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New Zealanders Nominate Top Coach

8 November 2005

New Zealanders Nominate Top Coach

The job of a professional coach has to be one of the world's hardest. You're on top of the world if your athletes win but if they fail the fans are baying for blood and your job on the line.

So, it is fitting that the five coach finalists in the Freedom Air People's Choice Sports Awards are known for not only their superior skills but also their mental toughness. The powerhouse finalists include - All Blacks' coach Graham Henry, Silver Ferns' coach Ruth Aitken, New Zealand Rowing coach Richard Tonks, NZ Rugby Sevens' coach Gordon Tietjens and Canterbury Crusaders' coach Robbie Deans.

Public nominations for the awards closed on October 24 and the finalists in the coach category were announced last night. The Freedom Air People's Choice Sports Awards are New Zealand's only sports awards where the public decides the results by choosing the people they feel are most deserving of recognition. Funds raised from voting goes to Paralympics New Zealand.

A panel of sporting experts including SKY Sport's Stephen McIvor, Radio Sport's Doug Golightly and Sunday Star-Times Sports Editor Michael Donaldson felt there were many strong contenders for the coach of the year but couldn't agree on who New Zealanders would select overall.

Graham Henry was popular because he has revolutionised the way professional rugby is played. He has strengths in coaching and selection as well as an ability to instil confidence in a team and keep them disciplined.

"However, Richard Tonks is outstanding and it is no wonder he has been named coach of the year by the international rowing body. Ruth Aitken has an inclusive style that serves her well and she has proved her worth in blooding young players. Robbie Deans is the master of rotation, brilliant at getting his players into the 'big match mentality' and his Super 12 team has set the benchmark in terms of performance. Gordon Tietjens is probably the best talent scout in New Zealand and good at motivating players," the panel said.

The public can vote now for the overall top coach and help raise money for Paralympics New Zealand at the same time. Proceeds will help Paralympics New Zealand in its quest for medals at the Beijing Paralympics in 2008. Last year the awards raised more than $125,000.

Money raised from this year's awards will go towards Paralympics New Zealand's high performance programme, a multi-million dollar initiative including training, coaching, sports science and medicine support costs. A key component of the programme is sending athletes to international competitions such as International Paralympic Committee World Championships and FESPIC Games to ensure they can compete at the highest level.

There are six categories in this year's awards with New Zealanders being able to choose their favourite sports team, coach, sporting icon, sports woman, sports man and international sports person.

The five finalists in each category are being announced each week on SKY Sport One and Sport Radio from October 31 to December 5. As soon as the finalists for each category are announced New Zealanders can vote for their favourite. The winners will be announced at a gala dinner on December 9.

There are three ways to vote - via SKY Television Interactive, phone 0900 33334 or text 3334. Remote and SMS voting cost 99 cents including GST and 0900 voting costs 99 cents per minute.

New Zealanders with Vodafone 3G handsets can review the finalists' profiles on their handset before they vote for their favourite.

Freedom Air People's Choice Sports Awards Key Dates
14 November Sporting Icon finalists announced (8.30pm)
21 November Sportswoman finalists announced (8.30pm)
28 November Sportsman finalists announced (8.30pm)
5 December International finalists announced (8.30pm)
8 December Voting for six main categories close (midnight)
9 December Gala Dinner & winners announced

ENDS

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