THE 2017 search for Western Australia’s brightest sporting talent – and the parents, coaches, officials and volunteers who make it all possible – has wrapped with an incredible list of winners.
Held at Community News’ head office in the City on Wednesday, the 2017 Local Sports Star Awards highlighted the exceptional athletes within our sporting community – from those making their name at a state, national and international level to others who make their club tick.
Awards were presented by Toni Farnworth from the Perth Lynx and Hockeyroo Aleisha Power, who also chatted to winners after the ceremony, posed for photographs and signed autographs.
Check out bios of the winners below and visit Community News on Facebook to watch the awards ceremony in full.
Junior Sports Star Individual (North) and Junior Sports Star Individual Overall Winner: Holly Nicolas
Holly’s achievements in the sport of table tennis are unrivalled. In the last 12 months alone, Holly has been named both the under 18 and under 21 state champion, won the under 21 national team gold at the age of 15, and was named the under 18 Oceania singles champion – just to name a few. At the age of 13, Holly was the first female junior in WA history to win all four state age group titles in one year. She won the under 13, under 15, under 18 and under 21 WA singles championships. More recently, Holly won the under 18 National Junior Singles Top 10 two years in a row.
Junior Sports Star Individual (Central/West): George Dale
George has only been involved in the sport of fencing for five years – but his resume is already glittering with achievements. He has competed in 19 state, national and international competitions over the past 12 months and is currently first in both the under 17s and under 20s state epee ranking. George’s dedication to the sport is matched only by his commitment to developing younger fencers that he meets, working hard as a mentor and a coach.
Junior Sports Star Individual (Hills/East): Nikita Mawhirt
Nikita’s talent in modern pentathlon is unequivocal. From her selection for the 2018 Youth Olympic Games Development Squad, to her national representation at the 2017 Youth and Junior World Championships, there is little doubt that Nikita’s future is a bright one. As there is no infrastructure for modern pentathlon in WA, Nikita balances her 30 hours of training a week across five sports with five separate clubs – while travelling interstate where possible to train with and compete against other athletes.
Junior Sports Star Individual (South): Alec Davison
Alec has made a name for himself at a state, national and international level in the sport of triathlon. His commitment to the sport shows in his gruelling training regime – out of bed before 5am every day, performing up to 12 sessions a week. Earlier this year he was selected to compete as part of the Junior Elite National Team to race at the World Championships in Canada. He has a number of first place titles, including the Australian Cross Triathlon Championships and the All Schools Australian Triathlon Championships. He has been named WA Triathlete of the Year for his age group in 2015, 2016 and 2017.
Young Sporting Spirit Individual (Hills/East) and Young Sporting Spirit Overall Winner: Luke Cotellessa
Luke’s sporting spirit is evident off the AFL field as much as on it. He established an initiative in 2014 called Luke’s Boots for the Outback – a project where he collects footy boots, guernseys, socks, balls and equipment and donates them to disadvantaged children in WA’s outback, regional and independent schools and even homelessness foundations. Over the last three years he has travelled thousands of kilometres across WA, with recent achievements including assisting a program that helps get teenage girls back into sport, while also organising a donation of sporting equipment to Klang Special School in Malaysia.
Young Sporting Spirit Individual (Central/West): Joshua Ban
Joshua’s dedication to soccer and his club, Shenton College, is best understood in the context of a recent trip to Italy. His team had been given the chance to travel to Italy to play top level teams, including European powerhouse Roma’s academy team. But three days before he left, he discovered he had a fractured knee and couldn’t play. Putting his personal disappointment aside, Josh travelled to Italy with his teammates anyway, supporting them in his role as vice-captain, setting up training drills and cheering them on in every match. This came as little surprise to his teammates, as Joshua is often seen outside of his own game times helping out around the club – doing everything from filling in for teams that are short, to refereeing and even serving hot dogs.
Young Sporting Spirit Individual (North): Mikella Johnson
Mikella is not only a trailblazer when it comes to junior women’s AFL, but also spends her time ensuring the path for younger girls who want to play footy is an easier one. Mikella played footy with the boys from the age of 6 to 12, before playing for East Perth womens and now the Coastal Titans Womens teams. She celebrated her 100th game in April this year and has been the only female selected to participate in Warwick Senior High School’s Football Program since 2013. Her selection as a female ambassador for Youth Girls Football by the WA Footy Commission and her accreditation as a junior girls coach shows how committed she is to ensuring the next generation of girls have a pathway into professional football.
Young Sporting Spirit Individual (South): Thomas Woods
For Tom, basketball is his life. Outside of his own playing career, he dedicates countless hours every week to coaching and mentoring younger kids. He coaches three domestic basketball teams but his leadership role doesn’t end on the court. The children he looks after often come from disadvantaged backgrounds and he not only provides them with an opportunity to play team sport, but also a listening ear when they need it. Tom’s commitment to younger kids was recognised by a senior WABL coach this year, who gave him an opportunity as an assistant coach for a WABL team under her mentoring. Tom’s coaching future looks bright after completing his Certificate II in Sports Coaching through school and achieving a Level 1 Basketball Coaching Accreditation – recognised Australia wide – in his spare time.
Junior Sports Star Team: Nedlands Girls 7s
Rugby 7s is the fastest growing female sport in the world – and the Nedlands girls under 15 team is most definitely at the head of the pack. Last year, WA ran Australia’s first junior girls rugby 7s competition, taking place over a season. The Nedlands Girls 7s were not only the first team to register, they were the best team at the end of the season, winning the inaugural premiership. This was to be the start of a dream run for the team, winning every competition and tournament available in Australia – including the Rugby WA tour to Tokyo and the Rugby WA Invitational. Not content with dominating competitions at home, the team has set its sights on a bigger prize, aiming to compete at next year’s Zurich All Girls Rugby Tournament.
Young Sporting Spirit Team: Mandurah Storm
The Mandurah Storm Rugby League Club Under 16s team embodies the true spirit of sportsmanship and fairness. Having played for a few years together, the boys found themselves in the unfortunate position of not having enough players to field a team in 2016. Instead of disbanding, they approached the rugby union club in Mandurah, which was also struggling for players, and joined their club so that they could play union together for the year. They finished runners up for the year, making it all the way to the grand final. The team made the decision to stick together for 2017, this time playing rugby league. Their motto for their team is #family and their chant is “brothers”. Their sporting spirit is also evident outside of the matches, with players involved in the local community by volunteering at places such as the soup kitchen, organisations that look after the elderly and other local events.
Service to Sport: Keryn Rae
Keryn Rae is a lifetime member of Tingara Netball Club and, as the umpire coordinator for more than seven years, an indispensable leader at the club. Keryn works tirelessly in her volunteer role, ensuring that umpires are managed and developed for the 53 Tingara teams that compete in the Fremantle Netball Association. On top of organising rosters for all those games every week, Keryn ensures the umpires are not only aware of the correct rules and governance, but have opportunities themselves for further development and advancement of their skills. She is kind and softly spoken but firm and motivational – ensuring the utmost respect from not only the umpires, but the entire playing group and the wider community. She is one of the unsung heroes of the local sporting community.