The Northern Echo: Local Heroes Awards

Now in its 14th year, The Northern Echo Local Heroes Awards has grown to be the region’s premier grassroots sports awards.

Local Heroes celebrates, recognises and rewards achievements in grassroots sports, giving our local heroes a night to remember.

The Northern Echo: Local Heroes Awards

As well as discovering the region’s most talented sports people, Local Heroes identifies and rewards those people who work behind the scenes. Often they do it for the love of it, and dedicate their lives to grassroots sport, without receiving any recognition.

The shortlist for the 2013 Local Heroes Awards has been confirmed ahead of the awards night on Thursday, December 5.

The Northern Echo’s flagship awards ceremony is known as the Oscars of grassroots sport and this year’s list of candidates is stronger than ever.

A judging panel, featuring representatives from the ten category sponsors, met at The Northern Echo’s offices to sift through hundreds of nominations.

The group, which was chaired by The Northern Echo’s editor, Peter Barron, was extremely impressed with the breadth and quality of this year’s entrants, but eventually compiled a shortlist of three candidates in each category.

Ten winners were then selected, and after much deliberation, the overall Local Hero for 2013 was chosen.

The results will be revealed at a ceremony at the Dolphin Centre, in Darlington.

The awards categories are as follows:

Award for Remarkable Achievement (Senior)
sponsored by Northumbrian Water

Special Achievement award for overcoming obstacles or personal difficulties in order to achieve a specific goal or purpose be it sporting achievement or ‘extra curricular’ activity i.e. fundraising.

Category Nominees

GAVIN WALKER
Gavin is 73, and from Durham, and despite his age, competes in the sport of powerlifting. Earlier this year, he became World Master Seven champion in the 70-74yrs age group in the 110kw class at the World Cup in Rockland, USA. In June, he also became World Master Seven champion in the same class at the World Cup in Antwerp. Later this month, he competes in the third World Cup event of the year in Glasgow. Over a powerlifting career that has lasted 45 years, he has achieved 57 world records, 61 European records and 112 British records. Gavin also coaches in the sport and is an international referee.
PAUL CONWAY
Paul is 53, and from Norton. Ten years ago, Paul became paralysed down one half of his body due to a blood clot on his brain. After trying a wide range of therapies, to no positive effect, a doctor friend suggested equine therapy at the RDA Unicorn Centre in Hemlington. He had never previously ridden before, but was a keen sportsman, having been due to represent Great Britain as a marathon runner in the Over-40s World Championships in Australia shortly before he became paralysed. Now, ten months after sitting on a horse for the first time, Paul has won a National Riding for the Disabled Association award for most improved rider and won rosettes for dressage riding.
LANCE BOMBADIER JAMES SIMPSON
James is a former soldier, who was based at Catterick Garrison from 2004 until earlier this year. The 27-year-old lost both his legs while serving with the 5th Regiment, Royal Artillery in Helmand, Afghanistan in 2009. However, in September he became the first double amputee to complete the four-mile course and 25 challenges involved in the grueling Spartan Race, which included crawling under barbed wire through thick mud, a 25ft rope climb, running with sandbags and a fire leap. He travelled to Warwickshire to tackle the Spartan Super challenge. Running in his “stubbies”, he tackled obstacles including leaping over flaming logs and scaling 30ft high cargo nets over an eight-mile course - double the length of the previous challenge.

Award for Sporting Excellence (Senior)
sponsored by Darlington Building Society

This award will be given to an individual who has achieved a significant level of success at national or international level, or has demonstrated a consistently high quality level of performance over a season within their sport at county level or above.

