2021 Media Awards
2021 Winners and Finalists
Best coverage of a sporting event
This award recognises an organisation across any media platform that has delivered exceptional coverage of a sporting event during the nomination period.
Seven Network, ‘Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games’
Seven brought the Olympic Games to more Australians than ever before, with 20 million people tuning in to watch Tokyo 2020’s 17 days, making it the biggest television and streaming event in Australian history.
Seven offered fans 45 channels across its broadcast channels and 7plus, with viewers able to access a live feed of every sport as it was unfolding. The broadcaster assembled an unrivalled team of hosts and commentators for the Games, spread across four locations due to travel restrictions.
Despite the lack of crowds in Tokyo, Seven replicated the atmosphere of an Olympic Games with artificial crowd noise and by incorporating the Olympians’ families and viewers at home into the coverage.
Optus Sport, ‘UEFA EURO 2020’
The Euro 2020 tournament, held in 2021, was one of the most unforgettable sporting events of the year and Optus Sport showcased it in a way that Australian sporting fans had never seen before, at all hours of the day and night.
The tournament spanned 31 days, in which 51 matches were played across 10 European cities and Australian viewers were treated to more content than ever before. Optus Sport's local production included over 150 hours of live studio coverage across three shows featuring highly respected local and global experts.
Despite the logistical challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there were teams based in Sydney, London and across Europe.
Network 10, ‘Melbourne Cup Carnival 2020’
In 2020, Network 10’s Melbourne Cup Carnival coverage re-shaped the event’s future.
The Carnival was completely re-imagined, there were no celebrities in The Birdcage, no colour in The Park and no roar to accompany the charge of hooves down the famous Flemington straight. Stephen Quartermain and Gorgi Coghlan hosted the fully produced broadcast from a studio on Flemington’s famous lawn.
Over 26.5 hours, Channel 10 captured the country’s mood, crossing to every state and territory to see how Australians celebrate the race that stops the nation. As well as the races themselves, coverage included features on how horses help people with PTSD or managed disability, while Fashions on the Field featured the front lawns of every contestant.
The Age/The Sydney Morning Herald, ‘Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games’
The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald told the inside story of the Olympic Games by delivering insights into a record-breaking Australian team, sharp analysis and telling the bigger picture of what it meant for host nation Japan.
Reporters on the ground delivered news across print, digital and TV, covering the big stars and local heroes around the world such as Jian Fang Lay and Sunisa Lee. The diversity in coverage was a strength that celebrated the breadth of the Games.
The mastheads delivered newsletters and live blogs to keep readers across developments every hour while a full-time editor ensured that the was produced in Sydney or Melbourne matched the quality of the staff's output in Tokyo.
Innovation in sports media
Social Media Innovation, UEFA EURO 2020, Optus Sport
A hyper-engaged fanbase is at the core of Optus Sport's Football content.
To connect with these fans, Optus Sport uses high-volume publishing of fit-for-purpose content designed to generate conversation and shareability across numerous platforms. During UEFA EURO 2020, Optus collaborated with TikTok to produce a live mobile-first daily show. This led to more than 100,000 new followers to the Optus Sport TikTok account and attracted more than 40 million video views across four-weeks.
YouTube “Watch-Alongs” were developed as a second screen live experience allowing direct engagement while Facebook Fan Battles powered our on-screen graphics to display real-time results. Instagram Live allowed Optus Sport to create authentic audience connections via real-time communication.
Making the Call, Emma Race, Lucy Race
The participation rates of women and girls in sport are rising rapidly.
Australian women’s national teams are excelling on the world stage and garnering incredible audiences. Yet sports media is still dominated by male voices. Making The Call was created to equip women with sports broadcasting aspirations with the skills, knowledge, mentors and networks to make meaningful steps forward in their career. It has already run programs for 36 women from more than ten sports.
Since completing the course graduates have gone on to call play-by-play, been boundary riders, provided special comments, hosted TV sports shows, written for major newspapers, and been ground announcers for major sporting events such as the AFLW Grand Final.
Fox Cricket Saves the Day (And Series), Australia v India 4th Test, Fox Sports
The average viewer watching the 2020-21 fourth Test between Australia and India wouldn't realise how close the series came to being cancelled amid the nationwide COVID outbreak.
It was the adaptable and hard-working Fox Cricket production crew of 97 people who kept the series alive – despite unparalleled challenges with the technical logistics. To meet ICC requirements, Fox Cricket placed eight staff inside the Cricket Australia bubble to operate Ball Tracking, while Snicko and Hotspot were run from Sydney and Brisbane respectively.
The game and cameras were based at the Gabba, produced via the hub control rooms in Sydney and the graphics were added to the coverage in Melbourne. Commentators were based in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Mumbai, India.
