St. John’s, NL – Sport Newfoundland and Labrador is honoured to announce the 2017 Provincial Annual Awards finalists. The awards will be presented during the Stars and Legends Awards Gala on April 8, 2017 at the Sheraton Hotel Newfoundland in St. John’s.

“The provincial awards celebrate the sporting accomplishments of Newfoundland and Labrador’s incredible athletes,” said Doug Fowler, President of Sport Newfoundland and Labrador. “We are delighted to recognize the many athletes, coaches, teams and individuals who continue to advance amateur sport in our province and showcase our talents to the world.”

Sport Newfoundland and Labrador’s Provincial Annual Awards recognize the best athletic achievements of 2016. Awards are presented in nine categories, including: Senior Female and Male Athlete of the Year; Junior Female and Male Athlete of the Year; Executive of the Year; Volunteer of the Year; Coach of the Year; Team of the Year; and, Official of the Year.

Three finalists from each category have been selected by Sport Newfoundland and Labrador’s selection committee, from a list of nominees compiled by 18 member organizations across the province. The 2017 list of finalists includes (complete biographies for finalists follow below):

  • Senior Female Athlete of the Year Award:

Sarah Davis (hockey), Jillian Forsey (athletics), Heather Healey (baseball),


  • Senior Male Athlete of the Year Award:

Blair Bursey (golf), Sean Cleary (softball), Patrick Parfrey (rugby)


  • Junior Female Athlete of the Year Award:

Camryn Bonia (athletics), Alex Murphy (soccer), Sarah Pace (gymnastics)


  • Junior Male Athlete of the Year Award:

Nathaniel Besso (karate), Liam Hickey (para-sport), Evan Knight (athletics)


  • Executive of the Year Award:

John Cowan (rugby), David Janes (baseball), Paul F. Smith (softball),


  • Volunteer of the Year Award:

Shane Dunphy (soccer), Brian Hunt (baseball), Denise May (gymnastics)


  • Coach of the Year Award:

Jennifer Stender (athletics), Noel Strapp (wrestling), Dave Woolridge (shooting)


  • Team of the Year Award:

Galway Hitmen (softball), Team Gushue (curling), Willingdon Cup Team NL (golf)


  • Official of the Year Award:

Ryan Garland (baseball), Iain Hollett (ball hockey), Shannon Tobin (soccer)


The 2017 award recipients will be announced at the ninth annual Stars and Legends Awards Gala on April 8, 2017 at 7 p.m. The Newfoundland and Labrador Sports Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony will take place at the awards gala as well. Tickets for this event are available for purchase through Sport Newfoundland and Labrador at (709) 576-4932.

“Through our annual Stars and Legends Awards Gala, Sport Newfoundland and Labrador strives to preserve the legacy of our province’s best athletes and showcase what can be accomplished through hard work, dedication and passion for sport,” said Fowler.

Sport Newfoundland and Labrador is the volunteer organization committed to the promotion and advancement of amateur sport throughout the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. Sport Newfoundland and Labrador represents 58 provincial sport organizations and more than 70,000 individual members, offering a broad range of programs and services.




For more information contact:

Troy Croft

Executive Director, Sport Newfoundland and Labrador



2017 Provincial Annual Awards Finalists Biographies

Senior Female Athlete of the Year – Elizabeth Swan Memorial Award


Paradise’s Sarah Davis was the first woman from this province to be selected to a National Women’s Hockey Team. With Team Canada she was part of second place finishes at both the 4 Nations Cup and the World Championships. Sarah is also the first woman from the province to have won the Clarkson Cup, achieving the feat in 2016 with the Calgary Inferno in the elite Canadian Women’s Hockey League. Sarah’s accomplishments continue to solidify her position as a high-profile role model for aspiring hockey players in the province.


Hailing from Kippens on the west coast, Jillian Forsey is a rising star on the international athletics scene. Sidelined with an injury for most of 2015, Jillian returned to much success on the track in 2016. While maintaining her spot on the Dean’s List for academics, she focused on her 5000 metre performance, starting the year with a seventh place finish at the NCAA Big 12 Meet in Iowa. Her indoor time of 16:35 was the fastest ever recorded by a female from this province and ranked her fifth in Canada. Strong performances continued throughout the year including two Silvers and a Gold at meets south of the border, Jillian earned a spot at the NACAC and World IAFF Championships.


