UNSW student Johnno Cotterill has won an Academic Excellence Award from the New South Wales Institute of Sport (NSWIS).

The second year Arts/Economics student maintained a distinction average while continuing an international career in water polo. In March, he made his debut in the senior Australian men's water polo team contesting the world championships in Melbourne.

In July, he assisted the Australian team to a bronze medal in the World League finals in Berlin.

He captained the Australian Junior Men's team in the Junior World Championships in California in August. It was at this event that he was selected for the 'World All-Star Team' - the only Australian to be a part of it.

The 20 year-old wasn't able to pick up the NSWIS award in person - he was in New Zealand, helping the Oceania team qualify for the Beijing Olympics.

"Johnno is a committed athlete and student, and is a fine example of an athlete being able to combine and balance his elite sport and academic commitments," said Helen Bryson from UNSW Sport and Recreation. "We congratulate him on this fantastic achievement.

"Thanks must also go to the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences and the Australian School of Business for their support in allowing Johnno to continue with his studies while competing and training both interstate and overseas," she said.

Johnno won't be putting his feet up over the break either. He's currently playing in the professional league in Barcelona, in preparation for the Olympics this year.