2023 Victorian Sport Awards Finalists

Congratulations to the below individuals, organisations, clubs and Local Government Authorities for progressing through to the finalist stage of the 2023 Victorian Sport Awards (VSAs). Winners will be announced when the VSAs are held at Marvel Stadium on Wednesday 12 June, 2024.

https://www.ajg.com.au/

This award is open to Victorian community coaches who have made a significant contribution to their club and/or association/district during the 2023 calendar year, with a particular focus on improving community sport through encouraging participation, fairness, integrity and making sport more welcoming and inclusive.

Finalists

Chris Allen - Rugby Union

Senior Men's coach of the first XV team at Harlequin Rugby Club, Chris Allen led his side to 15 wins from 16 games in the VAILO Dewar Shield, claiming the Minor Premiership before going on to secure the Championship, both for the second time in as many years. Known for his ability to remain composed under pressure as well as his humility towards players, fellow coaches and club members, Chris has helped Harlequin become the premier force in Victorian rugby. His performances have been rewarded by assuming the Assistant Coaching role with the Victorian state Men’s Team.
Jimmy Soufis - Futsal


Understanding the crucial role of a welcoming environment to foster participation and talent, Jimmy Soufis initiated a series of strategic actions to promote equality and respect at the Fitzroy Tigers Futsal Club. Establishing a set of clear, non-negotiable values communicated from the onset to all members, Jimmy set the expectation that discriminatory behaviour would not be tolerated. He also implemented equal training opportunities for male and female players that included even access to coaching, facilities and pitch time. Through an adaptive and open-minded strategy, Jimmy has not only enhanced his own coaching skills but contributed to raising the standard of futsal coaching practices in Victoria.

Manuela Dalla Costa - Athletics

Wearing a number of hats, Manny Dalla Costa is Head Coach of the Special Olympics Australia – Melbourne Inner East (MIE) club’s weekly Athletics program, Head Coach & Coaching Coordinator at Kew Little Athletics Club and is involved in the Athletics in Schools program delivered to various primary schools and coaching at a number of secondary schools, loving all her roles immensely. Manny champions inclusion and participation for all-abilities through adaptive equipment and personalised instructions for individual athletes, enjoying seeing their development. She helped boost MIE Athletics participation by 20% to reach a record high and saw three of her MIE athletes earn gold and four bronze medals at the 2023 Special Olympic Games.

Tina Keown - Tennis


Managing director of the Victorian Tennis Academy (VTA), Tina Keown coaches and oversees operations across four tennis clubs and centres that provide programs for all ages, standards, abilities and backgrounds. Following a collaboration between the Victoria College for the Deaf and VTA, Tina and her team learnt Auslan so coaching sessions could be offered without an interpreter and she helped set up Nexus Young Veterans for returned servicepeople to focus on their health and re-enter their local community. A ‘Sponsor a Child’ program provided a free term of lessons for lucky participants and Tina is also a Tennis Australia Women and Girls program ambassador, implementing recruitment drives and fostering connections with stakeholders.

https://leasexpress.com.au/

This award is open to Victorian coaches who have achieved outstanding coaching performance/s with Victorian athlete/s or teams during the 2023 year.

Finalists

Brody Riley - Sailing

Developing a core group of VIS laser sailors who compete at state, national and international level, Brody Riley demonstrated a consistently high performance through 2023. He led members of his VIS Squad to a sweep of the podium places in the Overall Male category at the 2023 Australian Laser nationals, coached athletes to top finishes at the Trofeo Princesa Sofia regatta in Spain and at French Olympic Week while also leading a team of six sailors at the ILCA 6 Laser Youth World Championships. Combined, these efforts saw him collect Coach of the Year honours at the 2023 Victorian Sailing Awards.
Nick Owen - Para-cycling

A major advocate for para-cycling, Nick Owen’s passion for the sport has resulted in Victorian participation numbers rising significantly while he has fostered a proper team environment by championing grassroots competition all the way through to the elite level. Working for AusCycling as Olympic Fast Track Paralympic Manager and Coach, his results in 2023 included seven gold medals in the road race and time trial at the Road Nationals, five gold medals at the Oceania Road Championships, three gold medals at the Uni Sport Games and a gold, two silvers and a bronze medal at the Para-cycling track World Championships.

Peter McNeil - Skiing

Coaching the Olympic Winter Institute of Australia mogul skiing program, Peter McNeil mentored Matt Graham and Jakara Anthony to a combined 13 World Cup medals in 2023 that included a double-gold medal performance at the FIS World Cup. Individually, Matt also won two medals to become just the second Australian to achieve the feat while Jakara finished the 2023 season ranked number one in the world to earn her third Crystal Globe trophy. Peter spends countless hours working on the mogul skiing pathway, upskilling the next wave of coaching talent as well as running training camps and events.
Yosafe Zakoulouta - Taekwondo

A role model for the taekwondo youth both on and off the mat, Yosafe Zakoulouta is the coach of junior taekwondo star Kerim Yilmaz. Yosafe took his athlete to new heights in 2023 as he won the KPNP Open’s in Victoria and NSW before bringing home a gold medal at the Australia Open. He then headed to the World Championships in Sarajevo and claimed bronze, becoming the first Australian male cadet to win a taekwondo medal at an international competition.

https://involvegroup.com.au/

This award is open to Victorian Masters athletes or teams who have achieved outstanding results in respect to their performances at a national and/or international level during the 2023 calendar year.

