Rising hockey star Amy Lawton has capped off a remarkable 12 months by winning the Emerging Athlete of the Year Award at the AIS Sport Performance Awards (#ASPAs) in Sydney.
In a big night for Hockeyroos, one of Australia’s most enduring women’s sporting outfits took out the Sport Australia. Emily Chalker accepted the award for displaying the true spirit of sport in a moment during a Pro League match against Belgium.
First introduced in 2018, the Sport Australia Award acknowledges athletes, coaches, support staff or industry figures who have demonstrated the spirit of sport during the previous 12 months and highlights the inspiring impact sporting role models can have on all Australians.
The AIS also launched a new award, Athlete Community Engagement, to celebrate the positive influence an athlete can have on Award the community. Australian Opals captain and Gold Coast gold medallist Jenna O’Hea collected the trophy ahead of an impressive field for her work with Lifeline Australia raising awareness and fundraising for mental health and suicide prevention initiatives.
Lawton, a 17-year-old high school student and Victorian Institute of Sport scholarship holder has enjoyed a stellar year as part of Hockey Australia’s Women’s National Development Squad.
Since making her Hockeyroos debut in a FIH Pro League match against New Zealand on Anzac Day in Auckland, Lawton has not looked back.
She went on to represent the Hockeyroos at the Tokyo Test Event followed by selection for the Oceania Cup and the ensuing Olympic Qualifying Series against Russia.
Presented by Commonwealth Games Australia, the Emerging Athlete of the Year Award is for an outstanding sporting achievement by an emerging athlete, or in special circumstances as part of a team.
“From the time Amy came into the women’s high performance program she has made a fantastic contribution to the Hockeyroos group,” said Hockey Australia High Performance Director, Toni Cumpston.
“While ultimately hockey is about team success, we are really excited for her on winning this accolade and getting this recognition.
“She is a great talent, works really hard at training and shows a maturity on the field beyond her years.
“Coupled with this potential and natural talent, she has an extremely promising future ahead of her.”
FULL LIST OF AIS SPORT PERFORMANCE AWARD WINNERS
The ABC Sport Personality of the Year (People’s Choice) – Ash Barty (Tennis) | While a big year had been predicted for Barty, this was truly momentous. The Queenslander’s breakthrough French Open singles triumph was the first by an Australian woman since Margaret Court in 1973; two weeks later the 23-year-old became the world No.1, joining a national honour roll completed by Evonne Goolagong Cawley, John Newcombe, Pat Rafter and Lleyton Hewitt.
Sporting Moment of the Year (People’s Choice) – Ash Barty (Tennis) | With clay her least favoured surface, the French Open was never Barty’s preferred major, yet the world No.8 progressed irresistibly through a wide-open draw to become Australia’s first singles champion at Roland Garros in 46 years. In her maiden grand slam singles final, the Queenslander dominated unseeded Czech teenager Marketa Vondrousova 6-1, 6-3.
Male Athlete of the Year – Scotty James (Snowboard) | James enjoyed another exceptional snowboard season, winning every event he entered — including an unprecedented third consecutive halfpipe title at the FIS World Championships in Park City, Utah. A young veteran of 25, James finished the season with wins at The Dew Tour, X Games, US Grand Prix, Laax Open and the US Burton Open.
Female Athlete of the Year – Ash Barty (Tennis) | The Queenslander’s breakthrough French Open singles triumph was the first by an Australian woman since Margaret Court in 1973 and, two weeks later, the 23-year-old became just the nation’s fifth No.1 since rankings began. Top spot was where Barty would finish 2019, too, as the first Australian woman to do so, having earned four titles, including the prestigious season-ending WTA Finals in Shenzhen
Male Para-athlete of the Year – Curtis McGrath (Para-canoe) | McGrath lived up to expectations in 2019 by successfully defending his KL2 200m and VL3 200m world titles at the 2019 ICF Para-canoe World Championships in Hungary. The fact that these were his ninth and 10th consecutive world titles augur well for McGrath’s KL200 Paralympic gold medal defence in 2020, as the 31-year-old drew the curtain on 2019 with gold in the VL3 200m and silver in the KL200m at the Olympic test event in Tokyo.
