20 December 2023

2023 Year in Review: 16 of our sporting best

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From a starring role in the Matildas’ success to woodchopping and snowboarding, sports stars from around the region proved they were among the best in 2023. Take a look at our top 16 sporting stories and relive some of the glory.

16. Proud Tiger reaches 150-game milestone
by Michael Murphy

stephen and monique luff

Stephen and Monique Luff prior to Monique’s 150th game. Photo: Supplied.

Gundagai’s Monique Luff ran onto Anzac Park on 13 August to take part in her 150th league tag game for her beloved Gundagai Tigers.

A 2009 founding member of the Gundagai league tag side, Luff was an integral part of the 2015 premiership team. It was a memorable day that also saw the Group 9 club win grand finals in first and reserve grade.

15. Thredbo snowboarding ambassadors win big for Australia in world championships
by James Day

Tess Coady in her snowboard gear holding up the Australian flag

Tess Coady celebrates after winning bronze at the big air snowboard cross event in Georgia. Photo: Olympic Winter Institute/Twitter.

Three Thredbo ambassadors took home medals for Australia recently at the FIS World Championships in Bakuriani, Georgia. Tess Coady, Josie Baff and Valentino Guseli brought their best to the Australian team which had its most successful Freestyle Ski and Snowboard World Championship ever.

14. Still holding court: Meet the basketballers staying a step ahead of the ageing game
by Gail Eastaway

women on basketball court

Cooma’s walking basketball group ranges in age from 17 to 83. Photo: Gail Eastaway.

For some people, growing old is not an option they are too willing to embrace, preferring to remain as active as possible for as long as possible.

Sadly for some folk, having to give up their favourite activities becomes a reality too soon, but that’s not the case for a group of diehard basketballers who refuse to leave the court.

Every Thursday night, the Cooma Basketball Stadium resounds to the laughter and encouragement of some mature women engaged in the local walking basketball competition.

13. Five minutes with Ray ‘Rabs’ Warren – one of Junee’s favourite sons
by Glenn Pallister

man with football

The ”Voice of Rugby League”, Ray Warren. Photo: NRL Hall of Fame.

We sit down for a chat with one of the legends of rugby league, Ray Warren, about what he loves most about his hometown.

Warren is known as the “Voice of Rugby League”, and called 99 State of Origin games as well as 45 NRL grand finals. Warren also used to call Australian swimming team events and the FINA World Championships until Nine lost the rights to these events in 2008, and in 2012 he participated in Nine’s coverage of the London Olympics.

12. South Coast man steps in to bat for women’s cricket
by Zoe Cartwright

woman with book

Karen Motyka with a copy of FAIRBREAK, which will be launched in Moruya on 27 January. Photo: Karen Motyka.

It’s just not cricket. The plight of Australia’s talented yet underappreciated women’s cricketers is the focus of FAIRBREAK, a new book by Moruya Heads resident Karen Motyka and Narooma’s Shaun Martyn.

11. Raiders legend Jarrod Croker to retire at the end of this season
by Tim Gavel

An absolute crowd favourite: Jarrod Croker. Photo: Raiders Twitter.

Jarrod Croker will retire as a Raiders legend. But if he had his way, he would be leaving the game in the same fashion he entered first grade in 2009.

Croker’s first grade debut had little fanfare and that’s how he wanted it. His approach to any form of fanfare would be considered by most to be low-key. His approach is based on a ‘team first’ philosophy.

10. Top of the chop: Curtis ‘Bubba’ Bennett on target for world Timbersports title
by Katrina Condie

woodchopping competitor

Curtis Bennett of Australia in action during the 2023 STIHL Timbersports Rookie World Championship in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, on 9 June. Photo: STIHL Timbersports.

Majors Creek woodchopper Curtis Bennett is proudly following in the footsteps of his world champion grandfather Len Bennett.

Bennett, 23, headed to the Australian Woodchopping and Sawing Championships in Brisbane in August aiming for a world title like his grandfather before him.

9. South Coast Special Olympians bowl over state competition
by Katrina Condie

Two ladies with medals

Alisha Tetley and Liz Godwin took home bronze in the doubles. Photo: SO South Coast.

South Coast Special Olympics Club chair Kathy Godwin says she doesn’t have the words to describe the “magic that happens” when 200 people with an intellectual disability “compete for sheep stations” at a state level.

Twelve members of the club returned from the NSW Tenpin Bowling Championships with an astonishing eight medals between them: three gold, one silver and four bronze.

