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Nearly 500 volunteer lifesavers and their supporters have celebrated the most outstanding achievements during a challenging season, coming together on Saturday 26 August for the annual Surf Life Saving NSW Awards of Excellence event in Sydney.

The gala award ceremony culminated in roars of approval as the blue-chip award for the 2023 Surf Lifesaver of the Year was announced – Cheryl McCarthy from the Bermagui Surf Life Saving Club on the Far South Coast.

Cheryl’s award was the 24th and final on a night in which volunteers from clubs up and down the NSW coastline came together to recognise the achievements of 76,000 members across the state and crown a new group of award recipients.

It was the second Far South Coast success to come from the five major awards categories, after Broulee Surfers SLSC picked up the Club of the Year gong to great applause and some serious elation from the southern-most lifesavers in attendance.

Ben Bate from Narooma SLSC was also honoured as the Support Operations Member of the Year, a relatively new award acknowledging volunteer Duty Officers, call out teams, UAV and Rescue Water Craft (RWC) operators.

“What an amazing honour and so humbling to look around the room and see the number of incredible people, just to be mentioned alongside them is amazing so it’s all still sinking in,” Cheryl said moments after hearing her name read out.

“I think if you’re volunteering, you need to do it because there’s a smile on your face and because you love it and I genuinely do.”

While it was to be Cheryl’s night – a fine and worthy recognition of many years of great service – it was the Illawarra Branch that celebrated hardest earlier in the evening, picking up seven awards across five of the categories, including four alone for Bellambi SLSC.

Youth Volunteer of the Year and Youth Surf Lifesaver of the Year both fell early to Bellambi, being Halle Bone and Brody Roberston, respectively, while Jaclyn Percy scooped up the Trainer of the Year award and the Bellambi Callout Team was named the Services Team of the Year.

“Something must be going on, I don’t know what it is, but it’s awesome to see our club showing off the talent and skills we have,” Brody said.

Further highlights on the night included a double victory for Tacking Point SLSC on the Mid North Coast, with Sandra Slattery winning the Administrator of the Year category and the club’s Dippers Program – a modified Nippers learn-to-swim program for children with specific learning needs – won the Community Education Program of the Year.

Meanwhile, Dan Collins out of Redhead SLSC near Newcastle capped a magnificent season in the NutriGrain Iron series and at state and national level with the Athlete of the Year award.

The Central Coast Branch took home a fully equipped drone kit for winning Branch of the Year, thanks to the event sponsor, D1 Store – Australia’s home for DJI.

The tiny Pacific Palms SLSC on the lower north coast was suddenly thrust into the spotlight when members Jeanette and Jerrad Allen were honoured for their unwavering and selfless dedication, and the conduct of many brave rescues, with the prestigious President’s Medal.

Minister for Emergency Services, Jihad Dib congratulated all the finalists on the night and thanked the state’s volunteer lifesavers for their commitment to keeping the coastline safe.

“It’s so difficult choosing just one winner out of a group of Surf Life Saving volunteers who sacrifice their precious time to help keep our beaches safe over the swimming season,” he said.

“These awards are a great way of bringing our amazing Surf Life Saving volunteers together to celebrate them and everything they do to keep us safe while we enjoy our beautiful beaches and other waterways.”

Surf Life Saving NSW President, Peter Agnew ESM congratulated all winners on the night, and highlighted his pride at the wide representation of finalists from across all Branches.

“Another tricky season is in the bag but the field of candidates for all of the award categories highlights just how prepared we are heading into this summer; there were so many deserving recipients of these awards,” he said.

“I’m very proud to be leading an organisation that represents so many people who have no hesitation in giving up their time to protect the lives of others.”


Youth Awards

Youth Surf Lifesaver of the Year – Brody Robertson (Bellambi SLSC)

Youth Volunteer of the Year  – Halle Bone (Bellambi SLSC)

Youth Athlete of the Year – Conner Maggs (Newport SLSC)

Membership Awards

Innovation Award – Taking it to the Beach (Ocean Beach SLSC)

Services Team of the Year – Bellambi Call Out Team (Bellambi SLSC)

Administrator of the Year – Sandra Slattery (Tacking Point SLSC)

Education Awards

Trainer of the Year – Jaclyn Percy (Bellambi SLSC)

Assessor of the Year – Steve Westcott (Fingal Beach SLSC)

Facilitator of the Year – Phillip Carter (Maroubra SLSC)

Community Education Program of the Year – Dippers (Tacking Point SLSC)

Surf Sports Awards

Official of the Year – Rachel Soars (Merewether SLSC)

Coach of the Year – Glenn Beveridge (Wollongong City SLSC)

Masters Athlete of the Year – Nathan Foster (Kiama Downs SLSC)

Surf Sports Team of the Year – U14 Female Board Rescue (Cooks Hill SLSC)

Lifesaving Awards

Lifeguard of the Year – Mariah Jones (Tweed)

Patrol Captain of the Year – Rachelle Balez (Scarborough Wombarra SLSC)

Support Operations Members of the Year – Ben Bate (Narooma SLSC)

Rescue of the Year – Elouera SLSC and North Cronulla SLSC

Major Awards

President’s Award – Jeanette and Jerrad Allen (Pacific Palms SLSC)

Branch of the Year – Central Coast Branch

Club of the Year – Broulee Surfers SLSC

Athlete of the Year – Daniel Collins (Redhead SLSC)

Volunteer of the Year – Brigid Collaery (Coalcliff SLSC)

Surf Lifesaver of the Year – Cheryl McCarthy (Bermagui SLSC)

Sunday 27 August 2023