NIAS Annual academy awards winners announced

NIAS Annual Academy Award Winners

Talented athletes from across the New England North West region were celebrated on Saturday night, at the annual Northern Inland Academy of Sport (NIAS) Academy Awards.

NIAS supports talented young athletes to reach their sporting potential, preparing them for the rigours of professional competition in their chosen sport – on and off the field!

Special guest and NIAS Alumni Emma Clifton (Hockey) was present on the evening, along with Mike Rabbit (formerly of NBN TV) to congratulate the award winners, including Female and Male Athletes of the Year, Coach of the Year and a number of other major and minor awards for 2023.

Both Female and Male Athletes of the Year were awarded to Mountain
Bike Athletes, Rebecca Sams and Ben Shaw, with Girls’ Rugby League Coach, Luke Taylor taking home Coach of the Year. Volunteer of the Year was awarded to Alyssa Rogan – also of the Mountain Bike program and for the first time in 2023- the Indigenous Athlete of the Year Award, was awarded to Delika Boney (Netball Program). 

Rebecca Sams, Ben Shaw, and Delika Boney will be invited to attend the NSW Regional Academies of Sport at a Global Awards night to be held in Sydney on Tuesday 27 February 2024. They will also participate in an Athlete Leadership Workshop as part of an all-expenses paid trip to Sydney, courtesy of Steadfast, Clubs NSW, and the Office of Sport.

Volunteer of The Year (The Scott Campbell Memorial Award): Alyssa Rogan (Mountain Bike Program)
Alyssa has been volunteering with this program for numerous years and together with Coaches Michael Crummy and Steven Roberts, has been a critical cog in the program’s success. She is always there to assist, support and encourage the athletes and goes above and beyond in her volunteer role as a passionate Mountain Biker herself.

Female Athlete of the Year: Rebecca Sams, Gunnedah (Mountain Bike Program)
Rebecca is a very talented sportsperson competing in the very difficult enduro style mountain bike competitions. While only 14 years old, she has had some fantastic results competing against older athletes in the u17 age category for Enduro. This athlete lives in Gunnedah and travels to school in Tamworth every day, as well as training and competing for Tamworth Mountain Bike club.

Male Athlete of the Year: Ben Shaw, Tamworth (Mountain Bike Program)
A dedicated athlete, Ben has a fantastic work ethic and drive to be successful in his sport. In 2023, Ben gained first place in his category at the National U15 CXO series. This series is held across Australia on a range of challenging courses where Ben always showed excellent citizenship on and off the bike. Ben was also selected for the new NSWIS Pursu32+ Program for athletes who demonstrate the potential to continue on the pathway to the Brisbane Olympics in 2023!

Coach of the Year Award (Col Burt Memorial Award): Luke (Tubby) Taylor – NIAS Girls Rugby League Program
A fiercely competitive and highly talented player during his own playing days, Mr Taylor displays all the qualities desired in a Coach. He showed patience and connection whilst he led his young female squad during the program, with exceptional skill development while creating a positive learning environment and engaging in a positive supportive manner. No doubt the NIAS Rugby League squad will look back fondly on the role this coach played in their development as he shared and spread a love for Rugby League.

Indigenous Athlete of the Year Award (Inaugural Award in 2023): Delika Boney (Netball Program)
Delika has demonstrated speed and strength during both the Academy Games in Wagga Wagga and the Academy Challenge in Port Macquarie. Delika has a remarkable ability to read the play as it unfolds during the game. As well as
being a NIAS athlete, Delika represented the Northern Inland in the Koori Knock Out carnival in Tamworth in 2023.

Chair’s Award: Mackenzie Knox (Netball Umpire Athlete)
Life Member Awards: Warren Ansell (Physiotherapy) and Michelle Morgan (Board Member)
NIAS Communicator of the Year Award: Olivia Coombes (Hockey Program)
Sarah Heagney Memorial Award: Sarah Willis (Girls Hockey Program Coach)

Tamworth City Toyota Basketball program:
Most Improved – Sara Belfield (Girls), Colby Walker (Boys)
Most Dedicated – Dakota Hayden (Girls), Riley Lightfoot (Boys)
Coaches Award – Bronte Rankmore (Girls), Benji Ralston (Boys)
Sports Athlete of Year (Basketball) nomination – Sophie McMullen (Girls), Bailey Ralston (Boys)

Future Stars Program:
Most Improved: Imogen Biddle (Athletics)
Most Dedicated: Angus Maxworthy (Go-Karting)
Coaches Award: Abbey Trewern (Swimming)
Athlete of the Year Nomination: Rohan Martin (Boxing)

Jack Newton Junior Golf Program:
Most Improved: Jayden Budda-Dean
Most Dedicated: Elly Petrie
Coaches Award: Brock Galvin
Sports Athlete of the Year (Golf) Nomination: Oliver Thomas

Wests Entertainment Group Hockey Program:
Most Improved – Megan Carr (Girls), Conal Nicoll(Boys)
Most Dedicated – Peyton Abra (Girls), Brayden Hayward (Boys)
Coaches Award – Ava Vaughan (Girls), Hayden Constable (Boys)
Sports Athlete of Year (Hockey) nominations – Maggie Highlands (Girls), Lennox Neilson (Boys)

Netball Program:
Most Improved – Skye Vaughan
Most Dedicated – Zalia Hobday
Coaches Award – Bridie O’Neill
Sports Athlete of Year (Netball) nominations – Delika Boney

Mountain Bike Program:
Most Improved – Lucas McDonald
Most Dedicated – Rebecca Sams
Coaches Award – Harrison Crowley
Sports Athlete of Year (MTB) nominations – Benjamin Shaw

Rugby League Program:
Most Improved – Isabel Murray (Girls), Benjamin Browning (Boys)
Most Dedicated – Ava Mitchell (Girls), Darcy Rolph (Boys)
Coaches Award – Ashley Hanslow (Girls), Charlie Smith (Boys)
Sports Athlete of Year (Rugby League) nominations – Sybella Pike (Girls) & Casey Milton (Boys)

Triathlon Program:
Most Improved – Coby Uebergang
Most Dedicated – Emma Carter
Coaches Award – Riley Morgan
Sports Athlete of Year (Triathlon) nominations – Samuel Ferguson

“Tonight is about thanking our volunteers, sponsors, program partners, parents, athletes and staff for the incredible job they do in ensuring our young people have the tools to achieve excellence,” Mrs Eichorn said.

Mrs Shona Eichorn, CEO of NIAS finished the evening with a quote from Aristotle: “Excellence is never an accident. It is the result of high intention, sincere effort and intelligent execution. It represents the wisest option among many alternatives. CHOICE, not chance, determines YOUR destiny, dreams and values”.