18 December 2023

2023 Year in Review: The local sports stories that got us talking this year

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Sport is an important part of Canberran life and over the years we’ve turned out our share of champions.

Take a look back at some of the sporting giants we lost in 2023 and some of the youngsters who have started to make their mark.

12. Vale Kevin ‘Cowboy’ Neale – a giant of the Canberra sporting community
by Tim Gavel

Man holding a trophy aloft

Kevin ‘Cowboy’ Neale lifts the 1980 ACTAFL Premiership trophy. Photo: Ainslie Football Club Facebook.

Kevin ‘Cowboy’ Neale will be rightly remembered as an AFL legend – not just in Canberra.

Neale kicked five goals in St Kilda’s 1966 VFL premiership victory over Collingwood, laying the groundwork for his status as an all-time Saints legend.

Nicknamed ‘Cowboy’ because of his bowlegs and rolling gait, he debuted in the VFL a year before in 1965. He went on to play 256 games for St Kilda, kicking 301 goals. Tim Gavel reflects on his incredible legacy and the fight to induct Cowboy into the AFL Hall of Fame.

11. Man behind the mask (or the Viking head) looks back at a 40-year career, with no plans to slow down
by Claire Sams

Tony Wood, aka, Victor the Viking

Tony Wood is the man behind the costume. Photo: Canberra Raiders.

Victor the Viking is a common sight for Raiders fans – but he has a history that is longer than you may realise.

On 9 June Queanbeyan resident Tony Wood, better known as Victor the Viking, marked 40 years of service as the Canberra Raiders’ mascot.

10. Canberra is on the crest of a cycling wave led by the sons and daughters of local sporting royalty
by Tim Gavel

Cameron Rogers cycling

Cameron Rogers builds his racing experience. Photo: John Veage.

Through the feats of Michael, Peter and Deane, the Rogers family is legendary in the sport of cycling in Canberra.

With this pedigree, it should come as no surprise to see the Rogers name continuing to be prominent in the sport through the performances of Cameron Rogers.

The son of Peter Rogers and former champion triathlete Raleigh Tennant, Cameron is part of the next wave of young cyclists coming through the ACT system.

9. More Canberrans than ever before are playing one of the most difficult sports in the world
by James Coleman

Water Polo ACT

Water Polo ACT players Emma Bryant and Lillian Hogan. Photo: James Coleman.

The Female National State Championships for water polo were held in Canberra for the first time this year. Water Polo ACT says the sport is growing “significantly” and only expects this to continue into summer. Region reporter James Coleman went along to find out what it’s all about.

8. Raiders fans are right to be gutted by Jack Wighton’s signing with Souths
by Tim Gavel

Rugby League player

Jack Wighton was closely scrutinised for the rest of his time with the Raiders. Photo: Liv Cameron.

Jack Wighton’s decision to turn his back on the Raiders and sign with South Sydney raised more questions than it answered.

The four-year $4.4 million deal offered by the Raiders was the biggest in the club’s history.

Instead of taking this offering, Wighton signed with the Rabbitohs for less.

7. Build it and they will come: local sport is taking off in the capital
by Tim Gavel

Part of the crowd at the Lyneham Hockey Centre in October 2023 to watch the Canberra Chill. Photo: Canberra Chill Facebook.

Part of the crowd at the National Hockey Centre in October 2023 to watch the Canberra Chill. Photo: Canberra Chill Facebook.

Tim Gavel’s watched a lot of sport in Canberra but it’s been a long time – if ever – since there were crowds like this at the hockey, football and basketball. Why?

6. Canberra schoolboy has Olympics in his sights after smashing four-minute mile
by James Coleman

Cameron Myers

Cameron Myers is in year 11 at Lake Ginninderra College but in a class of his own among 16-year-old runners globally in his pet event. Photo: Cameron Myers, Facebook.

A Lake Ginninderra College student is already plotting his path to the Olympics after becoming Australia’s fastest under-20 athlete.

Cameron Myers, 16, became the second-youngest person in the world to run a mile in less than four minutes, at the Maurie Plant Classic in Melbourne this year.

He clocked an astonishing time of three minutes, 55.44 seconds at the annual track and field event on Thursday, 23 February, finishing third behind Australia’s Commonwealth Games 1500-metre champion Olli Hoare.

5. Families left stunned by Capital Football’s ‘outrageous’ decision to disband pathway to women’s elite teams
by Claire Fenwicke

CUA girl's football team in a group huddle

The decision rocked local football players. Photo: Facebook, Soccer Snaps by Sal.

Canberra’s football community was left angry and in shock after Capital Football decided to disband its development program for young girls to Canberra United.

A letter from Capital Football chair Angelo Konstantinou, seen by Region, was sent to parents, players and coaches on 26 September outlining Capital Football’s decision to “transform” the current Canberra United Academy (CUA) into a Talented Sports Program (TSP).

4. Canberra sporting community loses an absolute champion: Vale Cam Shelton
by Tim Gavel

Cam Shelton with friends from GUFC at his 18th birthday celebrations. Photo: GUFC Facebook.

Cam Shelton with friends from GUFC at his 18th birthday celebrations. Photo: GUFC Facebook.

There aren’t too many 25-year-olds who have made as much of an impact within their communities as Cam Shelton.

Cam, who lost his two-year battle with a rare bone cancer in his spine this year, spent a considerable part of his time engaging with his community – and a major component of that community was the Gungahlin United Football Club.

Cam started as a player with Gungahlin before dedicating himself to becoming a referee.

3. The Brumbies are digging in for the fight of their lives against a takeover by Rugby Australia
by Tim Gavel

The ACT Brumbies supporters and fans

The ACT Brumbies are the most successful Australian rugby franchise – will Rugby Australia take them over? Photo: Brumbies Rugby.

The 2023 World Cup was a disaster for the Wallabies, the code is on its knees in Australia and now Rugby Australia wants to take over the Brumbies! What could possibly go wrong? According to Tim Gavel, everything.

2. Raiders presentation night turns emotional as Ricky Stuart pays tribute to Wighton and Croker
by Tim Gavel

Ricky Stuart at the 2023 Raiders Presentation Night

Coach Ricky Stuart shows his emotions during his speech at the Raiders presentation night on Tuesday (5 September) as he farewells Jack Wighton and Jarrod Croker. Photo: Tim Gavel.

Ricky Stuart was halfway through his speech at the club’s presentation night when emotions took over.

Stuart, as tough a footballer as there was during his playing days, was unable to continue when he started paying tribute to departing players Jack Wighton and Jarrod Croker.

It was almost as if the reality had struck home that neither would be at the club next season.

1. Vale Dale Brede: More than a V8 Supercar driver
by Tim Gavel

Dale Brede. Photo: Facebook.

Dale Brede will be remembered as “always smiling in the eyes of so many”. Photo: Facebook.

The motor racing world has been rocked by the sudden death of former Canberra V8 Supercar driver Dale Brede on 11 July, aged 48.

In recent years Dale lived on the Gold Coast and worked as a stunt driver at Movie World after selling his business, the Canberra Motorcycle Centre in Fyshwick.

The business was effectively an extension of his love of cars and bikes. This is not surprising given his father, Campbell, built National Capital Motors into one of Canberra’s pre-eminent car dealerships.

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