Best and brightest sporting talents recognised

The South West might not be known for white water, but that hasn’t stopped a young canoe slalom competitor from rocketing through the ranks of her sport and taking out one of the region’s most coveted sporting awards.

Galway Green teenager Billie Knell was crowned the Sports Star of the Year at the South West Academy of Sport’s annual awards dinner at the Bunbury Regional Entertainment Centre on Friday December 2.

The 17-year-old, who was also named female individual athlete of the year, has enjoyed a stellar year on the water that saw her represent Australia at the Junior and U23 Canoe Slalom World Championships in Poland.

At the awards ceremony, she was praised for always giving 100 per cent, her willingness to try out new moves, and her ability to motivate fellow competitors at the start line with her water splashing and chanting tradition.

SWAS chief executive officer Bernice Butlion said Knell was not only a talented athlete who had competed on the international stage, but she also had a positive attitude.

“She’s been fantastic to work with as a young athlete,” she said.

“Her qualities stand her in good stead on the high performance pathway toward senior international competition and success.”

Other award recipients on the night included cyclists Bryce Lanigan, who was announced as Emerging Star of the Year, and Connor Lambert, who was given the honour of Male Individual Athlete of the Year.

Hockey player Ky Fisher took home the Community Achiever Award, and hockey coach Russell Harvie was named the recipient of the Wally Foreman Coaches Award.

Netball star Shantelle Tassone won the Female Team Athlete of the Year, with gun hockey player Tom Harvie claiming the Male Team Athlete of the Year title.

Butlion thanked sponsors and supporters for their role in making the academy – and its showcase event – a success.

“It’s fantastic to see local businesses and organisations giving back to the community,” she said.

As well as being able to watch the award presentations, guests heard from a number of top athletes.

Fremantle Dockers player Connor Blakely, who was once in the SWAS football program, was the guest speaker for the night.

In addition, Paralympian Brad Scott, and Olympians Jesse Phillips and Ryan Bailie shared their experiences with the crowd during a panel discussion.

SWAS chairman Stan Liaros and South West MLC Colin Holt also addressed the audience.

The 2016 SWAS annual awards dinner was made possible by Department of Sport and Recreation, Lomax Media, Onsite Rentals, Phillip Best Plumbing, South West Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Summit Realty South West, The Apprentice and Traineeship Company, Telstra Stores South West, Totally Sound, and RCR Resources.

2016 SWAS annual award winners:

– Community Achiever of the Year – Ky Fisher

-Emerging Star of the Year – Bryce Lanigan

-Female Team Athlete of the Year – Shantelle Tassone

-Male Team Athlete of the Year – Tom Harvie

-Female Individual Athlete of the Year – Billie Knell

-Male Individual Athlete of the Year – Connor Lambert

-Wally Foreman Coaches Award – Russell Harvie

-Sports Star of the Year – Billie Knell