Finalists

John Allen - Triathlon

2023 was a remarkable year for triathlete John Allen, winning every race he entered in the Victorian competition to take home the State title for Aquathon, Regional, Sprint and Olympic Distance triathlons, as well as Duathlon. This secured him the title of Victorian Triathlon State Series Champion for the seventh straight year while he also holds the Australian Sprint Distance title. At the World Triathlon Championships in Spain, John competed in the 75-79 age range and took home the gold medal with a time of 3:02:17. Opening a 90 second gap after the 1500m swim, he went on to defeat his nearest competitor by more than two minutes, while also recording the second fastest time in the 10km run, finishing that section in under 52 minutes.

Michelle Hill - Tennis

Away from the sport for 23 years, Michele Hill returned to tennis in 2019 and after finishing the 2022 calendar year ranked world number five, she improved to world number two in 2023. Starring on both grass and clay, Michelle won singles tournaments in Melbourne and Yarrawonga before claiming the triple-crown at the Australian Championships with victories in the singles, doubles and mixed doubles. Overseas, Michelle also won singles tournaments in Poland and Czech Republic while being further honoured when she was named Australian captain at the World Masters Team Tennis Championships.

Nadene Gole - Golf

Nadene Gole achieved sporting history in 2023 by becoming the only golfer ever, at any age level, to win both the Australian National Championship and all six State Championships in the same year. She scored nine victories from 15 starts at world ranking events, on her way to collecting National Championship titles in three countries (Australia, New Zealand and Scotland). Nadene became the world number one senior amateur golfer in February, maintaining that ranking every week throughout 2023. The 55-year-old then topped the Australian Senior Women’s Order of Merit and capped her history-making year by being named Australian Captain at the Senior Women’s Trans-Tasman Trophy.

Sharyn Harris - Artistic Roller Skating

Returning from a 20+ year break to her childhood sport, 59 year-old Sharyn Harris competes against others almost half her age but she has proved that age truly is no barrier, finishing first for Advanced Masters Figures, Masters Solo Compulsory Dance and Masters Solo Style Dance at the Victorian State Championships. She then headed to Western Australia in July for the Nationals, backing up with three more wins across those disciplines. At the International Pacific Cup in August, Sharyn again won the Masters Compulsory Dance and Masters Solo Style Dance before wrapping up the year by earning the title of 2023 Australian Masters Skater of the Year.

https://vailo.com.au

This award recognises the exceptional contribution made by a volunteer to the Victorian sport and active recreation community during the 2023 calendar year. The recipient's contribution will have provided benefit to, or had a positive impact upon, an individual sport or the industry and their contribution and commitment will have distinguished them from their peers.

Finalists

Adam Webb - Swimming

As President of Bendigo Hawks Aquatic, Adam Webb led the development of a three-year strategic plan, established non-negotiable values to underpin the club’s culture and revitalised relationships between the three Bendigo based Swimming Victoria affiliated clubs. Forming ten new strategic partnerships with local businesses helped achieve a 225% increase in free come-and-try squad swimming participation, 133% increase in club membership while four Swimming Victoria sanctioned events were successfully run for 1000+ swimmers. These efforts resulted in winning Swimming Victoria’s Club of the Year as well as the Community Award at the Bendigo Sports Star of the Year Awards for the Lap Legends initiative, a community participation and inclusion experience for non-competitive swimmers.

Catherine Gordon - Volleyball

Secretary, Life Member and MPIO of Maroondah Volleyball for the past 14 years, Catherine Gordon’s fundraising abilities are an inspiration to all as she raised $14,250 for the Royal Children’s Hospital Good Friday appeal through their Good Friday Volleyball Tournament and another $10,000 for breast cancer research through Volleyball Victoria’s pink round. Catherine strongly promotes equal opportunity and equality, inclusion and cultural diversity through the ‘VolleyAll’ initiative, an Australian-first program for people of all abilities to participate in activities adjacent to current Maroondah Volleyball courses as well as leading Little Spikets (ages 1-3) and Little Spikers (3-5) which develop social and movement skills within a family friendly environment.

Hayden Eastwood - Tennis

Hayden Eastwood’s goal as President of Castlemaine Lawn Tennis Club is to use his sport as a vehicle to connect all aspects of the community. Initiatives have included an LGBTIQ+ Pride event and Rainbow Sets which provides weekly tennis specifically for the LGBTIQ+ community. A Future Stars program allows children to play tennis the way they want, an Acknowledge of Country sign was added to the club, ‘Smashing the Patriarchy, one ball at a time’ focused on increasing female participation, ‘LoveAll’ strengthened ties with marginalised sections of the community and ‘Art of Winning’ consolidated ties with Castlemaine artistic communities as the Club truly proved they were open to all.

Nathan Maiava - Rugby Union

In addition to serving as head coach of the Under-14A team and assistant coach of the senior men (both of which won 2023 Premierships), Nathan Maiava holds the position of Melton Warriors Rugby Club President. Under his watch, junior participation numbers increased by 33% in 2023 and his role as an accredited Victorian Rugby referee saw him guide the club to achieve 100% Smart Rugby Compliance. Nathan also runs junior training before school and a Homework Club after school to allow players to focus on their education in a culture centred on discipline and teamwork. His tireless efforts saw him named Volunteer of the Year at Rugby Victoria’s 2023 Awards Night.


https://www.mysportlive.tv/

This award recognises an outstanding community sporting event that has been delivered successfully and benefitted the local community in 2023. The event will have demonstrated inclusive practices and provided benefit to, or had a positive impact upon, an individual sport or the local community.

Finalists

2023 Country Week - Tennis Victoria

After devastating floods threatened to cancel the 2023 Tennis Victoria Country Week, Tennis Victoria, Moira Shire, Yarrawonga Mulwala Tourism and Yarrawonga Lawn Tennis Club came to the rescue and delivered in 2-3 months what most venues spend 2+ years preparing for. All about celebrating country community and regions, 101 courts were arranged (78 temporary and 23 permanent) for 26 grades that catered for players of all ages and abilities. Volunteers rallied to ensure canteens, accommodations and social functions were in order for the 1,293 players while an estimated $3.3 million was brought into the local economy by hosting the event.

