2016 Don Oliver Youth Sport Foundation Awards Dinner
Awards Dinner Welcome from Dai Bindoff, DOYSF Chairman
A welcome from the Trustees to the 2016 Dinner which celebrated the Awards, 50 years since Don Oliver won gold at the Jamaica Commonwealth Games and the induction of six west Auckland greats of sport into the Wall of Fame at The Trusts Arena.
Thank you for being here to celebrate a great many things, in a function that is different from the 18 that have gone before. Not only will we acknowledge 15 fantastic young Aucklanders, all with a great future in sport, we will also celebrate 50 years since Don Oliver won his Gold medal at the 1966 Commonwealth Games in Kingston, Jamaica; and we will witness the induction into the Wall of Fame that you see around the walls of this venue, six west Aucklanders who have been among the giants of New Zealand sport.
In addition, we have made a deliberate decision to provide musical entertainment from a local school; for 2016 it will be by Massey High School and in future, we hope to make this a tradition to be shared around among all our schools.
And it is appropriate to congratulate: Trustee Steve Oliver and dinner manager Krissy Hunter on become Mr and Mrs Oliver (in Las Vegas, no less). And also congratulate Joe Babich – of the hugely supportive Babich family that has supported this event for many years – on being one of two inductees into the West Auckland Business Hall of Fame, earlier this year.
Before getting on with the good news, however, I wish us all to acknowledge the passing of two giants of West Auckland; both great supporters of “The Don Oliver” and also of this venue The Trusts Arena: They were, of course, Sir Graeme Douglas and Harry O’Rourke MNZM.
Sir Graeme, the founder and guiding spirit of Douglas Pharmaceuticals, a magnificent philanthropist, a gentleman in every sense of the word and a great champion of West Auckland and all it stands for. I cannot presume to call him a friend but I, like so many, was honoured and privileged by the warm friendliness he showed whenever we met and of course, he was a very generous benefactor of The Don Oliver. I suspect we will never see his like again.
Harry O’Rourke was the long standing CEO of Waitakere City Council under whose leadership this world-beating facility was created. Harry provided all the support that Waitakere City could, to ensure this venue went ahead. But much more even than that, Harry was one of the international leading lights in world Judo and the towering figure in New Zealand Judo. In his last three years, he was a trustee of “The Don Oliver”; and an eminence grise for us on this board. The trustees were proud to call him friend and (having worked with and for him for more than a decade), I feel his loss keenly.
But neither of them would want their passing to cast gloom on this evening. Primarily, of course it is an evening to celebrate another 15 West Auckland youngsters who have satisfied three very demanding selectors, and proven that they have what it takes to succeed on the world stage.
You only have to look at the eye-popping achievements of some of those who did not make the selectors’ cut this year, to realise just how hard it is, to become a Don Oliver Scholar. The very high standard, however disappointing it may be for those who miss selection, explains why so many have converted selection into ever-greater success. In a welcome innovation this year, the selectors only chose 10 scholars for 2016, but five others were so close that the selectors wanted them to be encouraged to keep trying. Accordingly, the Trustees and the selectors agreed that we would for the first time in many years, award five training grants as well as the 10 scholarships.
This should not mean that the unlucky one should not also try again. Even to be considered is an achievement and the selectors’ message was, that it is very likely that with a few more achievements, they could all hope for selection. To give some real meaning to this encouragement, we hope in the coming year to be able to offer even more support to the young athletes of West Auckland, in a variety of ways and, we are grateful for the advice of Andrew Sylvester in this regard.
The selectors are Simon Wickham (deputy chairman of the New Zealand Olympic Committee and chairman of Olympic selectors), Ross Dallow MNZM (international coach) and Gael Nagaiya (convenor of selectors for the Silver Ferns). We are all deeply indebted to their expertise and the discipline they bring to the selection process. Their independence and expertise is one of the keys to “The Don Oliver’s” success. The other key is the family of sponsors and donors who willingly and generously make the scholarships possible.
It’s a system that works. Every Olympic and Commonwealth Games team in the last 19 years has included at least one past scholar. In Gabrielle Fa’amausili we have a third world champion in the family (the other two were sailor Carl Evans and Sevens and Touch Footballer, Tyla Nathan-Wong). Past scholar Lauren Boyle, our greatest-ever woman swimmer was one of four scholars at Rio, the others were Ria Percival in Football, Tyla Nathan-Wong, a silver medallist with the Women’s Sevens and the youngest, Lizzie Cui, the first New Zealand diver to the Olympics for quarter of a century.