2016 highlights for baseball’s Heather Healey from Paradise included competing at Baseball Canada’s Senior Women’s Nationals and at three international events. Selected to the U20 team for the International Cup in the Dominican Republic, she was the starting pitcher in the championship game and was credited with the win, helping Canada claim the championship. Heather’s strong performance at the Senior Nationals led to her being named to the Senior Women’s National Team competing at the World Cup in Korea. As a starting pitcher she pitched 3 ⅓ innings and helped the team to Canada’s best-ever second place finish for the Silver medal.


Senior Male Athlete of the Year- Ferd Hayward Memorial Award


Blair Bursey is a member of the Gander Golf Club and the Utah Valley University Golf Team. During the 2016 season he accumulated a total of 17,750 points on the Golf Newfoundland Labrador’s Order of Merit to be named the Male Amateur Golfer of the Year. In 2016, Blair won the Provincial Men’s Amateur Championship for the second consecutive year and after leading for the first three days at the Canadian National Amateur Championships, finished the competition tied for fifth place. Blair was also the captain of Team NL that won the 2016 National Willingdon Cup Inter-provincial Team Championship. Through 2016, Blair competed in a total of 18 competitions including 12 university events, three state and three provincial/national competitions. In 18n events, he won two championships including the Bandon Dunes NCAA Championship, Individual Medalist Honors, placed in the top five at seven events and finished in the top 10 on 11 occasions. 

SEAN CLEARY – Softball

Harbour Main native Sean Cleary enjoyed another successful season on the softball diamond in 2016. In the St. John’s Senior Men’s Fastpitch League, Sean finished the regular season with the lowest earned run average (1.82), became the seventh pitcher in senior league history to record 1500 career strikeouts, tossed his second career senior league no-hitter, led his Kelly’s Pub Molson Bulldogs to their fourth consecutive senior league title, was named playoff MVP for the fourth consecutive year and was named the senior league player of the month in September. As a member of the Galway Hitmen, Sean captured his fifth consecutive Canadian Senior Men’s National title, was named top pitcher of the qualifying round and was named top player (playoff MVP) of the championship round for the third consecutive year. Sean and his teammates made history becoming the first team/province to win five consecutive (2012-2016) Canadian Senior Men’s National crowns. Sean finished 2016 with a 36-6 Record, 1.57 Earned Run Average, 568 Strikeouts, seven shutouts and one No-Hitter in 285.2 Innings Pitched.


Rugby player Patrick Parfrey of St. John’s is continuing to excel at the local, provincial, national and international levels. In 2016 Patrick led the Swilers Rugby Football Club to win the Senior Men’s A division and Charron Cup. Patrick also played a critical role on the Rock Rugby Senior Team, which won gold at the Atlantics. Nationally, Patrick and the Atlantic Rock Senior Team had a strong third place finish at the regional Canadian Rugby Championships. He also represented Canada at a number of international events and earned the title of Man of the Match in one of those matches.


Junior Female Athlete of the Year- Margaret Davis Memorial Award

CAMRYN BONIA – Athletics

A Grade 9 student from MacDonald Drive Junior High, Camryn Bonia has represented the province nationally in both soccer and athletics. She played on the U14 soccer team finishing fourth at Nationals in Moncton and ran a personal best for first place in the 800 metre at the Hershey Indoor Nationals in Montreal. Camryn also set a provincial record in the 800 metre with both these performances as an underage athlete in the Youth Category. She was voted top Female Athlete at Pearlgate Track and Field for the third year in a row.


Soccer player Alex Murphy from St. John’s is a Grade 11 student at Waterford Valley High School. She led her Provincial U16 team in scoring while helping the team to a Silver medal at the Atlantic Championships. Training with TeamNL Canada Games Soccer, she has been identified by Soccer Canada as a player to watch for the National U15 team. Alex’s technical ability and understanding of the game has allowed her to move up to U16 and U18 competition, giving her the opportunity to participate in the National U18 Championships.

SARAH PACE – Gymnastics

Competing in Gymnastics for only five years, Sarah Pace has made great progress towards national representation. Named to the Provincial team, Sarah achieved personal best performances on Floor Exercise and the Uneven Bars at National Finals. At Easterns, she earned two individual Bronze and an all-around sixth place finish. She was named the 2016 Gymnastics NL Female Athlete of the Year.


Junior Male Athlete of the Year- Joseph P. Mullins Memorial Award


A graduate of Holy Heart, MUN student Nathaniel Besso achieved his Black Belt in Karate in 2014 at the young age of 16. A 2016 competition took him around the world with a third place Senior finish at the US Open in Las Vegas, a top-10 Senior finish at the Premier League in Austria, a Bronze medal at both the U21 Youth Cup in Croatia and the Pan American U21s in Ecuador. At the 2016 National Karate Championships he secured four medals and received the National Junior Male Sportsmanship Award. Nathaniel’s four consecutive years of medaling at Nationals has earned him a spot on both the Junior and Senior National Karate teams, while his 2016 performances have him currently ranked sixth in the world in the U21 60kg division by the World Karate Federation.