2023 Special Olympics Victoria State Games - Special Olympics Australia

Through collaborative partnerships with City of Casey, the YMCA and others, the 2023 Special Olympics Victoria State Games fostered an environment of inclusivity, accessibility and local involvement for 499 athletes with intellectual disabilities across ten sports. Participation data revealed enough interest to allow for a 50% increase in State Games competitions in 2024 as well as the ability to onboard more spectators (1000 in 2023) and volunteers. Integrating seamlessly into the community fabric, this event allowed all those involved to develop a greater awareness of people with a disability in sport and realise the potential ongoing participation opportunities.

Annual Primary Schools Twilight Tournament - Sale United Football Club

Linking with Wellington Shire Primary schools, Sale United Football Club held games every Monday for seven weeks during Term 4, covering four age groups and catering for all skill levels. 700 kids took part in 2023, with 67 teams an increase of 15 from the previous year, and the interest has flowed into the club’s winter season with member registrations increasing by 30%. The large number of participants has garnered the interest of sponsorship from local businesses, a grant was sourced from Wellington Shire Council for new fencing to keep players safe from the road while referees are sourced by training youth members of the club.

Australian Championships - Dragon Boat Victoria

12 months in the making, the coordination of Dragon Boat Victoria (DBV), City of Wodonga, Australian Dragon Boat Federation and local Dragon Boat clubs was rewarded as the 2023 Australian Championships were the highest attended in history with 3000+ competitors. Patrons enjoyed a festival-themed event with local musicians, artists and a beach-themed area for race viewing. With a location chosen due to community connection, two local Wodonga clubs since increased membership by 18%, four community schools introduced dragon boating for the first time, DBV saw a 15% growth in interest and the City of Wodonga has now engaged a consulting firm to develop a long-term master plan for dragon boating in the area.

https://etrainu.com/

This award is open to Victorian community officials who have demonstrated excellence in their role as an official of their chosen sport during the 2023 year.

Finalists

Jim Baskin - Little Athletics

Having officiated at every level since 2008, Jim Baskin sat down with Little Athletics Victoria to review the organisation’s approach to key championship events in 2023. This discussion resulted in a streamlining of event bump-in/bump-out procedures, a more efficient officiating structure, an improved event program for athletes and families as well as cost savings across the board. Acutely aware of the ongoing need for officials, Jim allowed several individuals to shadow him at the 2023 State Relay Championships and these 'mentorees' can now stand in for Jim and perform the Meeting Manager role while also potentially succeeding him further down the track.
Marita Rieniets - Athletics


Attending a four-day intensive live-in course at the World Athletics Technical Officials’ Education and Certification Scheme, Marita Rieniets brought her new-found knowledge back to Ballarat YCW Harriers Athletic Club to ensure new and existing officials were up to date in rule applications as well as educating parents as part of the club’s junior athletics program. Marita is extremely supportive of her fellow officials, ensuring they understand their roles, are comfortable and receive necessary breaks during competition. A regular contributor and leader to the officiating team in Ballarat, Marita is frequently appointed Field Referee at Victorian Championships and also officiated the National Track & Field Championships 2023 in Brisbane.

Oliver Kellett - Rugby Union


Rising through the refereeing ranks after starting out as a Green Shirt referee, Oliver Kellett earned the Dewar Shield Coaches Award for the seventh consecutive year in 2023. Victoria’s highest referee honour, it is voted on by head coaches of Rugby Victoria’s Premier Men’s Competition. Receiving the opportunity to serve as Television Match Official (TMO) in several Super Rugby games during the 2023 season, Oli was appointed TMO Assistant for the first test of the 2023 Bledisloe Cup at the MCG. After spending some of 2023 injured, Oli took the time to upskill to become a referee coach and assist and mentor other association referees.


Russell Turner - Cricket


Umpiring at a number of cricket associations across several levels, Russell Turner also serves as Victorian Womens Cricket Association (VWCA) Historian and has authored ‘VWCA Umpires Association 80-year History’. Russell has taken on roles as a Premier Cricket on-field umpire mentor where he focuses on developing young talent, passing on his years of expertise and fostering a positive environment for cricket officiating. His mentorship has not only benefitted individual umpires but contributed to the overall improvement of officiating standards in cricket throughout the state.

https://www.sportsaccounting.com.au/

This award is open to Victorian officials who have demonstrated excellence in their role as an official of their chosen sport during the 2023 year.

Finalists

Amber McLachlan - Rugby Union

A Super W referee as well as the first female to referee the Dewar Shield grand final (the highest level possible for Victorian rugby union), Amber McLachlan soared to new heights in 2023 when she was appointed to the opening game of the Women's Six Nations between Wales and Ireland in March. Part of Rugby Australia’s Match Official Leadership Program which assists in fast-tracking the development of female referees, Amber also utilises her Masters of Exercise Rehab skills to organise fitness training sessions for her fellow officials.
Ben Fels - Sailing


Winner of the Victorian State Sailing Official of the Year award, Ben Fels officiated at a number of high-profile events in 2023 including the the Governors Cup Balboa Yacht Club Grade 1, Chicago Match Race (Grade 2 US Grand Slam World Match Racing Tour) and Detroit International (Grade 2 US Grand Slam World Match Racing Tour). Playing a pivotal role in shaping the next generation, Ben leads multiple officials courses and his commitment to mentoring aspiring officials has been instrumental in shaping the future of the sport.

