NIAS 30th Academy Award Winners Announced

Talented athletes from across the New England North West region have been identified and celebrated, as the Northern Inland Academy of Sport (NIAS) held its 30th annual Academy Awards over the weekend.

NIAS is a community-based organisation dedicated to identifying regional talent and preparing local sportspeople to reach their maximum potential, on and off the field. The Academy Awards recognised the accomplishments of the 2021/22 athletes.

All awards were presented by four NIAS Alumni, who had great insights and inspirations throughout their “interview” with former NBN Sports presenter, Mike Rabbitt, himself a Life Member of NIAS.

Sophie Parsons (cricket) and Lennox Neilson (hockey) named 2022 Athlete of the Year.

Sophie is in the NSW Country U16 team, the NSW CHS team as well as the Northwest team for Girl’s Cricket. She also plays for Northern Districts in the Women’s Premier League and Brewer Shield.

Lennox is a member of the NSW U16 Boys’ hockey team which won a gold medal at the Sports School Australia Championship in Hobart. He is also part of the New England Hockey Association Representative Teams, along with NCIS & CIS Schools representation.

NIAS CEO Shona Eichorn said, “Sophie is a batsmen of excellent talent with great hitting power and technique. She has a passion for the game of cricket, with a great understanding of the game and the role she can play as a leader. Lennox is an outstanding athlete who’s clever on the ball with a positive approach to his sport and teammates. They both are an inspiration to all junior regional athletes!”

Individual NIAS Sporting Program Award Recipients:

Tamworth City Toyota Basketball Athlete of Year: (Girls) Miley Clarke (Boys) Lucas Percy
Jack Newton Junior Golf Sports Athlete of the Year: Ryan McKinnon
Wests Entertainment Group Hockey Athlete of Year: (Girls) Emma Gray (Boys) Lennox Neilson
Mountain Biking – supported by AUS Cycling, Jet Black Racing, Compass Physiotherapy, The Broken Spoke –Athlete of Year: Jock Barwick
NIAS Netball – supported by NSW Netball and Glen Innes Services Club Athlete of Year: Charlotte Baker
Rugby League – Supported by UAA and NSW Rugby League Athlete of Year: Diesel Hagan
Tennis – supported by Inland Technology & Tennis Australia – Athlete of Year: Isabella Purvis
NIAS Football Club – supported by Wonder White, NNSW Football, Statewide Sports and Joblink Plus – Athlete of the Year: Violet Nicholson and Ronaldo Bigone

Scott Campbell Memorial Award for Volunteer of the Year: Nicky Lavender (Netball Manager) and Meg Gruber (NIAS FC JDL U12s Manager)

“Both Managers led their sport programs with excellent and timely communication while also supporting the team at NIAS across many areas of Netball and Football. NIAS could always rely on these two fabulous volunteers to deliver the best advice to athlete parents and coaches for a great NIAS experience. We thank them both sincerely and acknowledge their sterling efforts,” Mrs Eichorn said.

NIAS Chairman’s Award: Emma Gray (Hockey)

“This award recognises outstanding sportsmanship and participation in activities on and off the field. Emma is a positive role model and team leader for the NIAS Hockey squad who has now made the transition on the athlete pathway to Hockey NSW AAP program and looks to further represent NSW in 2023. Congratulations Emma!” Mrs Eichorn said.

NIAS Life Member Award: Greg Doolan

“Honorary Life Membership is recognised by NIAS as the highest recognition that may be awarded to a member in acknowledgement of exceptional service and contribution. In 2022, Life Membership to NIAS was awarded to Greg Doolan, who has been involved with NIAS Hockey, on and off since 2004 and whose commitment to Hockey and the NIAS program has been simply outstanding!” Mrs Eichorn said.
Col Burt Memorial Award – Coach of the Year: Adam Ramage, NIAS Football Coach of the U14s (Northern League 1)

“Throughout the season Adam travelled three times a week to fulfil his commitment of coach of the NIAS FC NL1 U14 team from Armidale to Tamworth or Newcastle. Has a great understanding of youth football team development while leading a positive team culture. He is continuing to improve as a coach and increase his accreditation and knowledge. A quiet achiever who is always around to support other teams and coaches. Congratulations and thank you Adam!” Mrs Eichorn said.