Wests Tigers star Benji Marshall has dedicated his National Maori Sports Awards to Mick Doherty, who helped bring him up in Whakatane.
Marshall beat a world-class field of finalists to take the top prize, the Albie Pryor Memorial Maori Sportsperson of the Year, in Auckland on Saturday, December 6.
He also won the senior men’s prize.
Marshall hadn’t originally expected to be at the awards.
The Kiwi captain struggled for words when he was awarded the men’s trophy during the annual ceremony, just hours after the man he regarded as his father had passed away.
“Dad, this one’s for you,” the 24-year-old said while raising the trophy after talking about how he was the product of his upbringing with the extended Marshall family and his foster father, Mick Doherty.
An emotional Marshall said it was “overwhelming” winning the awards and he was “so proud to be a Maori” who has played for, and captained his country, while also having experienced the highs of being in a winning premier team and champion world cup side.
Marshall’s Maori award wins reinforced a great year for New Zealand rugby league with world champion Kiwis and Melbourne Storm coach Stephen Kearney winning the Coach of the Year honour.
Australian Idol winner Stan Walker sang a tribute song to Marshall.