Hailing from St. John’s and a graduate of O’Donel High, Liam Hickey’s highlight last year was representing our province and country in the sport of Wheelchair Basketball at the Rio Paralympic Games. He also participated in the World Sledge Hockey Challenge and was awarded St. John’s Male Athlete of the Year. Liam was named to the Junior and Senior National Wheelchair Basketball Teams, and the Men’s National Sledge Hockey Team, a first on both counts for an athlete from this province. 

EVAN KNIGHT – Athletics

A grade 10 student at Gonzaga active in athletics and soccer, Evan Knight displayed a level of talent and leadership in 2016 that turned heads across the country. He won three age group medals at Legion National Track & Field Championships, setting three Provincial records, and was named the top Team NL athlete on the provincial team. At Atlantics, he secured first place for Gold in each of his four events. And back home, he finished with Gold at the Newfoundland and Labrador Summer Games in Conception Bay South, the NLAA Junior and Age Class Championships, the Provincial Championships and several NLAA road races, including the Huffin’ Puffin Marathon Team Relay. Evan has also earned a spot on the Team NL Canada Games Soccer team being held in Winnipeg this summer and was on the Silver medal U15 team at the Atlantic Soccer Championships.


Executive of the Year- Graham Snow Memorial Award



Newfoundland Rugby Union president, John Cowan has had a successful year growing rugby across the province. From grassroots programs to hosting international games, Cowan worked diligently to ensure the proper rules and regulations are implemented in games, tournaments and championships. John has successfully developed the sport by introducing Flag Rugby to schools when he provided kits so all children would have the opportunity to try the game. He was successful in attaining grant funding used to purchase Rookie Rugby kits and introduced programs to local clubs. As the voice for Newfoundland and Labrador at the National level, he is a true advocate for the game and ensuring the programs allow as many young athletes to compete at the age-grade levels as possible. John was one of the key components ensuring that the Age-Grade Rugby Canada National Festival is making a return this year as a provincial competition increasing the number of players from our province. 

DAVID JANES – Baseball

David Janes of Grand Falls Windsor has served countless roles and duties in 2016 with Grand Falls Windsor Minor Baseball, including the role of President. Under Dave’s guidance, registration numbers have grown to levels not seen in many years. Through his hard work and commitment to the sport, Grand Falls Minor Baseball has been able to embark on a five-year plan with the town that will help make the Goodyear Avenue Complex ready for national competition. Dave also served on a committee that helped create a new scholarship fund that will be awarded to athletes to help further their education. In 2016, he was also responsible for hosting and organizing a Toronto Blue Jays Honda Super Clinic, which is a two-day skills development camp hosted by team alumni. The development of Girls Baseball was another accomplishment for Dave in 2016, as they had over 100 girls registered to play baseball and were able to send teams to all three Girls provincial baseball championships in 2016. On the provincial level, Dave serves on the Baseball Newfoundland and Labrador Executive in the role of Central Director. 

PAUL F. SMITH – Softball

Paul F. Smith went above and beyond his role as President of Softball Newfoundland and Labrador in 2016. He chaired Board meetings, the Annual General Meeting, represented Softball Newfoundland and Labrador at the Softball Canada Annual General Meeting, filled in as Umpire in Chief in an acting capacity and was involved with the day-to-day operations of the organization. He has spent countless hours on softball related issues including the hiring of office staff for the summer months, drafting schedules for provincial tournaments, filling in to umpire when called upon, answering calls and emails from minor and adult associations, serving on several committees including the Moss Tournament Committee, the Hall of Fame Committee, and the Host Committee for The Canadian Senior Men’s Fastpitch Championships, along with many other tasks throughout the year. Paul is a dedicated and hard working individual whose energy and commitment contributes to the development of the sport of softball in Newfoundland and Labrador.


Volunteer of the Year- Frank W. Graham Memorial Award 


In 2016, Shane Dunphy of Marystown took on many roles and wore many hats while promoting the sport of soccer in his home region and throughout the province. Dunphy had an extremely busy year in 2016 having worked with the Newfoundland and Labrador Soccer Association and the Burin Peninsula Soccer Association at the executive, manager and director levels. He was chairman of the Burin Peninsula Soccer Association Hall of Fame Committee; Assistant Coach for the 2017 Men’s Canada Games Team; Regional Technical Director for the Burin Peninsula Soccer Association; High School 4A Soccer Convener; and, Newfoundland and Labrador Soccer Association Referee and Assistant Referee at the senior, youth and high school levels. Dunphy devoted himself to volunteering and the sport of soccer benefited from his dedication.

