Women have taken out the top two gongs at the annual Penrith Valley Sports Foundation awards for the second consecutive year.
Basketballer Tahlia Tupaea and cricketer Hannah Darlington were awarded the Senior and Junior Sports Star of the Year respectively at the foundation’s gala dinner, held at Panthers on September 1.
Despite starting the year coming off a troublesome foot injury, the Sydney University Flames guard Tupaea was drafted to the WNBA in April with the Minnesota Lynx picking her up on the 36th and final pick.
The five-year WNBL veteran was named Senior Sports Star of the Month for March.
“It’s an honour to receive this award, I am very grateful to my parents and family, thank you for all the support,” she told the audience at the awards presentation.
Darlington is currently on the long list for call up to the Australian women’s Indigenous cricket team that is due to tour England.
The top order bat was named Junior Sports Star of the Month for April, and from next season will shift clubs to Campbelltown-Camden to further her career.
“I’d like to thank my mum and dad as I’m still a child, I owe them a lot,” the Erskine Park teenager said.
“To all the other junior sports stars, go home and thank your parents for this.”
The Rising Star Award – for an individual who has continued to show potential and excel and progress in their chosen field – was presented to swimmer Jack Benson, who was selected on the NSW Development Squad for 2016 after success at both the state and national age championships.
He reserved special thanks in his acceptance speech to coach Jackie Barck at Nepean Aquatic Centre, who spotted his potential and ramped up his training.
“She would do anything for me and it’s always been like that,” the St Dominic’s College student said.
Penrith Valley Sports Foundation president Rodney Watson said the awards existed to acknowledge and applaud sports stars and those who contributed their time to further sport in the region.
“No athlete can excel without commitment not only from themselves … but those that support them,” he told the audience.
“We celebrate the untiring work of those people, and those who have made outstanding contributions to sport.”
He also thanked all sponsors of the awards, including Panthers World of Entertainment and St Marys Leagues Club that sponsor the Senior and Junior awards respectively, as well as Penrith City Council for providing and maintaining quality local sporting facilities.
2017 award winners:
- Sports Administration Award: Natalie Bradbury, St Clair Hawks Cricket Club.
- All Abilities Award: Sarah Keenahan, swimming.
- Coach Award: Jaqua Heddle, netball.
- Team of the Year Award: Penrith City U19s Men’s softball team.
- Volunteer Award: Ryan Knowles, hockey.
- Referee/umpire Award: Emma Kocbeck, soccer.
- Jim Anderson Memorial Award: Doug Hayne, PVSF.
- Junior Sports Star of the Year: Hannah Darlington, cricket.
- Rising Star Award: Jack Benson, swimming.
- Senior Sports Star of the Year: Tahlia Tupaea, basketball.