Saturday, December 2, 2023

THE VOICE: Who’s the last rural knight standing?

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With the loss of our two elder statesman, Sir Brian Lochore and Sir Colin Meads, who had a direct connection to the land and were seen as legends by rural and urban people have left a big hole as far as rural ambassadors, leaders, mentors and boys’ own heroes.
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This leads me to ask who is left as rural sirs and dames.

The only one who springs to mind who has made the world take notice in his sporting and professional life is Sir David Fagan. 

He is recognised for his achievements in shearing and his support of many things rural. A true knight or sir. However, is Sir David to be our last knight standing?

Rural New Zealand is in desperate need of mentors and outstanding people recognised for their abilities and human spirit to be showcased in our schools and inspire our youth, someone to rub shoulders with in life be it in a pub or walking down a street, in media commenting and carrying the mana earned across all facets of NZ culture.

With sentiment among rural people that we are on a hiding to nothing as far as the Government and mainstream media treat us we need those beacons of hope, men and women who have come from the grassroots and won against the best. It’s these people  we see as our champions.

I can think of some of the people I have commentated in rural sports or have filmed for the Farmers Voice who deserve to be in the realm of knighthood. Paul Van Beers and Richard (Ricky) May, for example, have led their respective sports and industries, receiving higher status than most, have always given back to their communities and the youth who follow their footsteps.

Van Beers, a fencer, is 14 times Wiremark Golden Pliers and 12 times Silver Spades doubles competition champion, has also competed four times in the Invitational World Championship with two wins a second and a third. He now coaches and trains young fencers and organises many fencing competitions nationwide.

May is seven times winner of the biggest harness race in the world, the NZ Trotting Cup. He is the epitome of harness racing, which he has the outright most wins as a driver. He puts countless hours back into his local trotting club and community in Methven and helps many young people in the harness racing industry.

Both of the men I have mentioned have been nominated for the Norwood NZ Rural Sports Awards lifetime legacy award. Van Beers has won the award and May should be in the mix again. Van Beers is now a judge on the awards panel. This year’s awards have a new category, the Sir Brian Lochore award for an outstanding sportsperson from a rural background. It was awarded to Sarah Hirini (nee Goss) our outstanding women’s rugby player, captain of the Black Ferns and past Golden Shears finalist. Hirini has since been made a member of the NZ Order of Merit.

Recently, for the Farmers Voice video series, I filmed a young man who is made of the right stuff to be in line for further accolades on the same level as the likes of Hirini and Sir David. 

Jack Jordan from Taranaki has already won six world titles in underhand chopping, farms a 1600ha family farm on the Wanganui River and was in the Chiefs rugby team at the young age of 23. He is also a winner of a Norwood Young Rural Sportsperson of the Year title.

The Norwoods were set up to showcase our rural champions and those who dedicate life to sports as competitors, volunteers or both. If you have someone in your community or organisation you think can be lifted to the surface and in return benefit the rural community in the recognition they might receive it’s our responsibility to see they get nominated. We need more rural heroes showcased to the rest of NZ. Nominations for the 2020 Norwood’s are open now and the national honours nominations can be found online.

Of course. rural NZ can claim Richie McCaw as its ultimate honours recipient with his farming family background and his Order of NZ, which surpasses a knighthood, and so we should. 

Children can only dream of greatness if greatness is shown to them by those who aspire to be the best humans possible. Rural NZ is full of the best and most humble of the human race. Put these people on a pedestal, nominate them, build community spirit and give children aspirational dreams.

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