BRIAN HUNT – Baseball

Brian Hunt is heavily involved with Mount Pearl Minor Baseball serving as their President in 2016. He truly is the face of Minor Baseball in Mount Pearl through his dedication and leadership. One of his largest tasks was the hosting of a 31-team tournament with teams from all over the province competing in the 11U, 13U and 15U categories.  Mount Pearl Minor Baseball through Brian’s dedication and hard work was selected to host one of only 14 Toronto Blue Jays Academy Camps in Canada. In addition he also organized and provided support to the Toronto Blue Jays Challenger Baseball Day, which provides an opportunity for children with cognitive or physical disabilities to enjoy the thrill of playing baseball and being part of a team. Brian was also instrumental in the hosting of the 13U National Atlantic Championships and as usual, it was a great success due to his efforts.

DENISE MAY – Gymnastics

Denise May, President of Saltos Gymnastics, continues to be the driving force behind the club. Denise has continued to ensure gymnastics thrives on the west coast following the opening of Saltos full-time facility in July of 2015. With no full-time staff, Denise personally took on the volunteer role of Executive Director. She recruited professional coaching staff to begin implementation of the long-term vision of the club, enhanced and created programming that saw membership increase four-fold and now serves 700 registrants ages 18 to senior, and developed an online presence for the club. The club now boasts four full-time and 20 part-time staff. In May 2016, Denise was recognized by the City of Corner Brook as the Executive of the Year recipient through their Achievement in Community Excellence (ACE) Awards, designed to celebrate those individuals who make Corner Brook an active and healthy place to live.


Coach of the Year- John Drinkwater Memorial Award


2016 proved to be a very successful and memorable year for all athletes under Jennifer Stender’s guidance. In February, Jennifer had an athlete travel to the Hershey Canadian Indoor Youth/ Junior Championships. At this meet, this athlete reached a major milestone in their athletic career, earning their very first national medal. At the end of February, Jennifer led a team to the Atlantic University Sport Track and Field Championships. This was the first time in years that a team from Memorial had participated. All athletes were competitive in their respective events, earning numerous top 10 placements. The outdoor season started in May with Jennifer leading the Holy Heart of Mary High School Track and Field team to fourth (Boys) and fifth (Girls) place finishes in overall team standings at the School Sport Newfoundland and Labrador Provincial Championships. In June, she led the St. Paul’s Junior High School Track and Field Team to their third consecutive Provincial Championship title (Boys). Throughout the summer the momentum continued. Her athletes claimed numerous Championship titles at the provincial, Atlantic and national levels, setting provincial records along the way. Arguably, her biggest success of 2016 was her contribution to the growth and development of track and field in Newfoundland and Labrador. With the formation of the MUN Track team, older athletes now have the opportunity to continue with the sport and reach their full potential. With her continued dedication and passion for the sport, Jennifer is inspiring many to follow in her footsteps of becoming a coach once they are finished their athletic careers. 

NOEL STRAPP – Wrestling

Wrestling Coach, Noel Strapp has trained his athletes and worked with them relentlessly during 2016. He has inspired and motivated them to reach their goals. In 2016, Noel’s successes can be measured through his athletes who succeeded in competing at the provincial, national and international levels.  Noel had a remarkable turnout at the national level where his athletes won two silver medals and one gold medal. Internationally, Noel coached at the Ontario Cup, the Bucharest Invitational in Romania, and the Jovenes Promenas in Murcia, Spain. While Noel has ensured remarkable achievements in the sport of wrestling, he is also known by his athletes for providing access to a variety of sports while guaranteeing inclusiveness. 


2016 was another banner year for David Woolridge in the coaching arena of Olympic shooting sports. He was recognized by the Shooting Federation of Canada as the national sport federation’s Provincial Coaching Coordinator and named to their coaching committee. Dave and his coaching staff trained the Canadian National Junior Team, for the International Shooting Sports Federation Junior World Cup in May 2016. Woolridge also coached three local Newfoundland and Labrador target shooters preparing for the Canadian Air Gun Grand Prix also held in May 2016. The Newfoundland and Labrador Shooting Association operates two training facilities in the St. John’s region, one of which is conducted almost exclusively by Dave for high-performance competitors. Through Dave’s efforts, the Newfoundland and Labrador Shooting Association began offering dedicated para-shooting training for para-athletes, which produced great results at the 2016 Canadian National Air Rifle Championships. Woolridge spent the summer working individually with the National Junior Team athletes to help optimize their performance at the Nationals. He also provided range time and guidance for any non-competitive shooters interested in improving their overall performance. At the 2016 National Rifle Championships, Woolridge coached National Junior Team members and also coached a number of junior rifle shooters to scores allowing them to join the National Junior Team program.