Female Para-athlete of the Year – Melissa Perrine (Para-skiing) | A triple Paralympian and dual medallist from Pyeongchang in 2018, Perrine partnered with sighted guide Bobbi Kelly to deliver a stand-out international season. Together, they earned 12 medals on the Para Alpine World Cup Circuit competing in the B2 visually impaired category, while finishing second on the overall
Para Alpine Standings for the year. At the 2019 Para-alpine World Championships in Slovenia, they won four medals — gold in the Super Combined, silver in the Giant Slalom and Super G, and a bronze in Slalom.
Emerging Athlete of the Year – Amy Lawton (Hockey) | Recognition comes early sometimes, and the national selectors had clearly identified a special talent when they chose the 17-year-old high school student to make her debut for the Hockeyroos in the Pacific leg of the FIH Pro League. Having scored a goal in that Anzac Day match in New Zealand, the VIS scholarship-holder was then selected for the Oceania Cup Olympic qualification event, and later played against Russia in Perth, where, in the opening match, Lawton continued an impressive run of scoring.
Athlete Community Engagement Award – Jenna O’Hea (Basketball) | The late-2018 suicide of her uncle took a huge toll on O’Hea’s family, but it was also the genesis of the WNBL’s “Lifeline Round”. In what will become an annual event, each three-point shot made by every team prompted a $100 donation that was matched by the league. The result: over $15,000 was donated to Lifeline Australia to assist in the training of crisis staff. Determined to raise suicide awareness and de-stigmatise mental health issues, O’Hea is also an AIS and Lifeline Community Custodian.
Coach of the Year Award – Michael Blackburn (Sailing) | As head coach of the Laser Class for the Australian Sailing Team, Blackburn leads a squad of five athletes, including Tokyo-bound soon-to-be Olympian Matt Wearn and celebrated Rio Olympic Laser gold medallist Tom Burton. Within a small group resides vast talent, though, for both Wearn and Burton’s results have been world-leading. At least one of the pair, who filled the top two placings at the 2019 world championships in a rare Australian quinella, has featured on the podium at the majority of international regattas over the past 12 months.
Award for Leadership – Lynne Anderson (Paralympics Australia) | As CEO of Paralympics Australia since 2015, Anderson has led a management team that has made significant progress addressing organisational reform, including rebuilding its financial strength and consolidating its position as Australia’s peak body for disability sport. Indeed, the beginning of a new era was hailed in 2019 with the rebranding of the organisation formerly known as the Australian Paralympic Committee
Sport Australia Award – Hockeyroos | Season one of hockey’s pro-league saw both our men’s and women’s teams enjoy success but it was one moment in a game between the Hockeyroos and Belgium that deserved celebration. Just before half-time, a goal was awarded to Australia with both the field referee and subsequent video referral in agreement, however Hockeyroo Emily Chalker admitted she did not touch the ball and forced the decision to be overturned, as there was no attacking touch in the scoring circle. Australia went on to lose the game but won the respect of the hockey community for displaying the true spirit of sport.
Team of the Year – Mat Belcher and Will Ryan (Sailing) | Belcher and Ryan continued to re-write the history books with another dominant year in the 470 Class to maintain their world No.1 ranking. At the 2019 Open 470 World Championship in Japan, Mat notched his eighth world title and Will his fifth in what was the pair’s fifth crown as a team — the most ever in the 470 class. The Rio Olympics silver medallists were pre-selected in the team for Tokyo 2020.
High Performance Program of the Year – Rowing Australia | Australia won 15 gold, 13 silver and nine bronze medals during the 2019 season, including world championship-winning performances from Lucy Stephan, Katrina Werry, Sarah Hawe and Olympia Aldersey in the Women’s Four in Austria, and from Kathryn Ross, who returned from a post-Rio break to win the Para PR2 Women’s Single sculls on the same course in August. Australia’s overall performances at the two 2019 World Cups delivered 3 of 3 the coveted 2019 World Rowing Cup for the first time.
With thanks to Sport Australia & Hockey Australia