Live VR Aerial Analysis, Stan Sport/Channel Nine
Bringing the viewer into the gameday experience was a central part of Stan Sport’s rugby coverage in 2021.
Live Augmented Reality Aerial Analysis brought fans were taken even closer to the action while the use of Spidercam at the stadium or a jib in the studio, helped create a viewpoint that allowed the natural environment to become the graphic's background. Viewers could then see a visual spread of statistic with accurate augmented reality markers that appear on the field.
Superimposing a virtual screen alongside the virtual markers added another layer of depth.
Best depiction of inclusive sport
This award recognises the best example of media that depicts the inclusiveness of sport and/or sporting communities. Entries may include stories or programs that promote participation and help break down social barriers. Issues covered may include gender equity, Indigenous Australians, multicultural groups, different age demographics or the role of volunteers in sport.
Peter Dickson, ‘The Ripple Effect’, Dickson Films
On 17 April, 1993, the sporting landscape in Australia changed in one moment.
Champion AFL player for St Kilda Nicky Winmar, had had enough of the hatred and menacing racist taunts being hurled at him at Melbourne’s Victoria Park, and facing the opposition Collingwood crowd he pulled up his St Kilda guernsey, pointed to his chest and declared: ‘I’m black and I’m proud to be black’. To this day it remains one of Australia’s most iconic historic images. But what happened to Nicky after that?
The Ripple Effect is an emotional and raw portrayal of the ongoing effects of racism, discrimination and bullying to our mental health featuring high profile Australian athletes sharing their personal stories.
Bowls Australia, ‘The Bowls Show’ & ‘The Right Line podcast and website’
Bowls is the most inclusive sport in the world and can be played by any person, at any age, at any time. Through Bowls Australia’s The Bowls Show and The Right Line podcast and website, the organisation shines a light on the sport’s inclusivity, including being one of the only games where a para-athlete can win an able bodied event.
Through its various platforms, Bowls Australia highlights how the sport caters for the entire community with diverse participants and programs to encourage even more Australians to take up the game.
Mary Konstantopoulos, NRL.com ‘Holly’s story: Coming out helps Raiders reporter realise importance of being yourself’
Holly worked at the NRL for several years before she felt comfortable enough to speak to a journalist about being the national sporting organisation’s first openly transgender employee.
In a sport like the NRL, which is characterised as ‘old school’ and ‘blokey’, Holly’s story demonstrates the importance of being yourself and the steps that the NRL is taking to ensure that everyone feels welcome and can be part of the rugby league family.
The story has been clicked on more than 40,000 times giving Holly further confidence to share her story and assist others on their journeys.
Megan Maurice, Guardian Australia ‘Tackling homophobic attitudes: the straight men who play for gay rugby clubs’
This story highlighted the dropout rates of young gay and bisexual men in sport and the pervasiveness of homophobic language – to the point that even young straight men are leaving traditional sporting clubs. At gay and inclusive rugby clubs, young men have found a haven from toxic masculinity.
The story reached almost 100,000 readers and won the Pride in Sport Positive Media Award in 2021. It has also been used by Rugby Victoria to convey the importance of hosting pride games for local clubs and is part of the course material at Monash University for students studying to become PE teachers to highlight the importance of inclusion in sport.
Amanda Shalala, ABC Sport ‘Getting Back on Track’
This is a story of heartbreak, hardships, healing and ultimately hope. It outlines the incredible journeys of three African refugees and an Australian champion, who have found each other to form a unique elite athletics training group, as well as a family.
They have each had to overcome their own struggles, including mental health battles, fear of political and religious persecution, and poverty, in order to pursue their passion to run. This story demonstrates the capacity of sport to provide a lifeline, and a family, for those who desperately need it the most.
Best coverage of a community sport issue – rural & regional media
This award is for media based outside major metropolitan areas. It recognises the best example of responsible, well-researched and analytical coverage of issues affecting community sport in rural and regional Australia.
Donna Page, Newcastle Herald ‘Newcastle cricket's turf war’
The Newcastle Herald exclusively revealed issues within the Hunter Region's largest social cricket competition, the Newcastle City and Suburban Cricket Association (NCSCA). The investigation, which included dozens of stories over more than two years, achieved major breakthroughs in the sporting community's push for a more accountable competition.
The Herald’s articles gave marginalised players, administrators and umpires who had been denied a voice by the NCSCA board a platform to speak and led to several independent investigations. The NCSCA board was eventually suspended by Cricket NSW due to critical failings and administrators appointed to run the competition.
The series exposed a competition that lacked accountability, transparency, and good governance, ensuring fair play was restored.
Kristy Williams, Parkes Champion Post ‘You cannot be what you cannot see’
Young Matildas coaching staff Leah Blayney and Meaghan Kempson and are paving a path for other women coaches from regional areas. In this article, Kristy Williams shares how Kempson, from Orange, and former Blue Mountains resident Blayney, rose through the ranks to coach at a national level and how they are encouraging the next generation to follow in their footsteps.
