Wigan Borough’s thriving community sports scene was celebrated in style on Saturday (7 October) at the 2023 Believe Sports Awards – with British Olympic legend Eddie ‘the Eagle’ Edwards on hand to dish out the prestigious prizes.
An audience of 400 invited guests was at The Edge to see local rising stars, inspirational achievers and unsung heroes recognised for their amazing efforts over the past 12 months.
The annual ceremony, sponsored by JJH Building Contractors Ltd and organised and hosted by Wigan Council’s Be Well leisure and wellbeing service, also featured a special presentation by the pioneering ski jumper who became a household name for embodying the Olympic spirit.
Councillor Chris Ready, portfolio holder for communities and neighbourhoods, said: “This year’s Believe Sports Awards ceremony was another fantastic occasion celebrating the outstanding achievements and astounding dedication of all those people who make our local sports scene so special.
“Sport plays such an important role in our communities and, as well as recognising all the tremendous talent here in our borough, it’s only right that we shine a spotlight on those incredible individuals and groups who put in so much time and effort to help others and to keep our community sports clubs going.
“Well done to all our worthy award winners – and, indeed, to each and every single one of our nominees; we really do appreciate everything that you do.”
Rugby League Challenge Cup winners Leigh Leopards capped their historic season with another trophy as their Learning Disability side claimed the Inclusion in Sport Award – one of eight prizes presented on the night.
One of the members of that team, Tom Simms, was also recognised at Volunteer of the Year for his work with Leigh Community Trust and his tireless commitment to his local community club Golborne Parkside ARLFC where he has helped establish a new ladies team.
Team of the Year went to Bedford High School’s Year 7 boys rugby league team who made it all the way to Wembley in August as finalists of the prestigious Champion Schools tournament, while Highfield Cricket Club was named Club of the Year after winning its first major trophy in nearly 40 years – the Ray Taylor Knockout Cup. The club’s second XI also secured promotion this year.
In the other individual categories, 13-year-old Anya Foxwell was crowned Young Sports Achiever of the Year having excelled in both karate and swimming over the past 12 months. As well as winning bronze at the World Karate Championships, Anya claimed swimming medals at county and regional level and was among the Wigan BEST team members to qualify for the Swim England National Summer Meet.
Martial arts also came up trumps in the battle for the Sporting Challenge Award which was won by Black Scorpion Karate Club coach Amanda Kershaw and presented by the Mayor of Wigan Borough, Councillor Kevin Anderson, and Challenge Cup-winning winger Josh Charnley from award sponsors Leigh Leopards.
The Unsung Hero Award was presented to Kevin Young in recognition of more than 40 years’ service to Ince Rose Bridge Sports and Community Club. Kevin has been a mentor to hundreds of people of all ages over the years and is currently the club’s groundsman as well as maintaining the bowling greens for local teams.
Last but not least, the Changing Lifestyle Recognition Award went to Karen Stott who has overcome a number of health barriers to become a regular volunteer with Be Well’s Active Outdoors team – leading several walks across the borough on a weekly basis.
A raffle on the evening raised £1,070 in aid of the two tremendous local charities, Samaritans of Wigan and Manleigh Leigh.
Full list of winners – 2023 Believe Sports Awards sponsored by JJH Building Contractors Ltd
- The Martyn Lynn Team of the Year – sponsored by Wigan Warriors Community Foundation: Bedford High School Year 7 Boys Rugby League Team
- Young Sports Achiever of the Year – sponsored by Edge Hill University: Anya Foxwell (English Karate Academy / Wigan BEST)
- Sporting Challenge Award – sponsored by Leigh Leopards: Amanda Kershaw (Black Scorpion Karate Club)
- Inclusion in Sport Award – sponsored by XN Leisure: Leigh Leopards Learning Disability Rugby League
- Changing Lifestyle Recognition Award – sponsored by Technogym: Karen Stott
- Volunteer of the Year – sponsored by Wigan Athletic Community Trust: Tom Simms (Golborne Parkside & Leigh Leopards LDRL)
- Wilf Brogan Unsung Hero Award – sponsored by Agilysis: Kevin Young (Ince Rose Bridge Sports & Community Club)
- Club of the Year – sponsored Wigan & Leigh College: Highfield Cricket Club