10 May 2018
New Zealand Warriors-contracted rugby league player Cole Waaka is the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) Individual Sports Person of the Year.
The Royal New Zealand Air Force Leading Aircraftman was Northcote Tigers’ leading try scorer in the 2017 season. He received the most consistent club and premier player awards and has this season been awarded a New Zealand Warriors contract.
Leading Aircraftman Waaka said it was humbling to be nominated for the award and a privilege to win, but that he could not do what he did without the support of the NZDF.
“I owe them everything. It’s really awesome to be given the opportunity to play sport as part of your job,” Leading Aircraftman Waaka said.
Joining Leading Aircraftman Waaka in receiving awards today were New Zealand Army Major Brett Grieve, who won the Outstanding Sports Achievement of the Year award for cycling, and Robert “Tiny” Graham, who was named Sports Official of the Year for his contribution to rugby.
The NZDF rugby team, the Defence Blacks, won the Sports Team of the Year award, while the NZDF Colour award was presented to Warrant Officer Brendon Johnson, for Services to Touch Rugby.
The awards are the pinnacle of sporting achievement in the NZDF for the 2017 year.
Chief of Defence Force Lieutenant General Tim Keating said physical fitness and teamwork were vital components of a successful military force and were part of the military lifestyle which attracted new recruits.
“Sport is an extension of maintaining our basic physical fitness; sport showcases both individual and team excellence and contributes to building teamwork and camaraderie,” Lieutenant General Keating said.
“Through sport we build bridges between defence and the local community.”