hometown.”

Another Gisborne-raised rugby player, Charmaine McMenamin, a blockbusting loose forward for the Auckland Storm and Black Ferns, was named sportswoman of the year.

Merv Utting, who has pursued dog trialling for 55 years, was inducted into the Tairawhiti Legends of Sport.

As well as making 61 finals from 1974 to 2018 with 22 different dogs, Utting said he had a “top wife” who had supported him for 50 years.

Bridge’s impressive game against the Wallabies at Eden Park and selection for the 2019 Rugby World Cup fell outside the qualifying period for the awards but he made an eye-catching debut for the All Blacks against Japan, won a Super Rugby title with the Crusaders in 2018 and was on course to win another.

His mother, Chick Bridge, said following her son’s fortunes had been an incredible journey.

“George has had an amazing year and we couldn’t be prouder.”

She and husband Crispin recently returned from Japan after watching games in the Rugby World Cup.

Mr Bridge said George’s career path included leaving for Christchurch at the age of 17, working as a labourer and at building sites for 15 months and grafting away playing rugby in Canterbury.

His son and the team were cranky for a couple of days after their world cup semifinal loss to England, he said, but came together well for their victorious playoff for third against Wales.

Mr Bridge said Japan did a fantastic job of hosting the tournament.

  • More on the Sporting Excellence Awards in the sports section of the paper today, and there is also a story on Tairawhiti Legend of Sport inductee Merv Utting in the Focus on the Land section.

Sporting Excellence Awards

Official: Jo Cumming (hockey).

Services to sport: Nicola Ludwig (gymnastics), Ngaio Haenga (hockey).

Junior sports team: Puhi Kaiariki J16 women (waka ama).

Junior sportswoman: Briana Irving (surf lifesaving).

Junior sportsman: Michael Pickett (swimming).

Club: Gisborne Harrier Club.

Coach: Stephen Sheldrake (triathlon).

Sports team: Smart Cookies Racing (speedway).

International sportsperson: Tayler Reid (triathlon).

Community impact: Gisborne Park Run.

Event excellence: Eastern Region Senior Surf Life Saving Champs.

Tairawhiti Legend of Sport inductee: Merv Utting (dog trialling).

Future Leader Scholarship: Keri Mankelow-Ngatoro.

Sportswoman: Charmaine McMenamin (rugby).

Sportsman: George Bridge (rugby).

Master sportsperson: Vesna Radonich (waka ama).

Sportsperson of the year: George Bridge.

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