8. The colour of the Maher Cup, and every game, captured in new book
by Edwina Mason

two sideline radio sports broadcasters

Broadcasting from the Maher Cup game on a cold Tumut day in 1965. The 2LF callers are John Ringwood and Bill Dennis. Behind them, Grenfell reserve Wally Gam tries to keep warm. Photo: Tumut RSL Club collection.

For five decades, battles were waged, wagers won and lost, rabbit-infested ploughed paddock pitches perpetually invaded, yet song, poetry and prose were stirred over a trophy known as “the old tin pot”, which forged a culture in the South West Slopes and Northern Riverina.

And now that trophy has inspired an important historical record that documents the matches, stories, legends and lore that were the Maher Cup in a book, the first authored by Neil Pollock.

7. ‘Be the best version of you’: Inspiring CrossFit mum raises the bar at Torian Pro
by Katrina Condie

Mel lifting weights

Mel Van Antwerpen impressed the judges when competing against much younger athletes in the CrossFit Torian Pro Open event. Photo: Anthony Rogers.

Thirteen years ago, Mel Van Antwerpen made the decision to turn her life around and found the “love of her life”.

A pack-a-day smoker, the single mother of two realised her health “was not the best” and her search for a fun, inclusive sport eventually led her to CrossFit.

6. Rugby Park reflects club that values its history
by John Thistleton

rugby field

An aerial view of Klem Oval, opened to mark the Dirty Reds’ 150th anniversary in 2022. Photo: Peter Oliver.

History has come full circle for the Goulburn Dirty Reds, a club that traces its origins back to 1872. Restarting after two world wars, it has built its own home grounds and clubhouse and once again is hosting representative games.

5. Man behind the mask (or the Viking head) looks back at a 40-year career, with no plans to slow down
by Claire Sams

Tony Wood, aka, Victor the Viking

Tony Wood is the man behind the costume. Photo: Canberra Raiders.

Tony Wood has marked 40 years as Raiders’ mascot Victor the Viking. He looks back on the role that’s brought smiles to the faces of thousands of fans.

4. George Bass finishes with an historic one-two win for Moruya
by Karyn Starmer

surf boat

Conditions deteriorated on the final legs of the George Bass Surf Marathon to what some competitors described as the worst rowing conditions they have been in. Photo: Nick Peters Photography.

Named for the famed explorer, the 2023 George Bass Surf Marathon finished in the similarly ”boisterous” southerly swells that George Bass himself described as he journeyed down the coast from Port Jackson to Tasmania in 1797.

That the race finished at all was an achievement. Race director Andrew Holt says this year, the organisers were determined to complete all seven legs and make it to Eden simply for the future of the event.

“With three missed starts due to bushfire and COVID-19, it’s been five years since we managed to complete a Bass,” he says.

3. In a pickle about how to get off the couch? Try the most popular sport you’ve never heard of
by Zoe Cartwright

four women in selfie

Batemans Bay pickleball players Marianne Bandur, Lyn Cheney, Sue Novak and Georgie Rowley can testify to the physical and social benefits of the sport. Photo: Supplied.

The fastest-growing sport in the US has landed in the Eurobodalla – and anyone can play.

Pickleball is best described as a cross between tennis, badminton and ping-pong. It’s played on a badminton-sized court with paddles, and the softball-sized ball has holes, making it bounce a little more slowly than a tennis ball.

2. Griffith junior rugby star accepted into elite Canberra sports program
by Oliver Jacques

Reece with her mum and sister outside

Reese Vidler (middle) with mum and coach Jacklyn Vidler and sister Addison. Photo: Oliver Jacques.

After captaining her school to a Riverina rugby union championship, playing as the only girl in a boys team and winning selection to an ACT Brumbies feeder squad, Murrumbidgee Regional High School’s Reese Vidler has now been accepted into Erindale College’s talented sports program in Canberra.

The Tuggeranong-based school is known for producing a number of Wallaby internationals and NRL stars, such as Canberra Raiders winger Michael Asomua, also from Griffith.

1. The two Matildas who shared soccer turf now share stadium’s main stage
by Edwina Mason

Clare Hunt of Grenfell and Ellie Carpenter

Reunited again – Clare Hunt of Grenfell and Ellie Carpenter of Cowra are overnight heroes thanks to the Matildas’ win over reigning Olympic champions Canada. Image: Liberty A-League.

You must forgive the residents of Cowra and Grenfell for being glued to their televisions at night as their hometown girls Ellie Carpenter and Clare Hunt kicked their way to success with the Matildas.

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