Hockey heroes win male and female athlete of the year awards

SAM Liles is in Malaysia trying to help his Australian Under 21 side win a major international trophy against the likes of India, Pakistan and South Africa while Brittany Parker is hoping she might break into a national squad in the next few years.

On Saturday night in Blazes at West Tamworth League Club, the pair were named The Northern Daily Leader Northern Inland Academy of Sport Female and Male Athletes of the Year.

Brittany, a Year 11 student at Armidale High School, was at the 20th annual NIAS Academy Awards to collect her first NDL Female Athlete of the Year Award from Australian hockey Olympian Kate Jenner while Sam, 17, the NDL Male Athlete of the Year, was preparing for Sunday morning’s first game of the Sultan of Johor Boru Cup against India in Malaysia. His father Rod Liles, received Sam’s award from state Sports Minister Graham Annesley.

The two young hockey stars are part of an organisation which runs 11 separate sporting programs, including a Lone Star program, for some 180 athletes.

Brittany Parker was a member of this year’s NSW Country women’s side which won a national championship. The Armidale hockey star is also a member of the NSW Under 18 girls’ squad and hopes to go further.

She will train harder than ever now and can play in a number of positions.

“I play anywhere,” Parker said on Saturday night.

“I’ve even played goalkeeper. But my main position is in the backs while I am playing as an inner at the moment.”

Brittany admitted she was “still shaking” with the delight of winning such a high award.

It’s been a big year for her, winning a national title with the NSW Country open women’s side and then a berth in the NSW Under 18 squad.

She’s also just back from a successful weekend with the Hockey New England open women’s indoor squad.

“The Blue Lions did well at those coastal titles too.

“It’s the first time we’d entered a team and we did pretty well considering a lot of our players had never played indoor before.”

Rod Liles said his son would have loved to have been in Tamworth to collect his NDL NIAS Male Athlete of the Year Award.

He said his wife, Jenny, was flying (as we spoke) to Malaysia to watch their son at the International tournament.

Sam is hoping to make the national squad for the Junior World Cup in December next year, Liles said.

A member of the Australian Futures development squad Sam toured Europe with the Australian Under 17 schoolboys’ team earlier this year and was named best player. That stopped Sam from playing in the annual Academy Games for NIAS.

Sam was also part of the NSW Under 18 side which won this year’s national championship in April and appears to be over a serious hand/wrist injury.

Rod Liles also thanked NIAS and the many coaches who have helped up-skill his son.

“Wally, Pete and the coaches at NIAS just keep doing what your are doing,” Liles said.

“Keep promoting all these fine young athletes and help them get to where they should be.”

Guest speakers on the night included Minister for Sport and Recreation, Graham Annesley and ex-NIAS athlete and London Olympian Kate Jenner.

NIAS Chairman Wally Franklin presented Moree Swimmer, Josh Chisholm with his Chairman’s Award for 2012, while Member for Northern Tablelands Richard Torbay and Local manager of the Greater Building Society Virginia Irwin presented the Greater Building Society/NIAS Volunteer Award to NIAS Swimming program’s Teresa Clayton. The award recognizes Teresa’s tireless efforts to manage an outstanding swimming program.

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