Gippsland Sports Academy Annual Awards Night 2023

On Friday 17th of May 2024, over 220 guests attended the 27th Annual Gippsland Sports Academy Awards Night at the Morwell Bowling Club Convention Centre to recognize and celebrate the graduation and achievements of athletes in 9 sports over the preceding 12 months.  181 young Gippsland athletes were in attendance and received graduation certificates on the night from their respective program’s coaches.

This year we were delighted to welcome our guest speaker Rhydian Cowley, Race Walker & Olympian, who has strong family ties with Gippsland.   Rhydian spoke of his journey as a young athlete and his decision to try different sports before settling on race walking.  He is excited to have been named in the Olympic team going to Paris and we wish him all the best.

There were five major awards presented this year.

The winner of the Phil Shelley Award is Dan Auteri of Traralgon.   Over the past few years Dan has volunteered his time with the GSA Swim Program.  Dan is always willing to do whatever is needed to ensure that the athletes and coaches are taken care of during swim camps and that they run smoothly.   Dan volunteers his time and is invaluable for the swimming community at Club, District and of course Academy level. For the past 10 years Dan has always assisted with Club or Gippsland Swimming (GSI) swim meets.   Dan is a worthy winner of the 2023 Phil Shelley Award for swimming.

The recipient of the Rising Star Award is Lucas Furlan, 17 of Traralgon.   Lucas will be provided with funding through the Gippsland Sports Academy to assist in his future preparations for his sport of Clay Target Shooting.  Lucas was selected on the Shooting Australia ISSF Junior World Championship Team that competed in South Korea in July 2023. He has recently competed in the New Zealand Junior ISSF Trap World Championship in 2024, making an open final.  Lucas is currently in the Shooting Australia Pathway squad.   At an International Level: Lucas has won a gold medal in the teams event (Australian Under 21 team) World Championships for Universal Trap in Spain; and a bronze medal in individual section (Under 21’s) World Championships for Universal Trap in Spain.   At a National Level Lucas is the Australian Junior Champion (Under 21’s).

The David Drane Award was won by Zakari Shieffelbein (15) of Bairnsdale.    Zak plays for Swan Reach Hockey Club.  Zakari has a can-do attitude, is attentive, and gives 110% every session.   Zakari takes all feedback on board, and it is evident that he continues to work on improving his skills outside of the academy sessions. Zakari’s hitting and trapping, accuracy has significantly improved over the course of this program, and he has advanced his ability to perform attacking and defensive spins. Zakari’s dedication to improving his individual hockey skills is evident through the progress he has made during this program. Zakari is deserving of this award because he has been one of the most improved participants over the course of the program, demonstrating the biggest growth we have seen in individual skill level.   Zac is a very deserving winner of the David Drane Award.

The Darrell White Award is awarded to Leila Roberts (15) of Maffra.   Leila plays for Swan Reach Hockey Club.   Leila ‘s achievements are:  State Level: Making the Hockey Victoria U18’s Academy program at the age of 15.   Regional Level: Selection in the Gippsland Bulls U16 Girls representative team in 2023.  Leila is always asking questions, wanting to learn more, and looking for ways to improve and refine her skills. Leila is very attentive and is one of the first girls to put her hand up when you ask a question aimed at the group. Leila is always keen to have a go at new drills and finds every opportunity to get on the hockey field.   Leila has a wonderful attitude and makes herself available to share her skills and knowledge with other participants in the program.   It is obvious that Leila’s commitment to improving her hockey skills extends beyond participation in this program. The growth we have seen in Leila’s skills and fitness over the past couple of months has been incredible, her hard work has resulted in selection in the Hockey Victoria U18s Academy. Leila is a well accomplished player for her age and there’s no doubt that she has a bright hockey career ahead of her.   Leila is a very deserving and highly regarded winner of the Darrell White Award.

The Tim Forsyth Award – this award was won by Ash Nicholes (17) of Traralgon.   Ash swims for Traralgon Swimming Club.   Ash is having an amazing swim season with so many achievements that it is hard to highlight just a few. Ash’s true goal has been to compete and Final at the Australian Age Championships in April. With 5 solid years of training and preparation, Ash has achieved some amazing personal best times, and trained with some of the best programs in the State, to further his conditioning and hone his technical skills.   His desire to compete and his willingness to better himself, is a true testament to his passion and competitive nature, that has seen Ash achieve his goals this season.   The outside world will only see the final results but what they don’t see is the preparation and work that goes in to a high achieving athlete that Ash is:  10 training sessions a week; 4 and a half hours a day of hard work; 6 training days a week totaling 21 + hours;  Junior development Coaching for the Traralgon Swimming club on his evening off from training; 8 Championship Meets spanning 25 days in total; 32 and 36 events at the County and Gippsland championships making Finals in every event, and winning medals in all events bar one!; Setbacks, involving injury and illness requiring over 30 hours of rehab and pre-hab before and after training sessions and two weeks’ worth of training sessions missed; Interstate Training camps over two a half weeks with 120kms covered in the pool; and finally, over 1500km’ in total swimming for the season.   Ash has achieved just about everything you can swimming in Gippsland, and still continuous to grow and develop like he is just getting started.

 Congratulations to all our winners!