Do you agree with our 2019 sporting honours board?

PUBLISHED: 14:59 03 January 2020 | UPDATED: 15:00 03 January 2020

King's Lynn Town players celebrate promotion at Warrington Picture: Ian Burt

King's Lynn Town players celebrate promotion at Warrington Picture: Ian Burt


Head of sport Chris Lakey looks at the best of Norfolk sport in 2019...

Sophie McKinna during competition at World Championships in Doha Picture: PASophie McKinna during competition at World Championships in Doha Picture: PA

And the winner is...

It is always a matter of some contention, but Norfolk's version of the Beeb's sports personality of the year awards is never easy to decide.

Let's leave Norwich City and their Championship title out of this - they're full-time pros and they got their rewards elsewhere.

We are concerned with something a bit more grassroots, so let's not beat about the bush - the team and individual winners are King's Lynn Town and Sophie McKinna.

The year brought more success for Ryan Walsh Picture: Mark HewlettThe year brought more success for Ryan Walsh Picture: Mark Hewlett

The Linnets were magnificent: typically they did things the hard way and, having ended up in the play-offs, got through that despite some very bizarre complications over the schedule, and then faced a Super final. They went to Warrington and were simply superb, winning 3-2 thanks to a Michael Gash winner late in extra-time.

Now that was good. But what has followed since has been extraordinary. Lynn were expected to struggle in the National League North, against full- and part-time clubs, many of them household names. Instead, they will end the year among the promotion favourites...

Not one team has been able to beat them in the league at The Walks throughout 2019 - 24 matches, including two play-off games, the grand old ground stood firm.

And as they wave goodbye to 2019, only two teams have beaten them in the league this season - Guiseley on the opening day, and York City - ironically, Guiseley won at Bootham Crescent on Saturday and, coupled with Lynn's draw at Alfreton it meant the Linnets finish the year with a four-point advantage.

Ben Youngs made history during the Rugby World Cup in Japan Picture: PABen Youngs made history during the Rugby World Cup in Japan Picture: PA

No surprise then that Ian Culverhouse scoops the manager of the year award.

Swardeston Cricket Club may not have dominated the East Anglian Premier League, but they came up trumps on the national stage, becoming the first club in the UK to win both national club titles in the same year.

They won the 40-over crown - the Royal London Club Championship - at Lord's and quickly added the Vitality Club T20 national title at Derby. And Peter Thomas, one of the club's founders, received the British Empire Medal for his services to grassroots cricket in the New Year's Honours List.

The individual of the year could have been King's Lynn Town's ridiculously consistent goal scorer Adam Marriott, or boxer Ryan Walsh, or rugby player Ben Youngs. But it goes to Sophie McKinna.

Logan Smith enjoys the moment as he takes victory at Run Norwich 2019 Picture: Epic Action ImageryLogan Smith enjoys the moment as he takes victory at Run Norwich 2019 Picture: Epic Action Imagery

The Great Yarmouth shot-putter achieved her indoor personal best (17.97m) and at the World Championships in Doha threw an outdoor PB of 18.61m to qualify for the final. In the process she achieved the qualifying mark for this year's Tokyo Olympics. She was the first British woman to qualify for the shot put final in 36 years.

On top of that, Sophie is simply a good all-round person; she has two part-time jobs to fund her sport and recently turned down funding so it would not complicate her preparation programme.

Walsh comes close - once again he was imperious in 2019, defending his British featherweight title for the sixth time and then impressing in his victory over Hairon Socarras in the MTK Golden Contract quarter-finals at York hall.

The man from Cromer will be one of the favourites to take the crown this year, which will see him, twin brother Liam and older brother Michael all active on the pro circuit - a mouth-watering prospect for fight fans.

Youngs has been a remarkable performer for the England rugby team: 2019 saw him become the third most capped England player of all-time when he earned his 92nd cap for his country in a convincing 39-10 win over Argentina at the World Cup. A stunning England win over New Zealand in the semi-final sent them into the final as favourites - but they couldn't win an arm wrestle with South Africa and left Japan empty-handed.

Norfolk doesn't have many World Cup finalists at such a high level and Youngs is a terrific product of the county rugby scene.

On the athletics track, the year started with City of Norwich Athletic trio Logan Smith, Ben Spratling and Piers Arnold vying for supremacy at the Norfolk Cross Country Championships.

Smith took the honours in 34:48 and he would go on to enjoy a successful year with the highlight arguably victory at Run Norwich 2019 in 31:41 ahead of his club-mates and training partners.

There are numerous other sports where individuals and teams have been good, bad and indifferent. Wheelchair tennis star Alfie Hewett continues to be one of the sport's dominant players; King's Lynn Stars speedway team struggled along in the Premiership. Swings and roundabouts.

This brief review of Norfolk sport in 2019 can't pass without mention of some of those we lost during the year.

In Great Yarmouth, Derek Webster was known as Mr Bowls, He as manager of the town's Festival of Bowls, a role he held for 25 years. We lost him in May.

Roy Blower, a lifelong Norwich City fan as well as holder of many local civic positions, died in April.

And the year came to an end with the lost of three men who hold a very special place in the hearts of Norwich City fans: Duncan Forbes, Ron Saunders and Martin Peters all died within two months of each other.

So goodbye, 2019: another year of great triumph and tragedy.

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