As is the nature of life in a pandemic, the only certainty is uncertainty and so the day of the event finally arriving is cause for celebration in itself.

This year’s event will be a celebration of triumph over adversity, as athletes, coaches, officials and administrators pulled together to ensure sport was able to continue – providing much-needed community support and mental health outlets during these unpredictable times.

The highlight of the evening will be the presentation of the 10 Blues awards – the highest honour that be bestowed upon a student-athlete.

The UNSW Blue recognises and celebrates UNSW students who have achieved the highest level of sporting excellence in their chosen sport, are of outstanding character and have contributed greatly to sport at the University.

This year’s Blues represent a range of sports – from hockey, AFL, cricket and netball to water polo, swimming and athletics – and the athletes are incredibly accomplished and hard-working.

Former Sydney Swans player Dean Towers will receive his Blue at the ceremony after graduating with a Bachelor of Exercise Physiology earlier this year.

During his time at UNSW, Towers has been an integral member of the UNSW-Eastern Suburbs Bulldogs AFL Club, spending two years as head coach of the club and securing a premiership in his first season at the helm.

Brandon Jack and Dean Towers at their graduation

Former Sydney Swans player Dean Towers (right) has flourished at UNSW in his life after professional sport. Photo: UNSW Sport


Towers is now working full-time as an exercise physiologist and is grateful to UNSW for the excellent education he received.

“I feel like the uni has really prepared me quite well to step straight into the role that I'm trained to do and make an impact straightaway,” he said.

“The credit goes to all the great staff that the University employs, because their passion for teaching their subjects and passing on their experiences in the field that I'm going into has really helped me develop into the ready-made EP that I am.”

Also receiving a Blue at the ceremony will be GIANTS Netball athlete Matilda McDonell, who this year cemented a starting seven role at the Suncorp Super Netball Club.

McDonell is widely recognised as an emerging star of the Australian netball scene – gaining selection in the Australian Under 21 team in 2021 and the Australian Diamonds Development Squad in 2022.

For McDonell, studying and playing professional sport in tandem is an incredibly important part of her journey.

“I think it’s really important to balance study with sport – there are a lot of studies about mind and body working together, so it’s always been important to me to study really hard and get a job as well as an athletic career,” she said.

Also presented at the ceremony will be a number of UNSW Sport Awards, including the female and male athlete of the year, coach, team and club of the year and the prestigious Alex Blackwell Award – for someone who is living the values of the Active Women Strategy.

The UNSW Blues Dinner and Sport Awards will be held at the Royal Randwick Racecourse on Friday 29 July.

Matilda McDonell on stage with Dr Marjorie O'Neill and Professor Rorden Wilkinson

GIANTS Netball star Matilda McDonell (centre) was UNSW's Female Athlete of the Year for 2020 and will receive a UNSW Blue at this week's awards ceremony. Photo: UNSW Sport