UKZN hockey player and canoeist in line for top award

2012-10-11 00:00

THE University of KwaZulu-Natal Pietermaritzburg campus’s annual sports banquet takes place at the Victoria Country Club tonight.

The prestigious Sportsman of the Year will be announced, as well as the Blues and Half Blues awards, plus the annual special awards.

There were no nominees for Sportswoman of the Year as no one had attained a sufficiently high standard of achievement to be nominated.

The event will also feature a guest panel that will comprise of Doug Gouw, Janet Edwards, Jimmy Mallett and Steven Ngubane — all of whom have had significant affiliation to the university, either through coaching, administration or playing.

The nominees for the NUX trophy for Sportsman of the Year are canoeist Andrew Birkett and hockey player Robin Jones.

Birkett is now a household name in the canoeing world, who shot to stardom for his performances on the water this year.

His eagerness to compete at the highest level and determined attitude has allowed him to become the best up-and-coming river paddler around.

In the boat this year Birkett has done his fair share for the medal tally. He won the prestigious Dusi Canoe Marathon for the third successive time. He also won the coveted Non-stop Dusi a short while later.

His achievements for 2012 did not end there, as he placed in the top five at the Fish River Canoe Marathon as well as winning the Lowveld Croc Canoe Marathon.

It is acknowledged amongst his peers that Birkett’s achievements on the water have been unmistakably brilliant for a man who is taking on some of the most experienced world-class athletes the canoeing world has to offer.

Birkett’s fellow club members said that he has always given fair advice when asked and is willing to help wherever needed on club matters. His accolades undoubtedly provide great motivation for the next generation of young student paddlers.

It is well known in hockey circles that Jones is a sportsman in the true sense of the word. Despite his numerous impressive achievements on the hockey field, he remains humble and holds the integrity of the game in the utmost respect.

An important member of the Varsity hockey club, Jones is seen as a key component of the backbone to team structure and play, which has seen the UKZN Pietermaritzburg first team become one of the most successful sides in the country.

Jones’s own personal achievements have seen him selected for the South African U21 side. He not only made this team, but was selected as captain. As captain, he led the SA U21 team to second place at the National Interprovincial Tournament in Bloemfontein.

Currently Jones is with the SA U21 team preparing for the African Qualifier event for the U21 Junior World Cup tournament — the continental competition beginning at the Randburg Hockey Stadium on Saturday.

It is recognised amongst the hockey community that Jones’s ability to lead his team-mates, yet still remain calm with a sense of humility, empowers all who take the field with him.

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