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Famous Faces in Sport

Grant Bramwell.

Grant was born in Gisborne in February 1961 and attended Te Wharau Primary School, Illminster Intermediate and Lytton High School.

He swam competitively from an early age and represented Poverty Bay on many occasions throughout his schooldays. He also became interested in surf lifesaving and in 1976 he joined Gisborne’s Waikanae Club.

Grant represented the club in national competitions from 1976 to 1989 and also represented New Zealand from 1980 to 1987. He was New Zealand Ironman Champion in 1985 and 1989 and he won numerous other national titles over years, both individually and as part of a time.

In those years Grant also deveolped a passion for kayaking and paddled for New Zealand from 1983 to 1988. He competed in four world canoeing Championships and two Olympic Games. The most memorable sporting occasion in Grant’s life was winning a gold medal in the K4 1000m at the Los Angeles Olympic Games in 1984. Another highlight of his sporting achievements was coming third in the World Championships K1 10,000m in 1985.

Training in Gisborne in the 1980s was a challenge in itself. Facilities were basically non-existent and in the early days Grant did not even have a coach. At the time New Zealand was virtually unknown in the sport of canoeing. Grant believes his success was a result of innovative, locally developed training programmes, absolute commitment and intense internal competition.

Grant is married and has four children. He still paddles recreationally, has an administrative role in the Poverty Bay Kayak Club and coaches youngsters in the Waikanae Surf Life Saving Club. He has a great interset in natural medicine and sports nutrition and he is the third generation of Bramwell chemists to run a local pharmacy.


Peter Briant.

Born in Gisborne in 1958, Peter attended Patutahi Primary and Lytton High schools, after which he qualified as a fitter and turner. In 1981 he moved home to Patutahi to work for the family’s horticultural property and contracting business. He played club rugby for Nagatapa.

He was always interseted in motor sport and in 1985, purchasing a jet boat for water-skiing, he was introduced to the fledging sport of jet sprinting. He became actively involved in the sport, his boats quickly evolving into purpose- built ones using automotive Chevrolet engines, generally 350 horsepower Chevy engines.

Today they are shorter (4m long) with lightweight 1000 horsepower engines running on methanol fuel. Peter’s present boat weighs 600kgs, which includes the hull, engine and jet unit.

Typical sprint boats have great acceleration and turning capabalities: Peter’s boat can reach fom 0 to 140km per hour in three seconds.

Peter’s competitive nature and his interest in mechanical challenges have led to him succeeding in jet sprints at the highest level. Competing in Australia, America and New Zealand he has won every major title in the sport, including North Islasnd Champion, South Island Champion, New Zealand Champion, USA Champion and World Series Champion twice. Peter was particulary pleased to win the 2001 Air New Zealand Eastland Sportsman of the Year.

Peter recognises that this was made possible by a team effort and support form his family. He still farms, and the business has allowed him time to prepare his boat and travel. His navigator is his partner, Robyn Fox; her major role being to ensure that they stay on track, which is rather difficult at speeds of up to 140 to 150 kilometres per hour.

Peter intends to jet sprint as long as he has a burning desire to compete. He still has goals to achieve and places to visit. Through jet sprinting he has met many fine people around the world and he has a huge and satisfying interest outside of work. Peter states: "it has taught me how you CAN succeed and reach your goals with commitment and this is in turn generates huge satisfaction. Many scarifices have been necessary over the years to achieve what I have, but as in many things through our lives, we also have choices".


Sandra Edge.

Sandra Edge was born at Te Puia Springs on the East Coast in August 1962. She was educated at Tokomaru Bay on the East Coast, Havelock North in Hawkes Bay and at Lytton High School in Gisborne. She then qualified as a School Dental Nurse. She followed this career for some years, and has also been a bank officier, a regional netball co-ordinator and a physical eduaction teacher.

Sandra’s huge talent in netball resulted in her first representative appearance in 1979, while still at school. Her great skills, particulary in centre-court play, ensured she was subsequently selected to play in the New Zealand national team. She played for the Silver Ferns from 1985 to 1991 and from 1994 to 1995. During those years she also represented the provinces of Poverty Bay, Wellington, Waikato, Southland and Auckland, as well as New Zealand.

