THE spotlight was on Tamworth’s sporting achievers on Thursday night at the annual Tamworth Regional Sports Awards.
The past year has seen athletes and teams excel at an international, national and state level, and in a wide variety of sports from shooting to boxing, hockey, rugby union and basketball.
That was reflected in the nominations and award winners.
Shooter John Sleightholme took out the Sports Star of the Year award for his achievements in clay target shooting.
They included winning gold as part of the Australian team in the World Down The Line Championships in Wales, shooting a perfect 250 out of 250 in the Australian Mackintosh team at the nationals and winning the overall highgun and national double rise titles.
Rugby star and Country captain Josh Stewart was a close runner-up and awarded a highly commended after becoming the first player to win the Will Tanner Trophy for the Country Player of the Year and the player of the Country Championships awards.
Rugby figured prominently among the winners, with Stewart’s Pirates coach Garry Walsh winning the Coach of the Year award, the Pirates U16s team adjudged the Young Sports Team of the Year for its undefeated premiership season, and the Tamworth Public School rugby boys taking out the Junior Sports Team of the Year award for jointly winning the state title.
Australian Schoolboy John Porch was also in the running for the Young Sports Star of the Year and received a highly commended.
It was a tough category to judge with the calibre of nominations and achievements, and highly commendeds were also awarded to Emily Grellman (water polo), James Psarakis (cricket) and Tori Saunders (cycling).
Grellman and Psarakis both also represented Australia, while Saunders won national and state titles.
All of the nominees had achieved at a high level but, in the end, the award was shared between boxer Lynken Dickson and hockey star Sam Liles.
They were tough to split, with Dickson winning a world title and selection in the Australian Institute of Sport’s Coe Boxing team, and Liles making the Australian U21 squad while still only 17, along with NSW U18 and U21 teams.
The Junior Sports Star of the Year award went to Jessica Aldridge.
Aldridge broke numerous throwing records and won national and state javelin and shot put titles.
She is currently in Hobart competing in the National All Schools.
Kootingal’s Ella Heeney is just back from the primary nationals and was awarded a highly commended after excelling in numerous sports.
She made the North West team in four different sports, and represented NSW in two – cross-country and athletics after winning the 800m and finishing second in the cross-country at the state championships.
The Sports Team of the Year was the State League men’s basketballers.
They finished second in the state after making the state grand final for only the second time in history.
Their coach John Ireland was also a highly commended for the Coach of the Year, while coach of the Thunderbolts U12 girls that won the Northern Junior League and Country Championships and was second in the State Cup, Peter McDonald, won the Junior Coach of the Year.
Tamworth Basketball Association also won the Sport Development Award.
Trevor Wilcox received the Ken McKenzie award for Services to junior sport, mainly for his commitment to basketball, and athletics coach Wally Warner the Services to Sport award.
Retiring boxing coach – and Dickson’s mentor – Mike Abra was also recognised for his years of service to the sport and was presented with the Cara Hickson Memorial Award.