Clare Taylor - Short Track Speed Skating

Facilitating the Regional Officials Seminar in conjunction with the National Championships each year, Clare Taylor trains officials from around Oceania and Asia in a combination of theory and practice with additional skill development opportunities also offered. As an International Skating Union Official, Clare assists with training via online seminars that are often run on European time and she also travels to international seminars, ensuring she is up to date on the latest rules and interpretations which she can then relay to fellow Victorian and Australian officials.

Daniel Flahive - Water Polo


Involved in water polo since he was a teenager and serving as a referee for over 20 years, Daniel Flahive officiated national and international competitions in 2023 including the Australian Water Polo League, Australian Youth Championships, Australian Under-17 and Under-19 Championships, the men’s and women’s Tri-Nations test matches between Australia, Japan and USA as well as the World Aquatics Masters Championships in Japan. Supporting the water polo community by presenting at referee courses and using personal real-world examples in his education, Danny is also heavily involved in Water Polo Victoria's weekly competitions where he provides mentoring to both junior and senior referees.

https://www.vichealth.vic.gov.au/

This award recognises the work of individuals, clubs, teams, groups or organisations (including SSAs) who have succeeded in enabling more people to participate in active recreation during the 2023 calendar year. This could be through a single initiative, event or longer-term initiative (i.e. program, project or campaign) which has provided significant benefit to Victorian sport during 2023.

Finalists

Inverloch Pickleball - Gippsport & Inverloch Community House

Inverloch Community House (ICH) approached Gippsport in 2023 with the aim to gauge community interest in pickleball. Out of those discussions, four free come ‘n’ try sessions, run by Pickleball Victoria, attracted 75 people while ICH volunteers were also provided training. Funding was then attained from Bass Coast Shire and Inverloch Pickleball is now an ongoing program that caters to all ages, abilities and social groups with over 400 new participants taking part. About 30% of ICH members have engaged, with particular interest being garnered from members aged 60+, while the program has led to increased interest in other activities such as line dancing, walking groups and technology training.

Positive Starts - Wyndham Netball Association

Aiming to arrest declining participation rates post COVID-19, Rebecca Johnstone pitched an idea to Netball Victoria (NV) to partner the Department of Education and Training’s Positive Starts Netball Grants with Wyndham Netball Association (WNA). Offering participants complimentary ‘Train Like a Vixen’ skills sessions, Rebecca secured funding beyond the Net Set Go program for primary schools, aligning with WNA’s target audience by also obtaining funding for secondary school participation. She recruited ten coaches to support the program and ensured transportation expenses were covered to eliminate schools’ financial concerns. In all, 2,161 students participated across 12 schools and 20 year levels, leaving a lasting impact on the Wyndham community and revitalising the local netball scene.

Starfish Nippers Carnival - Hampton LSC & Life Saving Victoria

A modified, structured program for young people with a disability aged 6 and above, Starfish Nippers (run entirely by volunteers) allows participants and their parents to be involved in lifesaving skills, improve their swimming skills and develop fitness. Evolving the program in 2023, the Starfish Nippers Carnival featured 55 clubs and included volunteer water safety officers, carers and Nipper mentors. The Carnival provided a platform for members of all abilities to participate in friendly competitions across board paddling, wading and beach activities which also enabled them to build pathways into state and national participation.

Women's Introduction to Motorsport Program - Motorsport Australia

Highlighting motorsport as an accessible and exciting sport for women, non-binary and gender diverse folks while also demonstrating the benefits of being a part of a sporting club community, the Women’s Introduction to Motorsport Program targets those completely new to the sport. In 2023, 70 participants across three sessions took part, under the guidance of four ‘buddies’ and two coaches. With coaches instructing on car control and vehicle dynamics, ‘buddies’ (current motorsport competitors, officials and club administrators) imparted their experience as women competitors in grassroots motorsport. This addition of social interaction allowed participants to feel comfortable and confident to not only ask questions but get behind the wheel as they finish the session with a motorkhana time trial.

https://www.rebelsport.com.au/

This award recognises Victorian junior athletes who have achieved outstanding results in respect to performance/s at a national and/or international level during the 2023 calendar year.

Finalists

Brock Batty - Trampolining

Racking up first placed results throughout Australia and abroad in 2023, Brocky Batty finished 1st Trampoline, 1st Double Mini Trampoline and 1st Synchronised Trampoline at the Victorian Championships before backing up with 1st Trampoline at the Gymnastics Australia National Clubs Carnival. Heading to Great Britain, Brock again finished first for Trampoline and Synchronised Trampoline at the World Age Championships and those results earned him the title of Gymnastics Victoria Trampoline High Performance Athlete of the Year as well as a Sport Australia Hall of Fame Scholarship for 2024.

Cameron Gatt - BMX

Hailing from Geelong BMX Club, Cameron Gatt’s hard work and dedication to the sport paid dividends in 2023 as he began the year with a State Championship victory. He then travelled to Glasgow in August and finished first in the 15-16 Challenge Cruiser event to be crowned World Champion. Returning home, Cameron attended the Auscycling BMX National Championships in November and recorded three more wins from three events; Junior Superclass, 15-16 Boys cruiser and 15 Boys. He was the only Australian rider to finish first in all of his entered events and did so as the youngest in his age class.

Jack Howell - Paratriathlon

In just 12 months of international racing since commencing in 2022, Jack Howell has won five medals for Australia and become the youngest PTS5 international competitor in World Para Triathlon. In 2023, Jack won two gold medals at nationals and three silver medals at the World Triathlon Para Series in Japan as well as the Oceania Triathlon Para Championships to finish the year placed sixth in the world rankings. Jack later went on to win gold at the World Triathlon Series in Devonport and is ranked third in World Triathlon Paralympic Qualifying in the lead-up to Paris 2024.