Category Nominees

The Northern Echo: Danielle HazellDANIELLE HAZELL
Danielle, pictured right, is 25, and from Durham. As a teenager, Danielle began to play cricket because she enjoyed watching her dad, who played for Bearpark. She played for Durham City and worked her way in to the women’s national set-up. She was a beaten finalist with England in last year’s World Twenty20 tournament against Australia, but went one better this summer when she was part of the England squad that defeated the Aussies in the Ashes series. A county player with Yorkshire, Danielle is regarded as one of the leading women’s players in the country. She has played in 27 ODIs and 45 Twenty20 internationals for England, scoring more than 200 runs and taking more than 80 wickets.
BETH BRYAN
Beth is 19, and from Stockton. Tees Rowing Club member Beth has emerged as one of the next big things in British rowing following a hugely successful 2013. In January, she won a gold and two silver medals at the Youth Olympic Festival in Sydney, an event that is effectively the equivalent of the Olympic Games for under-21s. Beth was then part of the women’s eight that won a silver medal at the World Under-23 Championships in Austria in May, despite being one of the youngest rowers in the competition. She was also part of a North-Eastern crew that won the quadruple sculls title at the British Championship in September alongside Copeland. Next season, she will hope to become a permanent fixture in Britain’s senior squad, and there is a strong chance she will be representing Team GB at the 2016 Olympics in Rio.
KAT DRISCOLL
Kat is 27, and based in West Rainton. She is a trampolinist, and a member of Apollo Trampoline Club in Washington. Having represented Team GB at last year’s Olympics, narrowly failing to make the final, Kat has taken her career to another level in 2013. She retained her British title in both the individual and synchro event, and achieved one of the greatest results in British trampolining history when she teamed up with Amanda Parker to win a gold medal in the synchro discipline at the World Games in Colombia. She is currently in Bulgaria, preparing to represent Britain in the individual, team and synchro at the World Championships.

Sir Bobby Robson Leading Light Award
sponsored by Virgin Money

This award will be given to an individual who has demonstrated over time their commitment to, passion for and achievements in any sport at any level in the North-East. The individual will be seen as a role model by those in their sport and will have led by example, demonstrating the positive impact sport can have on those people, communities or sport he/she has worked with over time.

Category Nominees

The Northern Echo: Geoff CookGEOFF COOK
Geoff is 61, and from Middlesbrough. He is the head coach of Durham County Cricket Club and, at elite level, was instrumental in the county’s success in the first division of this year’s County Championship, where they were crowned champions with a team that generally contained nine or ten players born within 20 miles of Chester-le-Street. Over the course of the last two decades, Geoff has also played a much more wide-reaching role in terms of the development of North-East players from grassroots level right through to the full England side. A key player in Durham’s birth as a first-class county, Geoff was the club’s first county captain. He spent the best part of a decade running the club’s academy, which is widely regarded as one of the best in the country, helping to turn the likes of Paul Collingwood and Steve Harmison into England stars. Earlier this year, he suffered a heart attack, which forced him to step down from first-team duties, but three weeks after his heart problems, he was back at work coaching Durham’s under- 18s.
ALISTER ROBSON
Alister is 41, and from Brandon. Having attended his first parkrun at Sunderland in 2010, Alister fell in love with the concept of community running. After attending a number of Sunderland parkruns, he decided to set up a Durham parkrun, which proved an instant success. UK parkrun manager, Tom Williams, was so impressed with Alister’s efforts that he appointed him North-East Ambassador for parkrun. This involves him coordinating the organisation of the region’s 15 parkruns – five of which are in County Durham – liaising with landowners and councils and arranging fund raising, all of which takes up 40 hours of voluntary work a month. The average event attendance for the North-East’s parkruns is 1,691 runners each weekend.
BILL RUFFELL
Bill is 79, and from County Durham. He started playing tennis when he was 18, and after joining the merchant navy, he returned to the North-East to work as a miner in Westoe Colliery. There, he was instrumental in the establishment of colliery welfare tennis courts, and has now been involved in the sport for more than five decades. An extremely well-known face on the North-East tennis scene, he was the driving force behind the creation of the Sunderland Tennis Centre, a facility that has earned national recognition, and has worked in various roles at Boldon Tennis Club.

Award for Unsung Hero (Senior)
sponsored by BMI Woodlands Hospital

The person working ‘behind the scenes’ of a club, team or scheme. This person will not be the one who claims all the glory but their role is crucial and without them the club, team or scheme would not be the same. Behind the scenes of every club or team is someone who does the crucial jobs that are often taken for granted. Groundsmen, scorers, secretaries, treasurers, or organisers.

