Surf Sport Athlete of the Year Nominees
Madeleine Hurst, Half Moon Bay SLSC – LSV
Maddy has been a member of Victorian teams for a number of years, however this season she has shone, excelling at the highest national levels in her chosen discipline of ski paddling.
At the Victorian State Championships she secured three gold and a silver medal in single and double ski paddling, taking home the Open single ski gold for the fifth time in row. Maddy continued to excel at Aussies maintaining top ten placings across single and mixed ski racing.
Maddy leads by example and is a role model to young girls at club and State levels. Her hard work, commitment to training and her consistent calm and positive nature embodies the good sportsmanship and is a great ambassador for Surf Life Saving in Victoria.
Maddy is a team player who ensures that she contributes both on and off the beach as a mentor to help develop and provide support for younger athletes.
Ali Najem, Wanda SLSC – NSW
The 2020-21 season was hugely successful for Ali continuing his reign as the state and national 2km beach sprint champion for the past six and four years respectively. Coming back from a foot reconstruction Ali recovered well and once again dominated across the Branch, State and National championships, gaining firsts in the Open 2km beach run and beach relays.
Ali is considered an inspiration to those around him. He frequently attends Nipper and Masters carnivals to support his fellow club members, and his successes on the sand can be attributed with keeping the Wanda members engaged in SLS through the challenges of the past season. Ali’s team comes first, and he is a credit to his sport.
Georgia Miller, BMD Northcliffe SLSC – QLD
Georgia has dominated the water over the past season, starting with Qld State Champs, winning eight gold medals. Georgia broke surf lifesaving records at Aussies, taking home nine gold medals, the most ever won by an individual athlete. In the 2020/21 Nutri-Grain IronWoman Series Georgia finished second overall, winning Rounds 3 and 5.
In the Summer of Surf Series Georgia’s results earned her the top ranking winning the Ironwoman. At the Oceans 38 event, Georgia finished first in the Ironwoman and surf board relay. Georgia maintained her winning streak at the Queensland Pool Champs wining both the Manikin and obstacles relays, and coming third in the 4 x 50m medley race.
Over the past season Georgia was co-patrol captain and has conducted water safety for the Juniors at Northcliffe. She patrolled above competition requirements and gives back to the surf community by attending junior training sessions to share her knowledge as well as being part of Athlete Advisory Panels when requested.
She wears her club colours with pride and always represents surf lifesaving in a positive, strong and professional manner.
Heather Standley, Darwin SLSC – NT
Heather is known in the NT as an athlete who thinks outside the square. When adversity hits, she over-comes it by taking on new challenges to maintain a competitive and rescue ready edge. Heather embraced the Rowing Australia virtual rowers’ competition and the Virtual Coolangatta Gold in 2020. Closer to home, Heather competed in her home club’s championships in both Open and Masters categories.
Heather is extremely knowledgeable about surf sports and is always willing to assist other members. Heather can always be found lending a hand with BBQ’s working bees around the club as well as being a mentor on all things surf-sport related. Heather is always happy to assist junior members of the club to develop and nurture their skills.
Sophie Watts, City of Perth SLSC – WA
Sophie has long been striving to be a top beach sprinter and over the past season, she has achieved excellence as an athlete. At the WA State Championships, Sophie claimed gold in the Open Beach Sprint for the first time, helped her team to win gold in the Open Beach Relay, and placed second in the Open Beach Flags.
This success continued at Aussies when Sophie won gold in the Open Beach sprint, her first individual medal. Sophie is also passionate about showing young athletes that no matter what limitations they may face, it is still possible to realise their dreams. At her club Sophie encourages the younger members of her running squad to train and participate in competition – sharing her knowledge and skills with them to help them improve and chase their own dreams.
Francesca Kidd, Seacliff SLSC – SA
Francesca has had a very successful season in South Australia, dominating ski, iron and Taplin races with first placing in individual and team pursuits. At Aussies, Francesca made the top ten group on two occasions amongst a very competitive field. Francesca also represented the South Australian Reds at the Super Surf Team League.
Her natural ability to lead and encourage her younger peers has earnt Francesca the South Australian Team Captain title. She always leads from the front for others to follow. She has taken on the role of Ski coach, training members from U15 to Masters, teaching technique and surf skills.
As an athlete who has represented her country, younger athletes look up to her. Francesca always makes time and passes on her knowledge by being involved in mentoring and team building sessions. She has taken on the role of Patrol Captain, and also started up the ‘Adopt A Spot Program’ which looks after the beach at Seacliff. She has been involved in the community program for Suneden Specialist School, running a surf program.
Connor van der Ploeg, Burnie SLSC – TAS
Connor successfully participated in every State carnival over the past season as the ultimate all-round competitor. Gaining successes in the 2021 Senior State Titles with 17 medals in both U19s and Open competition.
Connor was able to claim two individual Open State Titles in the Beach Flags and Beach Sprints while also claiming podium positions in the Open Taplin Relay, Beach Relay, 2km Beach Run and Mixed Lifesaver Relay. He also had considerable successes in the U19s on the sand and in the water.
Completing a stellar State Titles run, Connor was awarded the Binni Wilson Shield for Outstanding Male Competitor of the Tasmanian Senior State Championships. At Aussies 2021, Connor made three beach finals and was named a member of the senior state team.
When not training, Connor is the Burnie Nippers beach coach as well as the senior board and beach coach. Connor regularly lends a hand as Age Manager and is frequently seen at carnivals supporting the Burnie Nippers.