She was a member of the New Zealand team, captained by Leigh Gibbs, which won the World Tournament in Scotland in 1987. Sandra, herself, captained subsequent Silver Ferns teams in 1994 and 1995.

Called by many sports journalists and coaches the world's best centre-court player, Sandra won respect for both her natural ability on the court and her unfailing good humour and friendly nature. A book has been written about her called Full Circle, by Joseph Romanos.

Sandra has continued her involvement with netball by coaching local players at several levels. She is married, has two small sons and she lives at Wainui Beach Gisborne.


Leigh Gibbs.

Leigh was born in Gisborne in July 1956. Educated at Mangapapa Primary School, Illminster Intermediate and Lytton High School, she then went to Otago University to study Physical Education, followed by a year at the Christchurch College Of Education.

Leigh's career in netball rose to representing Otago from 1974 to 1976 and Canterbury from 1977 to 1986. She also played in New Zealand's national team later called the Silver Ferns, from 1978 to 1987. She captained the team in 1986 and 1987.

In 1979 the team came 1st equal in the World Championship. The team she captained in 1987 won the championship, held in Scotland. No other team there got within 10 goals of the Silver Ferns.

Leigh has also coached netball extensively. She was contracted to coach Canterbury for three different seasons since 1988, the New Zealand Under 21 team in 1991 and 1992 (they won the World Championship in 1992), and the Silver Ferns from 1993 to 1997.

Leigh was a New Zealand netball umpire from 1987 to 1993. She also established a sports science network, a sports coach buddy system for elite players, and new initiatives for emerging elite players at Lincoln University, targeting selected players. In addition she restructured the domestic netball competitions.

In the Northern Hemisphere's 1999-2000, season Leigh was the National Performance Director of Welsh Netball.

Leigh has been a player, coach, umpire and administrator of netball at club, regional and national levels. She has had involvement from the grass roots through to an international level. She is among New Zealand's most influential netball figures, on and off the court. Netball runs through her veins. She is passionate about the sport and has great vision for its future.

In 2002 Leigh is Talent Development Co-ordinator for Netball New Zealand, and the Silver Ferns' Technical Advisor.

Leigh was made an Officer of the Order of New Zealand.

With husband Steve and two sons, she lives at Wainui Beach, Gisborne.


Thomas Heeney.

Thomas Heeney was born in Gisborne in 1898 and was educated as St Mary’s and Te Hapara schools. He then worked as a plumber.

A powerful swimmer, in 1918 Heeney was awarded a medal for rescuring two young women off Waikanae Beach. He was also a representative rugby player; he was in the 1921 Regional team that played South Africa.

Heeney’s father taught his sons to box and Tom showed great talent. He became a professional boxer in 1920 and in October that year he won the New Zealand Heavyweight title.

Tom relinquished the title in 1922 when he went to Australia for a short time to gain boxing experience. After some success there he returned home, regaining the heavyweight title soon after. He lost the title in a further bout, his only defeat in New Zealand, but subsequently won it back yet again.

In 1924 Tom Heeney went to Britain, where he had indifferent results, and South Africa, where he won four out of his six fights. He returned to Britain and beat the Irish champion. This and other successes encouraged him, in 1926, to try his luck in America.

Heeney staedily rose to be ranked fourth among the world’s heavyweights. In 1928, known as "The Hard Rock From Down Under", for his stamina and determination, Heeney fought for the world heavyweight Championship against Gene Tunney. In front of 46,000 spectators he entered the ring wearing a Maori cloak sent to him by Sir James Carroll’s widow. He fought with great courage but he had little chance against the skinful Tunney and the fight was stopped in round 11. He remains the only New Zealand-born challenger for this title.

A week later Heeney married American Marion Dunn. The couple visited New Zealand shortly after. Heeney was greeted as a hero, especially in Gisborne.

Once back in America Heeney became an American citizen and continued to box until 1933. Of his 69 professional bouts he won 32, lost 22 and drew 10.

