Achievements of diverse trio recognised

Karl McDonald.
Karl McDonald.
Southland rugby great Leicester Rutledge, world junior rowing champion Shakira Mirfin and Invercargill physiotherapist Karl McDonald have picked up the first honours at the Southland Sports Awards.

The awards are being presented virtually for the first time this year and will be rolled out this week.

The officials category was expanded in 2020 to include team personnel and this year’s award has gone to Japan rugby team medic 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 it resumes.

Mirfin is the 2020 recipient of the Mike Piper Trophy for commitment, integrity and excellence.

Mirfin, who is also a finalist in the junior sportsperson of the year award which will be announced later this week, was recognised for the contribution she has made to leadership in her year with the Academy Southland programme.

Academy Southland manager Jason McKenzie said the late Piper, a former Southland sports administrator, 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," Mckenzie said.

Former All Black Rutledge was the first of this year’s services to sport recipients.

Rutledge, who played club rugby for Wrights Bush, played 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. He was 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.


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