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Australia Day awards for local sports stars

Hayley Oakes in flight on her BMX.

A mountain bike rider, rugby players, a footballer and surfer were all honoured as Sportspeople of the Year by local councils across the region last weekend.

Byron Bay – Mark ‘Mono’ Stewart

The council noted that even by his standards Mark had an extraordinary year winning four international adaptive surfing competitions along with a couple of second places.

Mono lost his right leg below the knee to an aggressive bone cancer when he was just 16 and has used surfing to help him through his recovery, both physically and mentally. By the mid 1980s he had became a state champion knee boarder.

‘Mark is an inspiration to all surfers and is a highly respected athlete. He is also a devoted husband and father of three. He volunteers for public speaking and is a great ambassador for the sport, his country and the Byron Shire,’ the council said.

Ballina – Hayley Oakes

‘Hayley is an outstanding young woman who is a multiple Australian Mountain Bike Champion,’ the council said. 

‘She has been riding mountain bikes since 2015, and is the current U/ 17 Australian Champion across three disciplines XCC (cross country criterium), XCO (cross country Olympic), and XCM (cross country marathon). One of Hayley’s goals is to inspire people of all ages to get out and ride their bikes’.

Ballina – Ben Roche 

Lennox Head local, Ben Roche was born with cerebral palsy and started playing football at age six. He enjoyed playing, despite being left on the bench much of the time. 

He joined a development squad for the Pararoos, Australia’s paralympic football team, and was inspired by athletes just like him.

In 2019 Ben was the Pararoos’ vice-captain at the World Championships in Spain and with 53 games in the green and gold, Ben continues to inspire others with and without disabilities

He was also appointed national teams coordinator for Football Federation Australia in 2018. 

Tweed Heads – Olympia Pope

The Sporting Achievement Award went to 11-year-old Olympia Pope, for her achievements in swimming and surf lifesaving

Lismore – St Carthage’s Rugby 

The St Carthage’s Primary School Rugby 10’s team represented their school and the Lismore Rugby Club with pride, great teamwork and sportsmanship.

The team had an outstanding season, culminating in winning the NSW Catholic Schools Rugby 10’s Championships against teams form across the state. 


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