Kerim Yilmaz - Taekwondo

At just 14 years old, Kerim Yilmaz made history as he became the first Australian male cadet to win any medal (bronze) at a World Cadet Taekwondo Championship in Sarajevo. He also won gold at the Australian Open and Oceania Presidents Cup, stamping his name as one to watch in world taekwondo while also finishing the year ranked number one in Australia and fourth internationally. He has now won back-to-back national Championships three years in a row and as recognition for his outstanding performances in 2023, Kerim was awarded Australian Taekwondo’s Junior Athlete of the Year.

https://sesf.org.au/

This award recognises the coverage of elite and community sport to the wider public via various online, digital, broadcast and/or print media platforms in 2023. Through positive and inspiring media coverage, the sport has benefited from an improved public-facing image, increased participation, inclusivity and/or greater exposure.

Finalists

Bowls Victoria - Lawn Bowls

Live-streaming 14 rounds plus a finals series, Bowls Victoria broadcast the complete Metropolitan Pennant Premier Division in 2023-24. Featuring up to three commentators per match with high-end graphics and scoring, clubs were provided at least one streamed game on a rotating basis throughout the season. Showcasing Victoria’s elite bowlers as well as grassroots players demonstrates the sport at its most diverse with all genders playing alongside each other at an elite level and all ages competing on a level playing field, helping to dissuade the notion of the sport being only for older people.

Radio 3ZZZ - Football

Proving community radio has a place alongside commercial and mainstream media with a production of equal quality, Radio 3ZZZ broadcast live all Melbourne based matches of the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup including Australia’s 4-0 defeat of Canada in the group stage and the Sweden v United States Round of 16 clash that went to penalties. Available to listen for free on the 3ZZZ website and digital radio, the historic broadcast has resulted in an increase in volunteers wanting to be a part of broadcasts for National Premier League and NBL1 games, continuing to boost the scope of community radio.

Renegades Recruit - Cricket

An in-house produced miniseries from Cricket Victoria, Renegades Recruit featured contestants from a Premier Cricket level background demonstrating their talents with the goal to train and play for the Melbourne Renegades’ BBL and WBBL teams. Broadcast on 7+ and Facebook, the high-quality production encouraged communities to support their local contestants and the significant media coverage successfully kept cricket in the consciousness during the sport’s off-season. Promoting equity with both male and female competitions, the show attracted 2.9 million views while over 5,000 votes were submitted during the final episodes.

Swimming Victoria - Swimming

Committing to broadcast all state level events at MSAC and regional venues, Swimming Victoria’s (SV) live-stream product has created a space for budding commentators and sports presenters to gain experience and exposure in a fast-paced swimming meet environment while viewers now have access to more of the sport than ever before. 2023 saw SV partner with Kayo Freebies while continuing to broadcast live via YouTube, with the combined viewership exceeding 35,000. A second instalment of the show ‘Commentary Training’ was also run, utilising a Change Our Game grant to take ten women through the fundamentals of sports broadcasting, hosted by Tiffany Cherry and SV’s Chelsea Ryan.

This award recognises a Victorian individual athlete who has achieved outstanding results in respect to performance/s at a national/international level in the male category during the 2023 year.

Finalists

Ahmed Kelly - Swimming

Fourteen years after first racing for Australia, Ahmed Kelly become a world champion, winning gold in the S3 150m individual medley at the Para Swimming World Championships in Manchester. His time of 2:58.59 was 20 seconds quicker than the silver medalist and almost five seconds faster than his heat swim. His victory on the world stage followed gold medal winning performances in the same event at the Australian National Championships as well as the Australian Trials.

Heath Davidson - Wheelchair Tennis

Another successful campaign in 2023 for two-time Paralympian Heath Davidson saw him compete at every Grand Slam in Quad Wheelchair tennis, across both singles and doubles tournaments. He won the Victorian Open Singles and reached the final for the Wimbledon Singles while in the Doubles, he reached the Roland Garros and Wimbledon finals. Going one step further, he took home trophies from all corners of the globe with wins at the Georgia Open, Daegu Open, Swiss Open and Belgian Open.

Mark Blake - Pistol Shooting

Mark Blake staked his claim as Australia’s best Action Pistol Shooter in 2023, starting off with a win at the South Australian Championships. Competing against the best in the world at the USA National Championships, Mark shot the highest score ever by an Australian to finish second, narrowly missing first place on a countback. However, he did finish 1 st International, 1st Military Veteran and 1st International Team to cap off a successful tournament. Returning home, Mark won his seventh Victorian Championship which provided the perfect lead-in to the Australian Nationals where he shot a new national record while also winning the team event with another record score.

Scotty James - Snowboarding

Starting the year with a silver medal at the Laax Open in Switzerland, where poor visibility resulted in the final being cancelled, Scotty James then led a double podium for Australia at the X-Games in Aspen where he claimed his sixth victory at the prestigious event. He then headed to China in December for the World Cup and entered the finals in first place before recording a score of 91.25 in the first round of finals to take home gold. The victory was his eighth career World Cup win, placing him third all-time in terms of wins for male snowboard halfpipe riders as he continues to cement an incredible legacy in the sport.

This award recognises a Victorian individual athlete who has achieved outstanding results in respect to performance/s at a national/international level in the female category during the 2023 year.

