Outstanding achievers outside the classroom

A climate change activist, a sonic arts music producer, and a Taekwondo champion are among the winners of the University of Auckland Blues Awards for 2019.

Riley Phillips-Harris won the Blues award for Sportsman of the Year 2019. It was presented by One News anchor Wendy Petrie.

Traditionally awarded for just sporting achievements, the University of Auckland has extended its Blues Awards to other accomplishments. It is the highest accolade to be earned at a tertiary level for excellence in a sporting code, arts and culture, or service and leadership.

A new category of Most Outstanding Contribution in Innovation was introduced this year, awarded to Rebecca Jelley, the co-founder of a new Australasian lawn bowls format which is televised to more than one million people.

Other notable winners were Sportswoman of the Year Isla Norman-Bell, a silver medallist at the Touch World Cup, and Māori Major Award recipient Turuhira Hotene, a member of this year’s world champions of kapa haka.

Isla Norman-Bell won Sportswoman of the Year

The 2019 Blues Awards winners were announced at a celebratory dinner at the University on Friday evening, 27 September.

The eight major award winners were:

Sivendra Michael (Faculty of Arts)

  • Most Outstanding Contribution in Service and Leadership
  • Major Pasifika Award

Sivendra is dedicated to educating youth about climate policy. He is the lead facilitator for the Active Citizens global programme in New Zealand and the Pacific Volunteer Lead at Splice NZ, a charity in Aotearoa. Through these organisations he delivers social leadership training across communities in New Zealand and the Pacific to build the capacity of young people to better understand international climate policy. He has been shortlisted for the Young Global Leaders 2020 and the One Young World Queen Fellow. Sivendra is from Fiji and his own village has been impacted by climate change. He is studying toward a PhD in Development Studies.

Turuhira Hotene (Business School)

  • Taumata Rau Award

Commerce student Turuhira Hotene is a world kapa haka champion. Her rōpū Ngā Tūmanako won the national kapa haka competition Te Matatini in Wellington earlier this year. The five-day competition involved 48 teams from New Zealand and Australia. Ngā Tūmanako will perform at sports events, concerts and significant hui that only the winners have the honour of performing at, including the World Polynesian Festival.

Rebecca Jelley (Faculty of Science)

  • Most Outstanding Contribution in Innovation

Rebecca co-founded the Ultimate Bowls Championship as a way to revitalise the sport of lawn bowls. The new format allows scoring off every bowl and increases the speed of the game, making it more suitable for television. She also made technological improvements through the use of LED screens and tablets for umpires meaning detailed statistics are available on player and team performances. Their first event in April 2019 attracted more than a million TV viewers from around the world. Clubs involved in the new format say they have been inundated with both existing bowlers and those new to the game wanting to get involved.

Clovis McEvoy (Faculty of Creative Arts and Industries - CAI)

  • Most Meritorious Performance in Arts and Culture

Clovis is an active composer, sound designer, human-computer interface designer and researcher. His creative practise is centred in the field of sonic arts music and designing customised music software for live electroacoustic performance works, interactive installations and audio-visual content for virtual reality. Clovis’ work has been selected for performance at highly selective conferences and festivals in Seoul, South Korea, New York City, the USA and Switzerland.

Riley Phillips-Harris (Faculty of Law)

  • Sportsman of the Year
  • Most Meritorious Performance in Sport

Riley competed in and won the ITF Taekwondo World Cup in September 2018 in Sydney, Australia, and was ranked as number one in the world for the 78kg sparring category. Despite several significant injuries over the last couple of years, he continues to perform and compete to the highest level and has retained ranking in the top eight in the world.

Isla Norman-Bell (Faculty of Education and Social Work)

  • Sportswoman of the Year 

Isla won a silver medal at the Touch World Cup in Malaysia earlier this year for the open women’s grade. The World Cup takes place only once every four years. She has also competed with the New Zealand Warriors NRL Touch Premiership open women’s team and the New Zealand Black Ferns 7s development team.


University of Auckland Chancellor Scott St John congratulated all award winners for their achievements at both national and international level.

“Success is very much down to the individual’s commitment, hard work and dedication. However it also takes support from those people’s communities and I know that many staff have gone above and beyond to ensure students are given the opportunity to combine academic achievements with pursuit of success in their chosen endeavour,” he said.

Media contact:

Danelle Clayton | Media Adviser
Email: d.clayton@auckland.ac.nz
Mob: 027 537 2580