Team of the Year – Edward P. Browne Memorial Award


The Galway Hitmen successfully defended their Canadian Senior Men’s Fastpitch Championship for the fifth consecutive year, with a 3-0 win over the Kelly’s Pub Molson Bulldogs at the Caribou Memorial Complex in St. John’s, NL. As a result, the Galway Hitmen made history in becoming the first province/team in the 52-year history of the Canadian Senior Men’s Fastpitch Championship to capture five consecutive Canadian Senior Men’s Fastpitch crowns. The Galway Hitmen finished the tournament with a perfect 9-0 record and outscored the opposition 67-12 along the way. At the plate, the team went a combined 90-for-244 for a .369 batting average, scored 67 runs, hit 13 doubles, four triples, 10 home runs and 58 runs batted in. On the mound, the team went a combined 9-0, in 59 innings pitched, surrendered eight earned runs, with a 0.95 earned run average, 106 strikeouts and five shutouts.


It was a season to remember for the Brad Gushue curling team of Mark Nichols, Brett Gallant and Geoff Walker from the Bally Haly Golf and Curling Club. Team Gushue were one of the top teams on the World Curling Tour with a staggering 109-21 win-loss record. They won the Rogers Grand Slam Cup, awarded to the team with the most bonus points over the course of the season and finished second on the Order of Merit to Mike McEwen of Manitoba.


In 2016 Team Newfoundland and Labrador had an amazing gold medal finish at the Inter-provincial team competition at the 2016 Canadian Men’s Amateur Championships in Gatineau Quebec. History was made when Team Newfoundland and Labrador won the 2016 National Champion Willingdon Cup Inter-Provincial Team Championship in the competition’s 89-year history. Team Newfoundland and Labrador comprised of 2016 Provincial Amateur Champion Blair Bursey of Gander, second place finisher Nathan Peters of Clovelly and Mid-Amateur and Senior Champion Chuck Conley of Bally Haly Country Club recorded a two day total of 281 to take the gold medal with a two stroke win over Team Ontario.


Official of the Year


In 2016 Ryan Garland of St. John’s facilitated at five baseball officials clinics throughout the province with over 120 total participants attending. He umpired over 60 games in the local St. John’s Amateur Baseball season that led all umpires in games officiated. At the Provincial level Ryan umpired in the 2016 Senior Club Championship in Corner Brook followed up by the Senior B Provincials also held in Corner Brook as well as both the Junior and Senior Provincial Finals. Ryan was also selected to represent the province on two separate occasions at Baseball Canada National Championships including the Baseball Canada 15U National Championships held in Summerside, PEI and the 13U National Championships held in Mount Pearl. For his efforts he earned recommendations to umpire at the 2017 18U National Championships and a future Crew Chief at National Championships. In 2016, Ryan learned that he was one of three people in all of Canada recommended by Baseball Canada’s Umpire Development Committee to become a baseball Canada Umpire Supervisor. 

IAIN HOLLETT – Ball Hockey

Iain Hollett of Conception Bay South is a member of the Canadian Ball Hockey Association Technical Committee, which sets the standards for officiating nationally throughout Canada.  He helped create and update the annual re-certification test and was a member on committees to update the Canadian Ball Hockey Association rulebook and officiating re-certification clinic materials. He also served as the Referee in Chief at the Eastern Regionals and as a supervisor for the Junior Nationals. Iain is a role model within Newfoundland and Labrador Ball Hockey and is well recognized for his keen ability to show respect for his fellow officials, players, coaching and fans. He has a thorough knowledge of the playing rules allowing him to provide an encouraging sporting experience for all those involved. 


Shannon Tobin of St. John’s is considered an active official who is willing to listen when approached in a respectful manner. He received the Newfoundland and Labrador Ross Arlett Memorial Award presented to the top official registered with the Newfoundland and Labrador Soccer Association who are dedicated to referee development. He has refereed at all levels of soccer from U14 to Challenge Cup and the University levels. He is a key member of the Referee Education community in the province, dedicating his time to educating new officials. Shannon is also dedicated to improving his skills as an official as he frequently attends Professional Development Seminars through the Newfoundland and Labrador Soccer Association.