After retirement Heeney owned a restaurant in Floida. He made further visits to family in New Zealand in 1947 and 1984. Tom Heeney died in Miami in June 1984. Marion had died in 1980. There were no children from the marriage.


Joe Hogan.

Joe was born in Gisborne in October 1958 and was educated at St Mary’s Primary School and Edmund Campion College (now Campion College). He became a carpenter in Gisborne and then studied theology at the Holy Cross College in Dunedin. Joe was ordained as a Roman Catholic Priest in Gisborne in 1987, but after a year in a Rotorua parish, he left the priesthood and re-entered the building trade in Gisborne full time.

Joe began playing croquet in 1973 and his first major victory was the North Island Open Singles in 1976, winning the title over a test player. That same year he was invited to participate for the first time in the prestigious Top Eight event. In the 1978 New Zealand Nationals he was runner-up in the singles and the doubles championships.

Joe went from strength to strength, winning very many titles, both nationally and internationally, both in the singles and in the team events, over many subsequent years. Among the highlights were the MacRobertson Shield competitions against Great Britain and Australia – the croquet equivilent of criket’s ‘Ashes’. Perhaps the greatest achievement out of so many, was the World Championship where Joe won the inaugural World Open Singles in 1989, aged 31. From 1986 to 1990 Joseph Hogan was ranked No 1 in the world.

Being an amatuer, Joe reaped no income from his years of playing croquet. He is grateful to the New Zealand Croquet Councl for paying entry fees, travel and accomodation – big expenses for a small-scale sport.

Joe has coached croquet at all levels, including international, and he made a coaching video in 1990. He also gave naming rights to a New Zealand sports firm, George Wood, which manufactures ‘Joe Hogan’ croquet mallets that are available worldwide.

Joe Hogan is married and has three children. In 2002 he has made another career change and is a secondary school teacher in Gisborne. He is very happily a family man and is quite involved in Christian community life. For recreation Joe plays, coaches and watches croquet. He also enjoys bush walking, music, theatre and watching most major sports.


Cory Hutchings.

Cory was born in Gisborne in March 1972. His secondary education was at Gisborne Boy’s High School.

Cory was the younger son in a family passionate about life- surfing and his involvement with the sport had begun by the time he was five years old. He soon started to compete in Nipper’s carnivals and competitions on Gisborne’s beaches.

His great commitment to his sport was constant. As a member of the Midway Surf Life Saving Club he competed all over New Zealand throughout his schooldays. Gradually he moved towards specialising in Ironman competitors and his favourites within that discipline are the sprints and board events.

Cory has been a professional athlete for more than a decade. He has won numerous national titles. The National Ironman title has been his every year for for ten years. He has represented New Zealand many times, both as an individual and as a member of the national team, adding international titles to his impressive haul. In the summer of 2001/2002 he has again been a member of the New Zealand Makos team in the prestigious Kellogs Nutri-Grain Surf League in Australia.

A few years ago, because of illness, Cory was told he would never race again.

The ultimate challenge for Cory is the World Ironman Championship. He came second in the competition in 1994 and 1996 and then won the world title twice, in 1998 and 2000. The event is held every two years and he will defend his title this May, in America.

Apart from the hard slog of training and travelling the world to compete in Ironman contests Cory is also a Surf Ambassador for Surf Life Saving New Zealand. This involves travelling the country coaching or delivering workshops as required by the varoius districts. Furthermore he is a Secondary Schools Sports Ambassador for the Hillary Commission, whereby he delivers workshops on such ideals as goal setting and motivation.

Cory is married and has two children. Mount Maunganui is now base in New Zealand.


Ian Kirkpatrick.

Born into a Gisborne farming and strong rugby- playing family in May 1946, Ian was educated at Patutahi School and Kings College, Auckland.

Highly successful in a variety of sports, while at King's, both for the school and for Auckland Province, Ian then played a season in Poverty Bay before moving on to Canterbury for farming experience. Moving up through the rugby ranks he represented Canterbury, and became the only player ever to captain both the North and South Islands' teams.