Category Nominees

CHARLIE DONAGHY
Charlie is 77, and from Tow Law. It is no exaggeration to claim that a number of sports simply would not function at grassroots level in the North-East without his unpaid input. He is the fixture secretary, results organiser, administrator, press officer and committee organiser for leagues in snooker, darts (male and female), pool, dominoes, quoits and bowls (indoor and outdoor). Tom Ward, who nominated him, mentioned just one league Charlie is involved in – the Langley Moor District Snooker League, which involves more than 100 players – and said, “I know for a fact this league would not continue without Charlie’s work because no one else will do the time-consuming, unglamorous things he does”. Earlier this year, Charlie had a serious health scare. He continued to perform his organisational duties from his hospital bed, and after being told he had to lose three stones in weight, gained sponsorship for every pound he lost and donated the money to the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation.
BOB TINKLER
Bob is 88, and from Chester-le-Street. Bob was introduced to athletics in 1962 and, since then, he has been a volunteer at his hometown club. He has provided more than five decades of service to his local club, and the sport of athletics within the wider North- East. He has fulfilled a wide of variety of roles, from committee member and events organiser to fundraiser and representative on a range of national bodies. He was secretary for Elswick Harriers for a large number of years, and technical officer at national track and cross-country fixtures. As founder of Chester-le-Street Athletics Club, he served on the committee and championed the development of the community track and field facilities which are now hugely popular at the Riverside. In June, he was honoured by the national Shine a Light campaign for his contribution to community sport over half a century.
ANDY BURGESS
Andy is 47, and from Crook. As well as being the first-team captain at Crook Cricket Club, Andy has taken on a number of roles that have made him instrumental in the club’s survival through very difficult times. He has taken volunteer roles on the club committee, acted as junior team manager (U15, U18s), overseen the coaching programme (summer & winter), worked on ground maintenance, helped out behind the bar, cleaned and linked with Durham Cricket Board as the club’s county liaison officer. He coached the under-15s to their first league trophy, and has built up good links with the local schools to develop junior cricket at the club and continue the tradition of developing home-grown talent in Crook.

Award for Team/Club of the Year (Senior)
sponsored by Tees Barrage

Presented to the team or club who have pulled together, shown support, solidarity and co-operation through good times and not so good times in order to achieve results. The sport doesn’t matter, we’re simply looking for a team, big or small, that’s shone throughout the sporting year.

Category Nominees

DURHAM UNIVERSITY RUGBY FIRST XV
Durham University’s rugby union first XV have enjoyed one of the most successful seasons in the university’s long and prestigious history. They were crowned Northern Premiership league champions for the third year in succession and claimed the BUCS Cup, the most important trophy in university sport. They lifted the BUCS Cup after winning a thrilling final against Cardiff Metropolitan University at Twickenham. They were named University Rugby Club of the Year by Rugby World, and enjoyed victories over both Oxford and Cambridge.
SPENNYMOOR TOWN FOOTBALL CLUB
Spennymoor Town enjoyed the most successful season in their history as they won an unprecedented treble. The County Durham club claimed the JR Cleator Cup and League Cup, but their greatest triumph came at the home of English football, Wembley. Roared on by around 8,000 fans from County Durham, Spennymoor lifted the FA Vase after beating Tunbridge Wells in the final. Earlier in the competition, they had won a two-legged semi-final against Guernsey to reach the final. As a club, Spennymoor are at the heart of their community, and they have invested funds to transform their Brewery Field ground into a genuine community asset. They top the Northern League table.
APOLLO TRAMPOLINING CLUB
The most successful trampolining club in the North-East, and arguably the whole of England, Apollo, based in Washington, have had a successful year at both senior and junior level. At elite level, the club have had two trampolinists selected for the World Championships in Bulgaria this month, and one of their members, Kat Driscoll, won a gold medal at the World Games. They have had three members attend the junior national squad at Lilleshall, and had one of their coaches selected to coach with them. They claimed a gold, a silver, a fourth and a fifth at the British Championships. They have 11 gymnasts on the 2013 regional (Northern) trampoline team and four coaches. At the Northern Championships, they won the team trophy for the sixth year in succession, and in total won 22 gold medals, 17 silvers and eight bronzes.

Award for Remarkable Achievement (Junior)
sponsored by Tees Active

Special Achievement award for overcoming obstacles or personal difficulties in order to achieve a specific goal or purpose be it sporting achievement or ‘extra curricular’ activity i.e. fundraising.

