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Young Ferns big winners at NZF Awards

The New Zealand U-17 women made history by claiming bronze at the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup (Getty Images)

The New Zealand U-17 women’s team were the big winners at the annual NZ Football Awards over the weekend 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.”

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 Year
Chris Wood

International Men’s Player of the Year
Sarpreet Singh

International Women’s Player of the Year
Betsy Hassett

Futsal Men’s Player of the Year
Jordi Ditfort

Futsal Women’s Player of the Year
Shivi Anthony

Domestic Men’s Player of the Year
Callum McCowatt

Domestic Women’s Player of the Year
Annalie Longo

Young Men’s Player of the Year
Liberato Cacace

Young Women’s Player of the Year
Anna Leat

Futsal Coach of the Year
Marvin Eakins

Men’s Coach of the Year
Leon Birnie

Women’s Coach of the Year
Gemma Lewis

Futsal Referee of the Year
Antony Riley

Men’s Referee of the Year
Matt Conger

Women’s Referee of the Year
Anna-Marie Keighley

Team of the Year
New Zealand U-17 women

Futsal Team of the Year
AFF Men

Source: New Zealand Football

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