Ian was selected for the All Blacks tour of Britain in 1967 and quickly became known for his great pace and strength. In his first test he broke his nose in a tackle in the first five minutes: "no way was I to come off after five minutes in my first test!" He counts this as one of his most memorable matches. In a 1968 Test in Australia he scored three tries - a tally not achieved by an All Black since 1935.

He was an All Black for 10 years, playing 113 matches including 39 tests, of which 38 were consecutive. He scored 50 tries for the All Blacks (180 points). In all he scored 115 first-class tries, a number of which were described as 'freakish'. One of the greatest was in 1971 against the British Lions where he ran 55 yards from midfield.

Ian was promoted to All Black Captain in 1972. He led nine test matches and fellow All Blacks regarded him as a fine captain who led by example and particulary looked after the youngsters in the side. His toughest time was the incident and its aftermath that resulted in All Black Keith Murdoch being sent home from Britain.

Ian was dropped as captain in 1974 after a disappointing 1973 season. However, not worried about losing the top spot, he was retained in the team under new captain Andy Leslie, the Tane Norton, and his playing went from strength to strength.

Ian Kirkpatrick was awarded an MBE in 1980.

Married with three daughters, he continues to farm in Poverty Bay.


George Nepia.

George Nepia was born in Wairoa about 1907. He attended Wairoa Primary and Nuhaka Native Primary Schools, then worked, saving money for boarding school. Destines for Te Aute College, he enrolled himself at the Maori Agricultural College near Hastings against his father's wishes.

George played rugby for East Coast Districts in 1921 and for the legendary 1922 Hawke's Bay team. He was then selected for the 1924-25 All Blacks overseas tour and played fullback in all 32 games in the British Isles, France and Canada. The team won every match and was dubbed The Invincibles.

George married Huinga Kohere of Tikitiki in 1926 after which they farmed Huinga's family property at Rangitukia.

Controversially not selected for the All Blacks 1926/27 world tour, omitted from the 1928 South African tour because of his race, Nepia played in the 1929 Australian tour. Unable to play beyond the first test because of injury, he became noted for his charm and singing. In 1930 Nepia played all tests for New Zealand against the touring British Isles team. In all he played 46 matches for the All Blacks, scoring a total of 99 points.

In 1935 Nepia captained the New Zealand Maori team to Australia. For financial reasons he then switched to professional rugby league in Britain. Homesick, he returned to New Zealand in 1937.

A 1947 sports amnesty meant Nepia could return to rugby union. In 1950 he led the Olympians Club against Poverty Bay, which was captained by his son George – the only occasional when a father and son have played against each other in New Zealand first-class rugby. Nepia also became the oldest New Zealander to play a first-class game.

In 1982 Nepia travelled with the New Zealand Maori team to Wales, where his reception at the St Helens ground in Swansea was an incredible mark of homage to him. In 1986 the South African Rugby Board elected him life vice president. He was also the subject of New Zealand television’s This Is Your Life.

His eldest son, George, was killed in active service in Malaya in 1954 and Huinga died in 1975. George Nepia died in Ruatoria in August 1986. Two sons and a daughter survived him.


Maz Quinn.

Maz was born in Hamilton in August 1976 but his parents’ passion for surfing saw the family move to Gisborne two years later. Educated at Elgin Primary School, Gisborne Intermediate and Gisborne Boys’ High School, Maz grew up riding waves from dawn till dusk. His enthusiam for surfing was more easily satisfied when the family moved from town to Wainui Beach in his teenage years. After surfing the world’s best breaks he still lists Wainui as one of his favourites.

Maz is the eldest child of what could be described as the ‘First Family of New Zealand Surfing’. His brother and sister are winning national and international titles, his mother has worked hard for women’s and girl’s surfing and his father is a national surfing official.

As a schoolboy, Maz entered the Gisborne Boardriders Club contests every month. "It helps to grow up with a lot of surfers who are really good and competitive". He won his first big contest in 1990. He moved up through the ranks and won national titles. He then toured the world for six years on the World Qualifying Series (WQS). This is the fiercly competitive lower-ranked professional surfing tour that gives surfers the points required for the elite World Championship Tour (WCT).