Category Nominees

CHLOE HUNT
The Northern Echo: Chloe HuntChloe (right) is 15 and from Sowerby, near Thirsk. Chloe was brain damaged at birth due to shoulder dystocia, which starved her of oxygen. She wasn’t expected to survive her first night, but she battled on and eventually left hospital. She was eventually diagnosed with cerebral palsy and Erbs palsy, and ADHD and autism became apparent as she grew older. At four she was told she would never walk and her sporting options were limited because she needed a wheelchair, but at 13 she joined a special needs gymnastics club in Middlesbrough and has flourished. In August, she won five gold medals at the Special Olympics National Summer Games in Bath, triumphing in the beam, bars, vaults, floor and overall.
COBIE WOODS
Cobie is six, and from St Helen Auckland. A keen young footballer with St Marys Under-7s, Cobie was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia in February. This required an intensive six-month treatment programme at the RVI in Newcastle, with Cobie requiring intense chemotherapy, two lumbar punctures and eight blood transfusions. While he was in hospital, St Marys promised to keep his place in the team open for him, and this helped him get through his treatment. Despite having to have his central line taped to his chest, he returned to the field in October and scored in his first game. He was man of the match in his next game and has settled back in like he had never been away.
JACK BAINES
Jack is 12 and from Darlington. Unfortunately, Jack has had a troubled upbringing which has involved his mum not being around because of a mental breakdown and a prison sentence. In 2010, Jack’s dad began to suffer from epileptic fits, and Jack has often been the one who has had to deal with ringing for an ambulance and looking after his siblings. However, throughout it all he has continued to turn up and play for his local football team in Darlington, and compete for Darlington Harriers in athletics. This year, he was voted Sports Personality of the Year at his school, Carmel RC.

Award for Sporting Excellence (Junior)
sponsored by County Durham Community Foundation

This award will be given to an individual who has achieved a significant level of success at national or international level, or has demonstrated a consistently high quality level of performance over a season within their sport at county level or above.

Category Nominees

AMY TINKLER
Amy is 13, and from Bishop Auckland. Amy won the Most Promising New Talent award at the 2011 Local Heroes Awards, and since then, her career has gone from strength to strength. The last 12 months have seen her establish herself as one of the brightest young talents in British gymastics, and she is firmly on track to be a Team GB Olympian in the future, potentially even at Rio in three years time, In January, she achieved the greatest success of her career so far when she won three medals at the Youth Olympic Festival in Australia, with a team silver and individual gold on the floor, and silver in the vault. Amy then followed up with an extremely strong showing at the Junior British Championships, where she won gold in the floor and bar, silver in the vault, bronze in the beam and silver overall. She also won a gold medal representing GB in an international competition against Germany, France and Switzerland.
HANNAH FEATHERSTONE
Hannah is 14, and a swimmer from Billingham. She swims for Sedgefield 75 Swimming Club, who are based at Newton Aycliffe, and earlier this year, she became the club’s first national champion for 15 years. Hannah took gold in the 100m freestyle at the National Championships in Sheffield. She was selected as part of the British team for the European Youth Olympic Festival in Utrecht, and claimed two silver medals and a bronze in the team events. An all-round performer, Hannah also competes in athletics and modern pentathlon. She regularly competes at national level in modern pentathlon, and recently represented GB at youth international level.
MATTHEW FISHER
Matthew is 15, and from Huby. Earlier this year, he created history when he became the youngest post-war cricketer to represent Yorkshire in a first-team game. His remarkable season began in May when he was selected for Yorkshire’s second team despite still being at school. He took 6-25 for the seconds in June, and later that month, was promoted to the first team. He was awarded his county cap by England international Jonny Bairstow and took a wicket on his debut. He was selected for England Under-19s in August, and made his debut despite still only being 15 years of age.

Award for Most Promising New Talent
sponsored by Bishop Auckland College & Darlington College

This award will go to a star of tomorrow, not necessarily involved in their chosen sport for a long time, this youngster will have shown great talent and promise for the future.

Category Nominees

SIMONE ABLEY
The Northern Echo: Simone AbleySimone is 13, and from Spennymoor. She competes in taekwondo at national and international level. A member of Scorpion Taekwando, she is the number one ranked female under-59kg for her age in the whole of Europe. She qualified for the European Championships in Romania, but suffered a leg injury two weeks before the tournament started. She suffered a recurrence of the injury in her quarter-final, which she won, but refused to withdraw and suffered a narrow defeat in the semi-finals. In September, she won a gold medal at the British National Championships.
HUGO LUTZ-ATKINSON
Hugo is 11, and from Kiln Pit Hill, near Consett. He has been riding a bike since his first birthday and entered his first competition at six. He is ranked ninth nationally in the GB under-12 rankings, but is the only person in the top ten to only be 11. This year, he won a gold in the Virgin Money Cyclone event held in Newcastle (under-12s) and a silver medal in the Stockton Cycling Festival (under-12s). In August, he competed in Spain in a Spanish regional youth league and beat the reigning regional champion to win gold in the San Juan Alicante Regional Championships (under-12s).
AIMEE BARLOW
Aimee is 11, and from Sedgefield. Despite only being 11, Aimee is already competing in the under-13 age category for athletics. In the last 12 months, she has been runner up in the Gateshead Winter Indoor Series despite being the youngest competitor and won the Outdoor Young Athletes League. She has achieved ten UK rankings in sprints, middle distance and jumps, and also competed in shot putt. At the County Durham Schools Track and Field Championships, Aimee broke the 800m track record at Shildon Stadium for her age group as she won the gold medal. She also won the triple jump and short sprint titles on the same day.

