The UNSW Sports Gala Dinner for 2023 was held on Friday at the Royal Randwick Racecourse Grand Ballroom to celebrate the year that was for athletes, teams, clubs, volunteers and club administrators. For the first time this year the Sports Awards were split from the newly donned Vice-Chancellor’s Blues Awards which will be held as a stand-alone event on Thursday, 22nd February 2024.

The night kicked off at the Theatre of the Horse Area for pre-dinner drinks, with over 300 guests attending on the night including our Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Attila Brungs, Deputy Vice Chancellor Education and Student Experience Professor Sarah Maddison and Deputy Vice-Chancellor Academic Quality Professor Merlin Crossley.

Theatre of the Horse - guests arriving for pre-drinner drinks
Theatre of the Horse - guests arriving for pre-drinner drinks

There were over 140 nominations for 17 awards with the top award of the night, Club of the Year, taken out by the UNSW Football Club for an incredible 12 months winning the following with also multiple individual player awards:
Women's Teams:
Undefeated premiers in FNSW League One Women's First Grade and u/20s.
Promoted to FNSW Women's National Premier League.

Men's Teams:
Premiers in FNSW National Premier League Two Men's First Grade.
Promoted to FNSW National Premier League One.

The night kicked off with opening remarks from our MC Stephanie Brantz with a beautiful speech and acknowledgement of country performed by Riley Brown a Nura Gili/Indigenous Nationals Team representative. Our Head of Sport & Local Community, Mark Wright, gave thanks to our partners and celebrated the incredible success the Village Green precinct has had with 206,907 individuals using the Village Green in the first 9 months of the year.

Professor Atilla Brungs was welcomed onto the stage to reflect on the year that was, speaking on the theme of the night ‘Sense of Belonging’ and the importance sport has on not only our university life and community but also our everyday life, with a reminiscent story of his time at Oxford as a rower. The 2023 Premiership and UniSport Nationals trophies were then presented by the Vice-Chancellor and President to our clubs and individuals which was an incredible moment of reflection to see so many up on stage. 

Vice-Chancellor & President Professor Atilla Brungs with our 2023 Premership & UniNationals Winners

With seven new awards this year including Pride Award, Sport initiative of the Year and Medibank International Student Sport Award there were some incredible nominees and winners this year. Our rowing club taking home the sport initiative of the year with the ‘Learn to Row’ novice program which has been a massive success. It was also great to see our UNSW Beach Open Safe Program facilitated by UNSW Health Promotions in partnership with MEDIBANK International being highlighted on the night. MEDIBANK International sponsored the International Student Sport Award with Nimish Ukey taking home the trophy who shared an incredible story not knowing how to swim only 18 months ago to now being a fully accredited swim instructor which had Professor Merlin Crossley standing out of his seat in amazement at this incredible story.

Nimish Ukey telling his story of not knowing how to swim 18 months ago to now being an accredited swim instructor
Nimish Ukey telling his story of not knowing how to swim 18 months ago to now being an accredited swim instructor

After the dinner service, we recognised the Raiders Gridiron club for celebrating their 40th anniversary this year with 10 years for their women’s side and also our 2023 World University Games athletes: Aedyn Pratley – Fencing (Epee), Georgia Winkcup – Women’s 3000m Steeplechase, Katherine Wang – Women’s Fencing (Epee), Markus Kuhrau – Archery and Ryan Lee – Taekwondo. 

Stephanie Brantz then called on some wonderful guests on stage for a Q&A session around sport and the ‘Sense of Belonging’. The 3 panellists were Emily Thomson a proud Wiradjuri woman/Nura Gili representative/Indigenous National Team captain and a fifth year medicine student, Hayley Bullas a Sydney Swans AFLW player who also works with UNSW Sport as an elite athlete administration support who moved across the country at the start of the year after being traded from the West Coast Eagles but is unfortunately out this season with an ACL injury, and Clark Hazlett who plays for the UNSW Raiders as quarterback who moved to Sydney 4 months ago and has played all over the world including Mexico and Europe. He is also an aspiring country music singer and is looking forward to someday coming back to Australia one day to kick off his country music career. All 3 speakers talking about how crucial sport is to everyday life and being able to feel that sense of belonging to something bigger than sport – all mentioning their clubs as like families to them.