In 1999 Maz was the first New Zealander to win a WQS event and then in 2001 he finally accumulated the 9000 points required for the WTC – the first Kiwi surfer to do so. By joining the world’s top 44 surfers in the elite worldwide professional circuit, he has achieved recognition for his lifelong passion. The WCT is not all waves and glamour. There is a heavy air of competitive stress to keep the spot in the tour, but the experience is what every competitive surfer craves.

With a fast, textbook-perfect surfing style, Maz is among the best surfing talent the New Zealand has produced to date. "It’s what I always wanted to do, I knew I could it. It was just a matter of putting my head down and doing it. If you want something bad and are willing to make the necessary sacrifices – just go for it".


Alan Thompson.

Born in Gisborne in June 1959, Alan attended Te Harpara Primary School, Gisborne Intermediate and Gisborne Boys’ High School.

He was a talented rugby player and was selected to play in the Boys’ High 1st XV for two years and in the North Island Under 18 team. Alan also became interested in surf lifesurfing and joined the Waikanae club in Gisborne. He represented New Zealand in surf lifesaving in 1982, 1985 (team captain), and 1987. Alan started kayaking as part of the fitness regimen for surf lifesaving, and paddling soon became a pasion for him.

He represented New Zealand in six different World Kayaking Championships from 1981 to 1987 and he was a finalist in each one. He won two silver medals in 1982 and a bronze in 1983. He has also won numerous New Zealand and Australian titles.

Alan was selected to compete for New Zealand in the Olympics Games in 1980, 1984 and 1988. In the 1984 Olympics he won two gold medals, an individual gold in the K1 race and a team gold in the K4 event.

In the 1980s the local Olympic paddlers trained on Gisborne rivers for about 10 months of the year, the training being locally planned and executed with local helpers. With little or no sponsorship available until after the successes of 1984, training was an individual and costly exercise. Each year the paddlers went to Europe for a couple of months for ‘polishing off’, competing in regattas and then the World Championships.

Alan locally manufactured his kayak in which he won his gold medal in 1984.

In 2002 he is coaching Gisborne youngsters for the Poverty Bay Kayak Club and the Waikanae Surf Life Saving Club. He enjoys paddling recreationally when time allows.

Alan is married, has two children and is a self-employed businessman in Gisborne.


Richard White.

Richard White was born into a Poverty Bay farming family in June 1925. He attended Ngata Primary School, Gisbsorne District High School and Fielding Agricultural College, where he gained the nickname ‘Tiny’. A hill-country farmer all his life, Richard served in the Japenese Occupation Force from 1946 to 1948.

Once home he represented Poverty Bay in rugby from 1949 to 1957. Simultaneously he was Poverty Bat’s first ever All Black, playing for the national team between 1949 and 1956. He never missed a test match, playing 23 in all. He played a total of 55 games for New Zealand and on one tour he played 30 of 36 matches, more than any other player. Whislt an All Black he scored 11 tries – 30 points in all. He stayed on the field for all of every game: "I only left the field once and that was in my last game".

Tiny White’s many skills included his exceptional springing jump at lineout, helped by the fact that he was very tall, his acute sense of anticipation, his speed, stamina and strength. His towering height helped him to leap higher in lineouts and remain airbourne longer, utilising his individual two-handed catching technique. He attributes his durability on the field to his training regime of running over the hills on the farm, sometimes 170 kilometres a week. He went into each ruck or scrum picturing where the play was likely to go. "My greatest love in playing the game is to outwit the opposition".

Tiny White’s international career ended when he was 32 with a kick in the back. This added to the existing farming injuries, which were causing him back pain and partly paralysing his left hand – the best kept secret of the time.

He continued to play club rugby. He played once more for Poverty Bay. He coached the game and served one season as the PBRFU President.

Richard ‘Tiny’ White became active in civic affairs. He was Mayor of Gisborne for two terms from 1977. He was also involved with the Queen Elizabeth II National Trust, the Order of St John and the Hospital Board for many years, among other interests. He was awrded the QSO for Public Service in 1998.

Married to Elsie, Richard ‘Tiny’ White has three sons and two daughters. He lives in Gisborne.


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