The New Zealand U-17 women’s team were the big winners at the annual NZ Football Awards tonight in Auckland.The Leon Birnie-coached side, who made history in 2018 when they became the first national team from New Zealand to claim a bronze medal at a FIFA tournament, claimed four major awards of Team of the Year, goalkeeper Anna Leat was named as Young Player of the Year, Birnie was awarded as Coach of the Year and Gemma Lewis (assistant coach) was named as Women’s Coach of the Year.Birnie said it was a humbling moment to be recognised again and claim four awards.“On reflection, what our team was able to do in Uruguay last year was pretty special,” said Birnie.“It was a great time for football, a great time for the girls and what we did was show New Zealand players what can be achieved on the world stage so for me that is really powerful and I feel very humbled and privileged to be a part of that.”
All Whites striker Chris Wood was named as the Player of the Year after his heroics in the English Premier League for Burnley where he scored 11 goals to help the club avoid relegation.The 27-year-old was honoured to be named as Player of the Year ahead of Abby Erceg (North Carolina Courage) and Sarpreet Singh (formerly Wellington Phoenix) who also had excellent seasons on the world stage.
“It is a huge honour to be nominated as a finalist for this award, but to win it is just fantastic,” he said.“Thanks to all of my team-mates and staff here at Burnley and to all of the people back home who have supported me.”
Former Football Fern Carol Waller became the first woman to receive the Friends of Football Medal of Excellence at the annual New Zealand Football Awards and was moved to tears by the gesture.
“I didn’t know I was receiving it as no one had said a thing to me about it,” she said.
“So it was a great shock and it put me into tears. But then I thought about it and realised it was great that someone had actually recognised the length of time that women’s football has been around in this country and my involvement in a game that I love.”Singh, a standout in his first year with the All Whites in India, was named as the International Men’s Player of the Year, while Betsy Hassett was named as the International Women’s Player of the Year after her impressive performances at the OFC Women’s Nations Cup. Liberato Cacace, who made his debut for the All Whites at just 17, was named as Men’s Young Player of the Year.Football Fern Annalie Longo led the Canterbury United Pride to the National Women’s League title and Callum McCowatt helped Eastern Suburbs win their first ISPS Handa Premiership. They were recognised as Women’s Domestic and Men’s Domestic Players of the Year respectively.In futsal, Jordi Ditfort claimed the Futsal Men’s Player of the Year and Shivi Anthony was the Futsal Women’s Player of the Year. Futsal Whites coach Marvin Eakins was named as the Futsal Coach of the Year. The AFF Men, who won the Futsal National League for the first time in three years, were named as the Futsal Team of the Year.Matt Conger, who officiated at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, was named as the Men’s Referee of the Year while Anna-Marie Keighley was the Women’s Referee of the Year and Antony Riley was the Futsal Referee of the Year.The three finalists in each category were selected by an independent voting panel which consisted of football journalists and former international players and coaches.
New Zealand Football Chief Executive Andrew Pragnell congratulated all of the winners on the night.“It is great to bring everyone in the football and futsal community together to celebrate a big year for our sport,” said Pragnell. “Well done to all of the 17 winners tonight and to all of the finalists nominated for the NZ Football Awards. We are proud of your achievements both here in New Zealand and on the world stage.”Brought to you by Rembrandt and staged in conjunction with Friends of Football and the NZ Football Foundation, the awards celebrated performances and achievements in the calendar year of 2018 (in the case of the ISPS Handa Premiership, it was the 2018/19 season that was taken into account).NZ Football Awards Winners Player of the YearChris WoodInternational Men’s Player of the YearSarpreet SinghInternational Women’s Player of the YearBetsy HassettFutsal Men’s Player of the YearJordi DitfortFutsal Women’s Player of the YearShivi AnthonyDomestic Men’s Player of the YearCallum McCowattDomestic Women’s Player of the YearAnnalie LongoYoung Men’s Player of the YearLiberato CacaceYoung Women’s Player of the YearAnna LeatFutsal Coach of the YearMarvin EakinsMen’s Coach of the YearLeon BirnieWomen’s Coach of the YearGemma LewisFutsal Referee of the YearAntony RileyMen’s Referee of the YearMatt CongerWomen’s Referee of the YearAnna-Marie KeighleyTeam of the YearNew Zealand U-17 womenFutsal Team of the YearAFF Men Article added: Saturday 27 July 2019