Finalists

Emily Petricola - Para-cycling

An 11-time track and road World Champion, Emily Petricola continued her incredible form in 2023. In August, she won her fourth consecutive gold medal in the Individual Pursuit at the Track World Championships and secured her place as the current record holder. She also achieved two silver medals at the Road World Championships in the Women's C4 Individual Time-Trial and Road Race before earning a first-placed finish at the Track Para-Nationals in the C4 Individual Pursuit final in December.

Jakara Anthony - Mogul Skiing

Coming off a 2022 campaign that was, statistically, the most successful season by an Australian winter sport athlete, Jakara Anthony continued that sparkling form with nine World Cup medals in 2023. The highlight came in a double gold medal performance alongside teammate Matt Graham at the FIS World Cup in February, becoming the second Australian mogul pair to achieve victory on the same day at the same event. Recording the most successful month of December of all-time by an Australian winter sports athlete with six victories from seven events, Jakara finished the year ranked number one in the single mogul standings to earn her third Crystal Globe trophy.

Jemima Montag - Athletics

Dominating at home and abroad through 2023, Jemima Montag claimed gold medals at the Victorian Track & Field Championships in the 5000m walk, Australian Open Race Walking Championships in the 20km discipline and the 10,000m walk at Supernova #1 and #2 in Canberra. Overseas, Jemima notched another gold medal in the 20km at the All Japan Race Walking before earning a silver medal with an Australian and Oceania record time in the 20km at the World Athletics Championships in Budapest, a time she has since gone on to break again.

Kate McDonald - Gymnastics

An intrinsic part of the Australian national team that qualified for the 2024 Paris Olympics, Kate McDonald added to her impressive resume through 2023 by finishing 1st Bars, 2nd Beam and 2nd Floor at the Victorian Championships, 1st Team at the Continental Championships, 2nd Bars, 3rd Floor and 4th Beam at the Australian Championships while also finishing in the top ten for Bars at the 2023 DTB Pokal in Stuttgart, Germany.


https://aflsportsready.com.au/

This award recognises a Victorian junior team who has achieved outstanding results with respect to their performances at a national, international level during the 2023 calendar year.

Finalists

Emma Hende & Georgina Laws - Life Saving

From Black Rock Life Saving Club, Emma and Georgina won gold at the Victorian State Championships for two-person Rescue & Resuscitation (R&R) as well as Youth R&R Team of the Year, based on points amassed over the season. They then headed to Western Australia in March to compete in the Australian Championships and earned a bronze medal before being named Victoria Youth Team of the Year. With Georgina now moving into Under-17’s and Emma Under-15’s, both have decided to continue their journey in R&R as coaches to younger club members.

Katie Jackson & Lucy Richardson - Rowing

Rowing together for Ballarat Clarendon College, Katie and Lucy competed in coxed fours, with much success, from Year 9. During Year 12, in addition to rowing for their school, they combined in a new boat class, the coxless pair, for Wendouree Ballarat Rowing Club. They won the Victorian U21 and then the national U19 pair titles under the guidance of coach Jamie McDonald and were subsequently selected to represent Australia at the World Rowing U19 Championships in Paris. The girls had a fantastic regatta, held at the 2024 Olympic course, winning their heat and semi-final, before racing strongly in a fast-finishing final to win the bronze medal.

SV Tri-Series Team - Swimming

Competing at the Tri-Series for the first time since 2019, team Victoria headed to New Zealand to take part in five race meets across three days against sides from the host country, Oceania and Western Australia. Team Victoria emerged victorious, claiming the Overall Top Team Award with three athletes achieving high scores in their category; Overall Para Top Point Score (Hamish Keenan), Overall Female Top Point Score (Alannah Torrance) and Overall Male Top Point Score (Evan Chee). In addition, three Victorian age records were broken by Lily Koch in the Girls 14 Years 100m individual medley and Toby McOmish in the Men’s 17-18 Years 50m freestyle.

Under-18 State Side - Lawn Bowls

In October, the Victorian Under-18 state side travelled to Perth to contest the Australian Under-18 Championships. Day 1 saw the Boys’ Side win two gold medals across the Pairs and Triples disciplines, securing medals for all five members of the team. Day 2 garnered more success, with the boys also securing a silver medal in the Fours. That led them to take home the Overall Boys’ Team trophy for consistent and outstanding performances across all disciplines, narrowly missing out on adding to their collection with the Overall Team Trophy.


https://aedauthority.com/

This award recognises a Victorian team who has achieved outstanding results in respect to their performances at a state, national and/or international level during the 2023 calendar year.

Finalists

Victorian Intellectual Disability Team - Cricket

Despite having to pause for two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Victoria proved they are still the team to beat at the National Inclusion Cricket Championships, creating history in 2023 with back-to-back titles. A tournament that also showcases deaf and blind cricket, the Victorian Intellectual Disability team demonstrated unwavering dedication and an even performance throughout their side to claim an impeccable record through the 2023 competition.

Victorian State Team - Life Saving

After a 27-year drought, the Victorian Pool Lifesaving Team broke through in 2023 to win the Australian Pool Lifesaving Championships. Team VIC clean swept the competition, winning not only the men’s and women’s overall point scores but also claiming the Laerdal CPR Trophy after taking out the Under-16, Under-19 and open CPR competitions. These Championships make up one of the three core disciplines in lifesaving and with last year’s tournament being held at MSAC, Victoria were able to record their victory on home soil.

Victorian State Women's Side - Lawn Bowls

The Bowls Victoria Open Women’s side headed to Perth in October to contest the Australian Championships, following a series loss to NSW in August and another loss to WA in September where they recorded just a draw and three losses. However, the Victorians reset and steeled themselves, completely turning around their fortunes at the national tournament to win six out of seven matches. That included victories over NSW and WA, sending them to the top of the table to claim the Marj Morris Trophy. This was their first national title since 2004 and it ended a two-decade NSW and QLD stronghold.