Our Panelists:  Hayley Bullas - Clark Hazlett - Emily Thomson

We also recognised our Doug Crawford Sports Recognition Award recipients, awarded to club members for their continuous outstanding contributions to sport at UNSW with a massive 15 in total (full list below). Another highlight of the night was the awarding of the inaugural City of Sydney Basketball Leadership Award which was awarded to Eleanor Pinkerton for her contributions to the sport of basketball within the UNSW community which was a pleasant surprise to her and also her table who won the unofficial prize of ‘loudest of the night’.

Some fantastic award winners on the night with UNSWFC taking home the Club and Team(U20’s Football NSW League One Women) of the Year awards to conclude the evening. Vice-Chancellor and President Attila Brungs with his final speech before announcing Club of the year reflected on the night calling the Sports Awards Gala Dinner the ‘hottest ticket of the year’ and that this night went far beyond the incredible sporting achievements but rather “Generosity. Generoristy of people to do things together. The generosity of all people here and working with UNSW Sport. The volunteers, the clubs, the coaches and looking after each other. The generosity is what I see tonight.. and that makes me really proud.”

UNSW FC: Club of the Year

UNSW Sport would like to say thank you to Arc Sport for their tireless efforts supporting the clubs and precincts of UNSW, student sport and their always inclusive initiatives. The Australian Turf Club for hosting us for the evening and creating an incredible ballroom and theatre of the horse area for over 300 of our guests. Medibank International for their sponsorship of our international student award and collaboration with UNSW Health Promotions on the Beach Open Safe Program initiative. We would also like to extend our thanks to our partners, Sydney Swans, NSW Waratahs, Sydney FC, Randwick Rugby, Sydney Swifts, ClubLinks, Sport NSW, NSW Office of Sport, Pride in Sport, and South Cares for supporting us not only on the evening but for the last 12 months.

We look forward to doing this all again next year! But don’t forget to vote for The Vice-Chancellors Blues Awards which will be held on February 22, 2024. 


Full list of winners (alphabetical order):

Academic Excellence Award – Tamsin Colley (Football/Cross Country)
Alex Blackwell Award – Eleanor Pinkerton (Basketball)
Arc Sport Student Life Award (formerly Community Sports Award) – Outdoors Club
Club of the Year – UNSW FC 
Coach of the Year – Liam Dixon (Hockey)
College Sports Award – Sophie Kennedy (Basser College)

Doug Crawford Sports Recognition Award - Andrew Brundu (Gridiron), Ben Maslen (Underwater Rugby), Corinne Rochester (Hockey), Curtis Ly (Ultimate Frisbee), David Mekler-Peled (Handball), Edward Mackey (Rugby), Ellen Rowles (Waterski & Wakeboard), Fiona Pak Poy (Hockey), Janina Veri (Waterski & Wakeboard), John Forster (Hockey), Nick Apoifis (Football), Nicole Viney (Netball), Peter Croucher (Football), Rachelle Hofbauer (Football), Tim Sanderson (Rugby).
Female Student Athlete of the Year – Sophie Fawns (Netball)
Indigenous Sport Award – Emily Thomson (Touch Football)
Male Student Athlete of the Year – Mark Crosbee (Canoe Slalom)
MEDIBANK International Student Sport Award – Nimish Ukey
Pride Award – Netball Club
Sports Disability Award – Jamieson Leeson (Boccia)
Sport Initiative of the Year – ‘Learn to Row’ Rowing Club Novice Program
Team of the Year - UNSWFC U20’s Football NSW League One Women’s
UniSport Nationals Athlete of the Year – Jack Adams (Alpine Panelled Slalom)
UniSport Nationals Team of the Year - Taekwondo
Volunteer of the Year (formerly Sports Administrator of the Year) – Nicholas Apoifis (UNSWFC)