THE Northern Echo staged the Local Heroes Awards at Wynyard Hall on Thursday night. The awards, which are now in their 19th year, celebrate the very best of grassroots sport in the North-East and North Yorkshire.

There are awards for sporting achievement, and last night we paid tribute to cyclist Charlie Tanfield, who became a World champion earlier this year, Richmondshire Cricket Club, who won a national club title, and Nathan Wood, who became the youngest player in Middlesbrough Football Club history when he made his senior debut in August.

However, we also shone a light on some of the unsung heroes that enable grassroots sport to thrive in our region.

Heroes like 85-year-old Wilf Gilbert, who is battling against terminal illness, but who still devotes his time and energy to help run Darlington Table Tennis Club.

Or Julie Scurfield, who won the Sir Bobby Robson Leading Light Award as well as being crowned the overall Local Hero for 2018.

Thirteen years ago, Julie started a girls’ football team in Chester-le-Street because she was disappointed at the lack of sporting opportunities for girls in her hometown.

Despite a complete lack of any prior sporting experience, she has overseen the growth of the ‘Amazons’ into a club that now boasts ten girls’ teams and more than 130 players.

Thanks to her hard work and sacrifice, Julie has single-handedly transformed girls’ football in Chester-le-Street. To our mind, that makes her a true Local Hero.