Long-serving Sydney University Boat Club supporter Chris Noel won the Service to Sport Award at the recent Australian University Sport presentations for 2007. The award caps off a memorable year for Mr Noel, who was made an Honorary Fellow of the University in May for his services to sport, particularly rowing, at the University.
An economic graduate and University Blue in Boat, Mr Noel became President of the Sydney University Boat Club in 1987. At the time the club had less than a dozen active rowers, obsolete equipment and was struggling to compete in local competition. His efforts led to rebuilding of the Club and its facilities for which he received a University Colour award (now Gold award) in 1990.
The Boat Club now boasts one of the best performing and most successful elite rowing programs in the country and is unquestionably the most successful university club in Australia. Sydney University fielded 17 rowers and two coaches at the 2007 Senior World Cup and Under-23 World Championships, the highest ever representation by Sydney University at the international level.
Mr Noel was elected a Vice-President of the Sydney University Sports Union, now Sydney University Sport, in 1991 and later became a representative of the University Senate on the Management Committee of the same group.
He played a key role in the redevelopment of the Noel Martin Recreation Centre, founded the Sydney University Rowing Foundation in 2005 and was a driving force behind the highly successful Sydney University sporting scholarships scheme.
One of those scholarship holders, netballer Susan Pratley, was nominated for the Most Outstanding Sporting Achievement award at the AUS Sports Awards
A member of the Australian team that recently defeated New Zealand to reclaim the World Championship, Pratley was one of four finalists along with Sean Wroe (Sydney University of SUT – athletics), Alice McNamara (Melbourne – rowing) and Annabelle Williams (Bond EAD – swimming).
Another sports scholarship holder, hurdler Justin Merlino, was nominated for the Male Athlete of the Year award after winning the 110m hurdles title at the 85th Australian Athletics Championships at QEII Stadium, Brisbane.
Merlino set a personal best time of 13.55s to become the second fastest Australian over the 110m hurdles, behind 1996 Atlanta Olympic finalist, Kyle Vander-Kuyp, who set the Australian benchmark of 13.29s at the 1995 World Championships.
He was up against Sean Wroe, Joshua Robinson (Queensland – athletics) and Grant McNamara (Melbourne – rowing) for the award.
And the Sydney University Boat Club was nominated for Team of the Year award, Mick Somers (Soccer) for the Coach of the Year Award, while University of Technology, Sydney, student, Georgia Woodyard, who plays for the ACUVUE Sydney Uni Flames, was the joint winner of Female Athlete of the Year award.