The Riverina is renowned for producing top class sports men and women and 2023 was no different. Take a look at what made sporting news throughout the year – you will never guess what was number one!
Footy is big business in Australia and it’s true that there are big dollars to be made, but when it comes to funding footy at a grassroots level, things can get complex and remarkably inventive.
Some country town footy teams in the Riverina have wage bills as high as $200,000, with top players earning more from kicking a ball than in their full-time jobs, while others maintain it’s all about “pride in the guernsey”.
Wagga’s Wani Gwada is one step closer to attaining his dream of becoming a professional basketball player.
The 19-year-old will attend Florida Sports Academy, where he will play in the Post High School Basketball Association for the academy.
He will play against other prep schools, post-grads, and even colleges, and be hoping to receive a scholarship to attend college for free.
The ‘Indigo Epic Trail’ stretches 56 km between the historic bustling villages of Yackandandah and Beechworth, the town known for its iconic cobblestone roundabouts and the famous Beechworth Bakery.
This awesome mountain biking trail takes riders through a series of diverse landscapes and can be an all-day adventure or an enjoyable couple of hours depending on which loops you choose.
Wagga mountain biker Josef Winkler takes us for a trip along one of his favourite rides in the region.
Griffith Basketball Association’s Timeeka Coleman will tour the USA with an elite squad later this year, after a successful stint as NSW Country captain in the national basketball championships. It will bring her a step closer to what she calls her “crazy dream”.
Griffith’s Abby Favell has been chosen in the five-woman Geelong Cats Victorian Football League Women’s (VFLW) leadership group in her debut season with the club.
The 20-year-old’s achievement is remarkable given how little top-class Aussie rules she has played. Her early career was hampered by the lack of a regular Aussie rules girls’ team in Griffith, while over the past few seasons, COVID and injury have disrupted her playing schedule.
Gundagai’s Indiana Cooper has overcome the Caribbean heat and humidity to win silver at the Youth Commonwealth Games.
The local sprinter ran a fantastic time of 14.01 seconds in the 100m final of the T-38 classification of the games, running a valiant second to English runner, Maddie Down.
Wagga Kangaroos RLFC captain-coach Nathan Rose is one of Group 9’s leading playmakers with an impressive record in the Riverina. Read about some of the things that make him tick.
A teenage product of Barellan Central School has won the Griffith Tennis Club MIA Open main ladies’ event with a string of perfect 6-0 sets. The tournament also featured an incredible 19 members of one family with deep connections to the club, as well as a few celebrity guests.
Daniel Foley made the move back to his hometown of Junee this season after finishing the 2022 rugby league season by winning the Wagga Kangaroos’ Best and Fairest Award.
A proud rugby league town boasting names such as former Canberra, NSW and Australian icon Laurie Daley and NRL Hall of Fame commentator the great Ray ‘Rabbits’ Warren, Junee was unable to field a first grade team for two seasons after COVID-19.
The time away from Junee during that hiatus didn’t hurt Foley’s football at all, starting with a season at Wagga crosstown rivals Southcity Bulls, before a shining season with the Roos.
Griffith junior soccer star Natasha Stradiotto has been selected for the NSW Country team to compete in the upcoming Girls’ National Youth Championship in October, after successfully representing her state at an international tournament in Japan.
The 15-year-old, who grew up in Hanwood, played for a junior NSW side at the Balcom BMW Cup in the Asian country.
Coached by her mum, a Murrumbidgee Regional High School and Griffith Blacks Rugby junior star has won a Riverina championship, played as the only girl in a boys team and now been selected into an elite sports program in Canberra.
Reese Vidler has now been accepted into Erindale College’s talented sports program in Canberra.
Braydon Sharrock is a barnstorming veteran front-rower for the Wagga Kangaroos in Group 9 Rugby League and has been a fixture of the competition for more than a decade.
Big ‘Braydo’ is also a serving NSW police officer who has represented the boys in blue in footy at an international level, making his debut for the Australian Police team and scoring a try against a New Zealand side in Melbourne in 2014.
Binya teenager Harry Rowston had a near-dream start to his AFL career, narrowly missing a goal with his first touch of the ball in his big league AFL debut for the Greater Western Sydney (GWS) Giants against the West Coast Eagles in Perth.
After making the starting lineup in jumper number 24, vacated by retired legend Matt de Boer, midfielder Rowston secured his first possession in the seventh minute, taking a difficult angled shot from 40 metres out that shaded the left-hand upright for a one-point behind.
Up-and-coming Wagga boxer Daniel Jeffries and his trainer (and uncle) Wilfred Williams have a unique way of communicating when things are heating up in the ring.
“We’re both really passionate and we do communicate a lot throughout the fight and we actually speak in Wiradjuri language,” said the 25-year-old fighter.
“I guess I take it for granted because I hear it all the time from Uncle Will, but when I think about it, it’s pretty powerful that cultural connection I have with my coach.”
Sports trainers Craig and Kay Makeham have been looking after the Gundagai Tigers players at junior and senior levels for a combined total of 45 years. The community-minded locals are among a strong band of volunteers who work tirelessly to help the Group 9 Rugby League club achieve on-field success.
The Tigers are a community sports club with a proud history that dates back to 1921. They have become one of the most successful Group 9 Rugby League clubs of the 21st century, with a wide following that stretches way beyond the banks of the Murrumbidgee.
Griffith dancer Lara Salvestro made her debut as a topflight cheerleader for NRL club the Sydney Roosters on 11 March, featuring in their round two match against the New Zealand Warriors at Allianz Stadium.
Lara, 21, who plied her trade at Shannon Dance Studio for more than a decade, said the selection process was like nothing she’d ever experienced.
“Cheerleading is such a cutthroat industry,” she said. “You’re a big fish in a small pond when dancing in Griffith. But in Sydney there is so much competition … I had to go through three rounds of auditions.”