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Aon celebrates its 15th year partnering with Rowing NZ

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Aon, a leading professional services firm, celebrated its 15th year of partnership with Rowing NZ at the 2019 Maadi Cup last week.

Run by the New Zealand Secondary Schools Rowing Association (NZSSRA) and Rowing NZ, the Aon Maadi Cup is the national championships for school rowing. Being New Zealand's largest rowing regatta, it's the most prestigious event on the school rowing calendar.

The 2019 Aon Maadi Cup was hosted by Karapiro Rowing Inc. at Lake Karapiro, Cambridge, from 25-30 March. 2,166 athletes from a record 131 schools entered across the 50 events during the week.

Last year, Aon introduced the Aon Maadi Cup Legacy. In collaboration with Laszlo Boats, the winners of the Boys’ U17 and Girls’ U17 Single Scull events are each gifted a new boat and oars for their schools.

The initiative recognises that not every school can enter an eight, or even a team of four, but most schools in the country can participate in the single scull event. This year, the Boys’ U17 single scull event had the most entries out of all 50 events with nine heat races and the Girls’ U17 had eight.

Shakira Mirfin of Southland Girls’ High School and Scott Shackleton of Christchurch Boys’ High School will be heading back to school this week with new boats and oars after winning their respective events.

By supporting the under-17 age group, Aon believes it is encouraging capable and determined young athletes and providing them the opportunity to put their best foot (or oar) forward the following year, with a boat manufactured using the latest innovative rowing technology.

However, Aon’s sponsorship of Rowing NZ goes far deeper than simply attaching its name to an event. Aon also looks to provide opportunities off the water, with several rowers working for the firm.

Aon Deputy Managing Director Russell Bailey, a former New Zealand rowing trialist himself, knows the value of attracting rowers to the company.

"I say to all employers, if you want a decent, reasonable employee, grab a rower. The reason being, rowing is a team sport where you cannot let your teammates down. You have to be committed, you have to be willing to work hard in a team. If you put all these parts together, then I believe you cannot get a better employee," he says.

One of the first rowers to work at Aon was double-Olympic pairs champion Hamish Bond, who carried out some part-time work around their rural operations to gain experience within the working world.

Since then more than 20 employees from a range of backgrounds in the sport, from elites to university and school rowers, have come on board at Aon in a variety of roles, including valuations, engineering and loss modelling.

Among the clutch of former rowers working full-time at Aon is former New Zealand eights rower Richard Harrison. After glandular fever brought an end to his rowing ambitions in 2014-15, Harrison met with Bailey at the Aon Maadi Cup.

Excited by Aon’s commitment to the community and its development of youth sport, Harrison was motivated to come on board. Currently based in Hamilton, he works as an Account Manager for the corporate team.

Former Aon Maadi Cup pairs gold medallist Elliot Harvey, who competed for Blenheim Rowing Club and Marlborough Boys’ College, is another ex-oarsman who works for Aon, joining the company two and a half years ago as an Account Manager.

Most recently, Rowing NZ has helped facilitate 2018 men’s eights crew-member Isaac Grainger into a part-time role at Aon, working in analytics.

As well as the Maadi Cup, Aon also supports the North Island Secondary Schools Championships, University Rowing Championship, OarSport magazine and the Junior Regatta.

Simon Peterson, Rowing NZ Chief Executive, says Aon has supported rowing in New Zealand for 15 years and it is a relationship they are both grateful for and immensely proud of.

"Fostering secondary school rowing is incredibly important - it obviously generates talent for future New Zealand representatives, but more importantly it helps grow New Zealand’s youth into great people. Aon have never been the type to provide us with financial support and walk away - they genuinely care about our sport and athletes and are familiar faces at our regattas across the country.

In recent years their support has stretched to working with secondary schools directly and providing much needed equipment. The Aon Maadi Cup remains one of the biggest secondary school sporting events in New Zealand and we’re proud to work alongside Aon to bring it to life each year," he says.

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