Victorian Women's Team - Box Lacrosse

For years, Australian women have had the desire to play full contact box lacrosse and 2023 saw their dreams realised with the running of the inaugural Australian Women’s Box Lacrosse Championships. Competing against WA, QLD and SA, a team of 18 Victorians dominated the competition with three double-digit wins to reach the final. They had a closer battle in the Championship decider against WA but prevailed 12-9 to finish undefeated, win the title and etch their name into the record books.

https://trade.bunnings.com.au/

This award recognises a Local Government Authority who has made a significant contribution to sport in 2023 through the development of a participation program or facility.

Finalists

Developing Casey's Clubs Together - City of Casey

Identifying areas of focus through a member survey, City of Casey ran three Club Development Workshops in 2023 that covered child safety (underscoring their commitment to zero tolerance of child abuse), successful club management and financial management (looking at Good Governance practices, strategic thinking and developing and reporting against a budget) as well as a co-delivered Inclusion Forum. Creating a platform for open dialogue while building positive and transparent working relationships, these workshops engaged over 80 now-upskilled volunteer committee members from a wide variety of sporting codes.

Multicultural Women's Footy for Fitness and Fun Program - City of Casey

The culmination of pilot programs over the past two years, City of Casey ran a six-week Multicultural Women’s Footy for Fitness and Fun program with partners, Melbourne Football Club (MFC). 27 women and children were engaged, combining introductory skills sessions at MFC’s indoor training facility with wellbeing workshops that embedded participants into Casey’s culturally diverse and growing community. Adopting an intergenerational approach, participants were encouraged to include older children while younger kids and toddlers were cared for, creating a pathway into Multicultural Auskick programs and Footy for Fun clinics for girls. The program also generated local support for women’s sport through free AFLW game memberships and club merchandise.

Nillumbik Rainbow Golf Cup - Nillumbik Shire Council

In February, Nillumbik Shire Council delivered its first official Midsumma Festival event, the Nillumbik Rainbow Golf Cup. The 9-hole Ambrose format tournament, suitable for both beginners and experienced golfers, sold out with 72 LGBTQIA+ golfers and allies coming together to raise awareness of the barriers the rainbow community continue to experience when participating in sport and recreation. The event also featured a free community barbeque which provided the opportunity to foster social connection and build support networks between participants. In a post-event survey, participants rated the experience with an average score of 4.9/5 while 100% of participants felt safe whilst participating and 100% were interested in attending future events.

The Home of Table Tennis - Latrobe City Council

In a first for regional Victoria, Latrobe City Council signed a partnership agreement with Table Tennis Victoria and Destination Gippsland to host the Victorian Country Championships and Victorian Open Championships in Traralgon for the next eight years. The long-term investment was strengthened with the construction of a storage facility for 60 new tables and equipment that is also now accessible for local table tennis associations. In 2023, over 800 players and families helped generate more than $400,000 to the local economy and by embracing a non-traditional sport, the initiative has pioneered a model for inclusive and dynamic community engagement in the Latrobe Valley.


https://responsiblegambling.vic.gov.au/

This award recognises the outstanding contribution made in 2023 by a community sporting club and/or association who has demonstrated a strong commitment to supporting participation in sport and active recreation. The club will have demonstrated actions that break down barriers so that anyone, regardless of their age, cultural background, ability, gender identity, religious belief or sexual orientation, feels welcome in sport.

Finalists

Burwood Cricket Club - Cricket

Unique for Victorian cricket, Burwood Cricket Club have both a female President and Secretary and the club’s female cohort grew by 35% in 2023, following the sponsorship of a Zimbabwean cricketer who played and coached. She inspired Burwood to create a second senior women’s team, comprised of middle-aged women who had never played cricket before. A 'Fix the Mix' information session tackled gender inequity within cricket on the back of a Change Our Game activation grant while external education was provided on mental health, wellbeing and 'Healthy Masculinity'. Burwood also introduced a 'Walk & Talk' session after training, giving teammates the chance to openly connect and check in with each other.

East Gippsland Gymnastics Club - Gymnastics

Having outgrown their previous facility, East Gippsland Gymnastics Club (EGGC) moved to a new building in 2023 that allowed their programs to grow from 550 students per week to 640, 70% of which are female, in addition to schools and community groups. Listening to their young participants, EGGC utilise those insights to guide program creation and they also encourage athletes of all ages to take on leadership roles. For many, this is their first job as they manage warm-up/cool-down activities and take the initiative on designing routines and performances.

Port Campbell SLSC - Life Saving

Port Campbell Surf Life Saving Club grew to 431 members in 2022/23, a significant achievement considering Port Campbell has a total of 440 permanent residents. Through the Accessible Beaches Program, the Club ran an Accessibility Day in December that promoted safe and inclusive ways to engage in beach and water activities and they also run information days for local schools, focusing on general water safety education as well as volunteering. 11 teachers gained their bronze medallions in 2023 with the ability to now take their learnings back to their students.

Sale United Football Club - Football

Sale United Football Club has achieved Football Australia’s (FA) 1-Star Club Status for their welcoming and inclusive environment for women and girls. They instigated a ‘female come-and-try’ day as part of FA’s 50/50 gender balance target as well as a Female Only Assistant Referee Course. On-field, their successes included seven club members winning the Under-18 girls title at the State Country Championships while their womens team (aged 15-54) took home the League Title, Cup final and Kendall Cup. Sale’s Primary School Twilight tournament was held for the 30 th year in 2023, attracting 67 teams and from there, winter season registrations increased by 30% for juniors and 25% for adults.


https://www.revolutionise.com.au/

This award is open to Victorian sports administrators who have demonstrated an outstanding level of achievement during the 2023 calendar year at the State Sporting Association, Regional Sports Assembly, Local Government Authority or National Sporting Organisation (Victorian based) level. The recipient’s contribution will have provided benefit to, or had a positive impact upon, an individual sport or the industry as a whole and their standards of excellence will have distinguished them from peers.

