Sonny Fai feature wins top award

A multi-media feature on former Vodafone Warrior Sonny Fai spearheaded the supreme title-winning portfolio at the Sport New Zealand Sir Terry McLean National Sports Journalism Awards announced in Auckland last night.

‘The remarkable life and tragic death of Sonny Fai’ was published by the New Zealand Herald in January (Dylan Cleaver and Dana Johannsen providing the words and Greg Bowker the pictures).

CLICK HERE to see Sonny Fai feature.

It helped the trio win a new category for long form journalism and ultimately led to Cleaver and Johanssen – who also won other individual categories – being named joint winners of the supreme award. After receiving the award, Johanssen spoke of how deeply the project had affected her. 

The Sonny Fai story’s award success capped a night when rugby league was in the spotlight.

Central to the event was marking the 10th anniversary of the Kiwis’ historic 34-20 win over the Kangaroos in the Rugby League World Cup final at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane on November 22, 2008.

The team’s coach Stephen Kearney, captain Nathan Cayless and team manager Gordon Gibbons were among the guests. After a highlights package was played, Kearney and Cayless shared thoughts and anecdotes from the campaign.

Their table was hosted by Sir Peter Leitch, the Kiwis’ manager when they won the 2005 Tri Nations. He had five ex-Kiwi captains as his guests – Kearney, Cayless, Graeme West, Dane O’Hara and Nigel Vagana.

In another nod to the 13-man code, long-time rugby league journalist and historian John Coffey was made a life member of the New Zealand Sports Journalists’ Association. West Coast born and bred, Coffey worked for The Press in Christchurch for 44 years before finishing up in 2007. A prolific writer about the game, his body of work includes his collaboration with the late Bernie Wood on the tome-like “The Kiwis – 100 Years of Rugby League”.  

During the evening rugby league featured in another award-winning entry, Radio New Zealand’s Ravinder Hunia taking out the radio sports journalism category with an entry which included an item on the inaugural Warriors NRL women’s premiership team.