It’s not often that a “minority” sport such as motocross can break through and knock aside a few mainstream sporting contenders, but Wairoa’s Tommy Watts is one young man who can do it.
The 15-year-old, a year 11 boarding pupil at Napier Boys’ High School, has been ringing a few warning bells with his motocross racing over the past couple of years and those results have not gone unnoticed.
With two separate nominations to propel him into the spotlight at Friday night’s Wairoa Sportsperson of the Year awards dinner, Watts was “thrilled” to be called up to collect the Junior Sportsperson award. Then, later in the evening, he was called back to the stage a second time at the Wairoa Memorial Hall to collect the night’s top honour, overall Sportsperson of the Year.
The youngster had fended off stiff competition for the top prize from Wairoa’s sporting elite, which included fellow finalists for the top award – Stephen Doole and Andy Hardie for services to football and Ngati Kahungungu Iwi Incorporated Senior Sportsperson of the Year Ngahiwi Manuel, for services to rugby union.
“I had to make a bit of a speech,” said Watts. “I think I was more nervous about going up on to the stage to do that than I have ever been at a motocross race.
“We have a lot of top sports men and women in Wairoa and I thought someone else would get the awards.”
Watts’ mother, Bronnie, said she was very proud of her son.
“He has been putting in a lot of hard work lately and being selected as a member of the Junior World Motocross Championships training squad has been a particular boost for him.”
Only the cream of the cop, just 15 riders from throughout New Zealand, have been selected to undertake special high-performance coaching ahead of the junior world championships in Australia next August.
“He is very passionate about his motocross racing and realises that, if he wants to step up, he needs to get fitter,” she said. “All his hard work has been paying off.
“He is also thrilled to be a part now of the HLR Husqvarna Racing Team and to learn what it’s like to be part of a very professional and high-profile team.”
The glittering awards ceremony acknowledged Wairoa’s traditionally strong sporting talent and featured a popular guest appearance from former All Black and Kiwi League star Frano Botica.
Words and photo by Andy McGechan