‘Sheriff of Koutu’ Named Tony Jackson Scholarship Recipient

Published: Mon 30 Jul 2018 12:49 PM
IRONMAN New Zealand announced the first of two Tony Jackson Scholarships for 2019, with a surprise visit to Rotorua revealing the news to recipient Joshua Te Kowhai, also known as the ‘Sheriff of Koutu’.
And while the 44-year-old single father and businessman will face challenges along the way and have hurdles to overcome, all that know him are backing him to face down adversity and live up to the spirit of Tony Jackson.
Josh was nominated by his partner Tairi Ford, with incredible support from the local community that is clearly already inspired by Josh and the work he does, especially with local youth.
A former New Zealand representative in rugby and boxing, Te Kowhai’s life was turned upside down in 2004 when a serious car accident left doctors doubting his ability to walk again, let alone consider the ultimate sporting event.
“The phrase ‘nothing is impossible to the willing mind’ is a true reflection of Joshua Te Kowhai’s character and epitomises who Josh is. He has always been a very giving man, an active member of his local community, an active sportsman, and a person who always sees the potential in everyone,” said Ford.
“But he was left wrecked by the accident in 2004 when living in Australia. He broke all bones in his ankles, shattered both knees, smashed his jaw and all of his teeth and broke both wrists and arms. He was told by doctors he would never walk, play sports and would need to look at a new career. At that time he was at the peak of his rugby career playing professional rugby for the Brumbies feeder team.
“Depression set in quickly with Josh, but his discipline and determination that he learned playing top-level sport changed his focus and helped him to set new goals and form a plan. With the help and support of a great rehab physiotherapist he began writing a goal and a plan in a notebook. He wrote about the positives and the negatives about his new way of life. He set the goal….’to walk again’.”
Josh has since continued to show incredible courage and determination and after three months of intensive rehab and hard work, Josh achieved that goal to walk again. But he wasn’t done, next was to walk without a limp. He achieved this after another six months of rehab and had the doctors shaking their heads in disbelief.
That steely determination saw Josh looking to return to rugby, but this was a hurdle he couldn’t overcome, lasting sixty minutes before one tackle took him back to square one. This time Josh needed his family, so at the end of 2004 with more months of rehab in front of him, he returned home.
This time the rehab also included the need for a new career, he needed to find a new passion, something to focus on.
In early 2005 Josh enrolled in a Personal Training Course as it was something that he knew well and something he felt comfortable doing. It has been through becoming a personal trainer that he has gone on to develop key relationships with at-risk youth as well as training elite New Zealand Representatives across various sporting realms.
Ford says her partner has taken on responsibility beyond his own family (he has two sons), hence the nickname.
“If there are ever issues in his local community Josh is the one who gets to the bottom of the matter, that is how he became known as the ‘Sheriff of Koutu’. He has taken it upon himself to be the caretaker of his community, a community that is safe for the local families and children. Josh is the man who selflessly gives back to his community with particular attention to the youth and elderly.”
That commitment to the community extends to IRONMAN, where he has acted as a volunteer in transition for the past five years, as well as helping at other events like the Tarawera Ultra, IronMāori Ironman camps and other off-road events.
Josh now runs his gym out of the local rugby club, where he offers training spaces for free and promotes boxing classes for children and their parents to bond and get fit together. He also organises running squads for free and allows a local triathlete to run spin classes in the gym for anyone to come to for free.
Josh first became involved in Triathlon after some mates talked him into giving a half IronMāori a go. He loves the social aspect of the sport, the people he meets when training and at events who have now become lifelong friends. Triathlons help Josh to push his body to the limits to see what it can do. He has lined up at the IronMāori Half for the last five years.
Those achievements saw him first talk about the ultimate goal, taking on IRONMAN New Zealand in 2019 and that is when Ford got busy working on a Tony Jackson Scholarship nomination, knowing that without it, the dream of IRONMAN would remain just that, an out of reach dream.
While the announcement was a shock to Josh (CLICK HERE for video of the surprise visit), he spoke to Ford about his desire and motivation to take part in IRONMAN New Zealand.
“To prove to myself I can do it. To feel that sense of achievement and to show people that you can do it regardless of what you have been through. I want to inspire the children that I work with, I want to show them that hard work does pay off. Too often children are always told do this, do that, be better, I want to literally show them.
“I also want to motivate the adults I work with to show them that anything is possible to the willing mind.”
Josh’s nomination received widespread support from the local community, including a strong endorsement from Haehaetu Barrett, Bay of Plenty Regional Manager for the Lifewise Trust. Josh works closely with the Trust and their clients at his gym.
“Josh is a man of his truth,” said Barrett. “He set out to build and lead awareness of physical wellbeing within his community and has managed to inspire the most vulnerable communities to understand the importance of self-care. Our clients are transient, and many are facing their own personal challenges in life, however at the gym – they are themselves.
“Over the five years we have seen many people benefit from the learnings at the gym. Josh has also trained my team members to continue to support clients after the gym hours to sustain wellness within their recovery journey.
“Josh is a gentle giant, a true community leader that has supported transformational change in our most vulnerable people lives.”
Tony’s widow Verna Cook-Jackson had no hesitation in choosing Josh over the many other worthy nominations.
“We had letters of support that explained the amazing and good work Josh does in the community, as well as looking after his own family. Tairi’s nomination was heartfelt and said so much about who Josh is and what he represents, congratulations Josh, you deserve this, I think you will be an inspirer of many.”

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