All of last year’s scholars have represented their country at some level and one, Brahm Richards, did it in two sports. Both Lizzie and Brahm have gone to follow in the footsteps of several other past scholars, in seeking sports scholarships at US universities.
Every single scholar over 18 years, has paid tribute to the support they have received through these scholarships created by seven visionary Westies: Maureen Oliver, of course, who remains our patron, Sir Bob Harvey, Bryan Heron MNZM, Ross Dallow MNZM, the late Chris Timms, Bernie Allen and Kerry Tizard.
But none of this could happen without the family of sponsors, and donors who make the scholarships and training grants possible. The support this organisation gets from the businesses and individuals of West Auckland says everything about West Auckland and Westies. You care. You support us because in West Auckland, the whole village brings up its kids. Not one of our supporters really cares about “what’s in it for them”. They are here for the good they can do for the fine Westie youngsters you see here tonight.
They are: Associate Sponsor: The Trusts; Gold Foundation Sponsors: The Douglas Charitable Foundation, The Trusts Arena/Arena Fitness, Carlsberg and Westie Pies. Silver Foundation Sponsors: Flying Herons, Molloy Furniture, Babich Wines, Can Am, Henderson KY Rotary and Greg Ward Master of Ceremonies. Silver Sponsors: Thermal Solutions, The Rosebank Business Association and Charlies*. Les Mills World of Fitness has provided one of the training grants and a donation was received from Coutts of Newmarket agents for Mercedes. We cannot thank you all adequately, for your generosity.
Tonight, we see an expansion of the Don Oliver role in West Auckland sport. Thanks to our greatest ever decathlete, Roy Williams, we will see the induction of six giants of past eras, into the Wall of Fame. The Wall was created by Roy and Ross Dallow and Roy chose the nominees from which this year’s inductees were to be chosen. Roy and the Don Oliver selectors (Simon Wickham, Ross and Gael) formed the selection panel. They acknowledge that at least three other past greats must soon be due for induction.
Finally, in tonight’s programme we will pay homage to Don Oliver himself. He was our greatest weightlifter and remains so today; but more than that, he was a tireless benefactor of young people, taking potential lost souls under his wing and working very hard to find solutions for asthma and depression – that is, besides building a fitness business empire.
We are indebted to Roy Williams who was also a gold medallist 50 years ago in Kingston. Roy’s drive and assistance has ensured this celebration is happening and that some of the other giants of New Zealand’s sporting past are here to pay tribute to Don Oliver, a man they called team-mate and friend.
It has been a very difficult year; our second without the indefatigable Pat Heron. The longer we go without Pat the more we learn about how much she did to ensure the success of this event. Having said that we are again grateful to her for assembling tonight’s auction. One of her two faithful understudies, Alan Parry, (deputy Chairman), took sabbatical leave to return to the UK for a year and the other, Colleen Acton, moved to south Auckland. Even so, she has continued to serve this board and help guide us through this dinner. The immensely busy David Nelson joined and took Harry’s role as (secretary/treasurer). Steve Oliver and Marc Oliver (respectively “The Don’s” son and nephew. Steve is a world champion in his own right), have been steadfast in their support of our work and a source of guidance to me.
We, in turn, thank Sport Waitakere for all their support in the past, Krissy Hunter who has done so well to take Pat’s place as dinner manager, Tracey Parsons, our accountant and, new administrator Janet Hannan. Greg Ward who put this evening’s show together and with Campbell Larsen, stage manager makes it a well-oiled machine. We salute The Trusts and The Trusts Arena – both go quite a few extra miles to make sure this event happens and our scholars are acknowledged. Simon Wickham and Mark Gosling and your teams, it is a privilege to be associated with you both.
Finally, thank you all for joining us tonight. Without you this dinner could not happen. We know you’ll enjoy yourselves. Maureen and the Oliver family, we hope we have been worthy of the legacy you have entrusted to us
For Colleen Acton, David Nelson, Marc Oliver, Steve Oliver and Alan Parry and the rest of the team: Campbell Larsen, Krissy Oliver (Hunter), Tracey Parsons, Janet Hannan, Michael Ma’au, and Greg Ward
* Foundation sponsors are those who have been supporters of “The Don Oliver” from the outset.