Award for Team/Club of the Year (Junior)
sponsored by Hummersknott Academy

Presented to the team or club who have pulled together, shown support, solidarity and co-operation through good times and not so good times in order to achieve results. The sport doesn’t matter, we’re simply looking for a team, big or small, that’s shone throughout the sporting year.

Category Nominees

LAURENCE JACKSON UNDER- 16s GIRLS FOOTBALL TEAM
The Northern Echo: Laurence Jackson
Laurence Jackson’s under-16s team have been together right through secondary school and have achieved considerable success for a number of years. This year’s Redcar and Cleveland Schools League title was their fifth in succession, meaning they have triumphed in every secondary-school year. However, this year they achieved success on a national scale when they won nine fixtures to reach the final of the English Schools Football Association Cup. The national final was played at the Pirelli Stadium, home of Burton Albion, and while they lost 3-2 to Maiden Erliegh from Reading, simply reaching the final was a fantastic achievement. A number of the side represented their county and made it into football club academies, and three were given England trials.
ST LEONARD’S CATHOLIC SCHOOL UNDER-14s FOOTBALL TEAM
The school team, from Durham City, completed an impressive treble when they won a national title by claiming the English Schools’ Football Association’s Premier League Cup at Hillsborough in May. They beat St Ignatius College, of Enfield, 2-1 in the final with goals from James Moore and Elliott Embleton. The success followed hot on the heels of two previous triumphs, with St Leonard’s under-14s also claiming the Chester-le-Street and Washington Schools’ District League and the Consett Ironworks Cup.
YARM SCHOOL RUGBY TEAM
Yarm Schools’ rugby team became the most successful side in the school’s illustrious history when they won the Daily Mail RBS Vase, easily the most prestigious schools rugby tournament in the country, and usually the preserve of the public schools from the south. Having progressed through a number of competitive rounds to reach the final, Yarm travelled to Twickenham to take on Felsted School. They narrowly triumphed in a close final to cap a memorable season. Their star player was Zach Kibirige, an England youth international who has subsequently signed his first professional contract with local Premiership side, Newcastle Falcons.

Award for Outstanding Performance
sponsored by Teesside University

The outstanding performance award will go to someone who has produced a one-off display that is particularly impressive or memorable. The award is open to Seniors and Juniors and covers all sports.

Category Nominees

GILL PRESCOTT
Gill is 55, and from Durham (also nominated in sporting excellence). A vet who took up rowing when her daughters took up the sport, Gill set a new world record for her age group at the World Masters Rowing Championships. She was victorious in the women’s Open 55+ age category with a time of 7:21:1, beating the existing 2km record by more than two seconds.
GAYLE FOOTBALL CLUB
The team from Wensleydale drew their final game of the Wensleydale League season against Carperby Rovers. Not only did that secure their first point of the season – it was also only their second in four years. This season’s goal stats were 15 for and 268 against, and in each of the past four seasons they’ve shipped well over 200 goals in 26 games. However, the league secretary lauds their sportsmanship and continued willingness to turn up and play as a team. The goalkeeper, who is 52, played at Wembley for the Army despite shipping so many goals at club level.
DOUGLAS AND FERGUS ROBERTS
Aged 22 and 19, and from Romanby, Northallerton, Douglas and Fergus are Hambleton’s answer to the Brownlee brothers. Competing in triathlon at regional and national level, the brothers both attended the British Elite Triathlon Championships. Competing against each other, they finished third and fifth respectively, the best results of their career and a performance that suggests they could be pushing the Brownlees all the way very soon.

Local Hero 2013
sponsored by The Northern Echo

Selected from the winners of the above categories.

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