Finalists

Chet Gray - Baseball Victoria

Driving the creation of a new Strategic Plan for 2023-26, Baseball Victoria (BV) CEO Chet Gray has led the Modernisation of Summer Baseball Plan, co-designing major reforms in the sport for the first time in 20 years alongside clubs and key stakeholders. He has helped streamline umpiring and scoring programs, enabled more participants to get involved with umpiring at the community level and introduced a BV Coaching Panel aimed at improving pathways with a clear focus on women’s development. Determined to enhance the sport and attract more Victorian participants, Chet has also led the implementation of new junior initiatives such as Play Ball Pioneers at Brookdale Reserve.

Gen Dohrmann - Table Tennis Victoria

Responsible for a number of initiatives in 2023 as CEO of Table Tennis Victoria, Gen Dohrmann negotiated a long-term agreement to hold the annual Country Championships in Traralgon, organised a highly successful pop-up event at Grazeland, launched a national gender equity strategy which has set the standard for increasing female participation in table tennis while also founding a national Women & Girls working group for table tennis. Gen has also created a membership model review which has improved accessibility of the sport for members. Under her leadership, TTV’s membership has increased by 16%, coaching numbers increased by 20% and umpire numbers by 23%.

Jennifer McIntyre - Calisthenics Victoria

Focusing on fostering child safety, inclusion and diversity within her sport, Jennifer McIntyre’s notable accomplishments in 2023 as CEO of Calisthenics Victoria included enabling males aged 14+ to remain in the sport, the establishment of working parties dedicated to advocating for First Nations and LGTBQI+ participants and implemented an Inclusion and Diversity Action Plan to promote a culture of equality throughout the calisthenics community. She also launched the CaliStars competition, a dedicated platform tailored for performers with physical and/or intellectual disabilities seeking to compete in solos.

Simon Talbot - Ultimate Victoria

General Manager of Ultimate Victoria, Simon Talbot drove a number of participation initiatives in 2023 as well as spearheading the roll-out of school-based programs to over 160 schools. He personally mentored a group of Chinese students to start their own club which drew in 80 international students, conceived, ran and coached the ‘Southern Stars’ program which brought together 34 women from regional clubs to compete in a summer season and produced a social media campaign that increased women participation in Melbourne social leagues by 18%. Simon also acts as Tournament Director for five major events through the year which each attract over 300 players.

www.polytan.com.au

The Peter Norman Inclusion Award recognises an individual or organisation that has made a significant contribution to safe, fair and inclusive sport in the 2023 calendar year. The recipient would have demonstrated actions that break down barriers for people accessing sport so that anyone, regardless of their age, cultural background, ability, gender identity, religious belief or sexual orientation feels welcome in sport.

Finalists

Blind Sports & Recreation Victoria - various

Blind Sports & Recreation Victoria (BSRV) continues to transform communities where people with vision loss are not just participants but empowered to plan, develop, advise, engage, train and grow blind sport and recreation. In 2023, four BSRV participants became the first legally blind tennis coaches in the world as they completed a Tennis Australia Foundation Coaching course, another BSRV participant joined Tennis Australia’s national Disability Advisory Council and five new blind tennis programs were established around Victoria. BSRV also delivered 200+ virtual fitness sessions and engaged 120+ children with vision loss in inclusive programs.

First Nations Calisthenics Club - Calisthenics

The brainchild of Rebecca Taylor, the First Nations Calisthenics Club is the first of its kind in Australia, focused on providing a safe place for Indigenous children and their families to explore the sport. Elders are invited and mob-feed nights held to promote healthy lifestyles. In the club’s first six months, more than 40 children have passed through the doors. Their performances have helped to improve understanding of traditional music, dance and art among the calisthenics community. Rebecca has been a constant advocate for First Nations inclusion in calisthenics and is constantly working at addressing barriers that can cause disengagement.

Inclusive Sports Training - Triathlon

A triathlon club that focuses on supporting people with an Intellectual Impairment (II) to be fit, healthy and active, Inclusive Sports Training (IST) ran a foundation coaching course for II athletes in 2023, a world first in the sport. Nine athletes completed the course and are now supporting IST through paid coaching opportunities, instructing school students and junior IST athletes. While being compensated for doing something they love, this initiative also showcases to II students what can be achieved and provides role models for future participants.

Sandringham LSC - Life Saving

Addressing a key demographic missing from their association, Sandringham Life Saving Club created the Silver Salties, an active participation program aimed at people aged 65+. Recreational and wellbeing activities such as yoga, tai chi, swimming and pilates are held as well as the “Be Confident Swimming in the Bay” class which instructs participants on how to safely enjoy the beach and water environments. With no tie-in fees and at just $10-15 per session, Silver Salties came at a perfect time out of COVID lockdowns as it allowed older residents to connect with others in their community in a judgement-free way while also regaining lost fitness.

The Victorian Outstanding Contribution to Sport Award is presented to an individual or organisation in recognition of outstanding achievement in, or contribution to, sport in Victoria.

Based on their significant role in the Victorian sport and active recreation sector, the winner of the Outstanding Contribution to Sport Award will be recommended by a panel of expert industry representatives to the Vicsport Board who will determine the final recipient.

It is the only award presented at the Victorian Sport Awards which is not decided upon by the judging panels.


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