The Western Region Academy of Sport (WRAS) held its annual presentation evening at Panthers Bathurst on Saturday 13 August 2022.  With just under 350 guests in attendance, the evening celebrated graduating athletes from the 2021/22 WRAS programs whilst recognising their extensive sporting achievements over the past 12 months.

The WRAS award categories for the presentation evening included; Strength & Conditioning, Coach’s Award, Outstanding Achievement by an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander, Chairman’s Nominee’s for Excellence and the Squad Athlete of the Year for each program.

Athletes nominated for the Chairman’s award would be considered for the major award; the 2022 WRAS Chairmans Award for Excellence. The athlete of the year for each sport program would be in contention for the most prestigious WRAS award; 2022 WRAS Athlete of the Year.

Alesha Bennetts (Lone Star – Athletics) of Mudgee was awarded the major award, 2022 WRAS Athlete of the Year.

Alesha had an amazing 12 months on the athletics track that saw her succeed at every level of competition. Bennetts made a commanding start to her season winning three golds at the Little Athletics Regional Championships. At the NSW Junior State Carnival, Alesha claimed gold in the 400m hurdles and silver in the 400m sprint. These results saw her selected to race for NSW at the National Athletics Championships where she again won gold in the 400m sprint and 400m hurdles. Alesha capped off a stellar season with two gold medals again in the 400m hurdles and 4x400m hurdles relay at the Oceania Athletics Championships.

Aaron Houston (Para-Sports – Athletics) was announced as the 2022 WRAS Athlete of the Year runner-up.

Aaron had a host of impressive results in the 2021/22 athletics season that has seen him finish the year ranked number one nationally in his classification for 5km. Throughout the year Houston claimed two state titles in the U20s para men’s 800m & 1500m events. While he secured the national U20s para men’s crown in the 1500m at the Australian Athletics Championships. Houston was also selected to represent the Regional Australia team in the 1500m and 5000m at the Oceania Athletics Championships.

The Chairman’s Award for Excellence was presented to Cycling’s, Xavier Bland of Orange. Xavier was a consistent performer for the WRAS Cycling Squad this year balancing his sporting commitments with a very challenging HSC study load and part-time work. Xavier won 7 medals at the NSW Track championships which earnt him selection to represent NSW at the 2022 National Road Track Championships where he won gold in the team sprint and bronze in both the time trial and individual sprint. Xavier is also a dedicated and engaged member of his school (James Sheehan High School) and the Orange Cycling Club communities.

This year saw the introduction of the WRAS Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Award. This award was presented to an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander athlete within the WRAS sports programs who demonstrated outstanding sporting achievement and success within their sport.

Millie Sutcliffe (Basketball) from Dubbo was also announced as the inaugural recipient after compiling an incredible list of achievements over the past 12 months. Millie was selected into the Junior NBA camp prior to the National Indigenous Basketball Tournament, where she captained and represented NSW. At the conclusion of that tournament Sutcliffe was named in the All-Star 5. Sutcliffe was also a part of the U16s Basketball NSW State Performance Program and the U16s WRAS girls’ side that won gold at the 2022 Academy Games.

The Squad Athletes of the Year (highest achievers in their sport) were:

Basketball                                                   Roxy George (Bathurst)

Cycling                                                        Ebony Robinson (O’Connell)

Golf                                                              Jacob Lamb (Bathurst)

Hockey                                                         Addison Chapman (Orange)

Netball                                                         Hallie Wolfenden (Cowra)

Lone Star                                                     Alesha Bennetts (Mudgee)

Para-Sports                                                 Aaron Houston (Bruinbun)

Triathlon                                                      Halle Potter (Mudgee)

Alesha Bennetts (Lone Star) won the major award – 2022 WRAS Athlete of the Year with Aaron Houston (Para-Sports) named as runner-up.


The Coach’s Award recipients (for the most dedicated or improved athlete) were:

Basketball Junior Development               Jazzy Gordon (Dubbo)

Basketball Senior (joint winners)             Jai Simcoe (Lithgow) & Millie Sutcliffe (Dubbo)

Basketball Graduates                                Lara Winterton (Dubbo)

Golf                                                              Jake Davis (Bathurst)

Hockey                                                        Jordan Moody (Parkes)

Netball                                                         Hannah-Lee Williams (Bathurst)


The Chairman’s Nominee’s for Excellence recipients were:

Basketball                                                   Josh Bywater (Dubbo)

Cycling                                                        Xavier Bland (Orange)

Hockey                                                        Ruben Martin-Clark (Bathurst)

Lone Star                                                     Alex Kinghorne (Blayney)

Netball                                                         Bronte Cullen-Ward (Bathurst)

Triathlon                                                      Emily Bennett (Bathurst)

The 2022 Chairman’s Award for Excellence was won by Xavier Bland.


Outstanding achievement by an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander athlete:

Millie Sutcliffe (Dubbo)


The Strength and Conditioning Award recipients (for the most dedicated or improved athlete in S&C sessions) were:

Basketball                                                   Millie Sutcliffe (Dubbo)

Golf                                                              Cooper Starkey (Bathurst)

Hockey                                                        Meg Turner (Parkes)

Hockey                                                        Amelia Heath (Orange)

Para-sports                                                 Aaron Houston (Bathurst)

Triathlon                                                      Riley Taylor (Spring Flat)