The coaches share their passion for the game and the importance of upskilling players and coaches and providing opportunities for them to grow their game at home instead of moving to the city.
Steve Tervet, The Border Mail ‘Behind the Scenes’
In this series, Steve Tervet shines a light on one of sport’s greatest assets - volunteers who work tirelessly in the background to keep their local clubs alive. Whether it is greeting supporters at the gate or running the boundary umpiring, he gives a voice to these volunteers as they share their passion for their club with unrivalled enthusiasm and good humour.
Like the Murray Magpies, as featured in Tervet’s entry, their identity is so much more than a win-loss ratio. The Magpies may have three Hume League wooden spoons to their name and more than 1,000 days since the club last won a game of senior football, but the people involved, and supportive atmosphere is what keeps players and families coming back.
Nicholas Wright, The Townsville Bulletin ‘Beneath the Surface’
In this series, Nicholas Wright explores the struggles athletes from regional centres face when their careers are cut short, dealing with injuries throughout their playing days, and the ever-present spotlight placed upon them and the pressures that brings.
Townsville born, bred and based athletes shared their struggles and discussed steps that communities, clubs and sporting bodies can take to prevent other athletes suffering similar fates.
The series exclusively revealed why promising former North Queensland Cowboys under-20s halfback Michael Parker-Walshe walked away from the NRL at such an early age as well as insights from elite performance experts on the importance of athlete welfare.
Best sport profile – written
This award recognises the best example of responsible and well-researched written profiling of an individual athlete, team or coach (can be print or online items).
Konrad Marshall, Good Weekend ‘Patty Mills: All the right moves’
For many people, the Boomers’ bronze medal was the moment of the Tokyo Olympics. The Australian Men’s Basketball team had never stood on the dais, despite fielding talented sides for decades.
Patty Mills’s performance at the games was transcendent, and the stories that emerged of his efforts to create a culture within the team became legendary – but perhaps less understood was the depth of his connection to his Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander heritage and how that inspires everything he does.
Konrad Marshall’s profile goes deeply into that connection, through parents and ancestors, to tell a strengths-based story of resilience and hope and love.
David Mark, ABC Online 'Tony Daly: I was walking into an ambush'
It took former rugby union international Tony Daly 40 years to tell anybody he had been allegedly sexually assaulted by a catholic brother at his prestigious boarding school and another three years before he spoke to a journalist. David Mark’s online feature provided Tony a platform to share his story in his own words.
In the confronting and personal account, Daly describes being groomed by a catholic brother and how that event had deeply affected his life. While throwing himself into sport helped him deal with the trauma, after his career he fell into drug and alcohol addiction and almost went to jail.
The compassionate and professional piece highlighted Daly's dignity and courage for speaking out.
Phil Lutton, The Sydney Morning Herald ‘The letters that saved Cate Campbell’
Swimmer Cate Campbell felt she had failed at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, and she struggled to cope with her own disappointment and some of the public reaction.
Despite tuning out from social media, she did open some hand-written letters that arrived at her house, two of which changed her life and set her on the path to Tokyo. They were from sisters Elin and Nele Schulz, aged 10 and 13 at the time, and their compassionate words would be the catalyst for Campbell to power towards a fourth Games.
Reporter Phil Lutton found the sisters and arranged for them to meet the swimmer at North Sydney Pool so she could thank them in person.
Will Swanton, The Weekend Australian ‘The Truth About Tim Tszyu’
As the new face of Australian boxing, Tim Tszyu’s career has been dominated by rumours about his seemingly absent father and boxing legend Kostya, who now lives in Russia. Will Swanton’s behind-the-scenes access and revealing interview delves into the truth of their relationship, and how Tim’s grandfather, Boris, the father of Kostya, has become his real father figure.
There's observations, analysis, commentary and opinion on Tim but the writing gives a rare and vivid insight into the extraordinary bond between trainer and athlete, grandfather and grandson.
Best sport profile – broadcast
Luc Longley: One Giant Leap, Australian Story, ABC TV
Luc Longley was the first Australian to play in the NBA, competing alongside the legendary Michael Jordan in the heyday of the Chicago Bulls.
Their mid-90s three-peat was recently immortalised in Netflix’s docuseries The Last Dance. But despite being the Bulls’ starting centre, Longley was overlooked for an interview. When Australian Story reached out, Longley shared a powerful story about how he had fundamentally changed who he was to fit into Jordan’s team and the long and painful process of finding himself again afterwards.
Over a year, producers secured interviews with former Bulls coach Phil Jackson and teammates Scottie Pippen and Steve Kerr, culminating in a 30-minute interview with Jordan himself.
Head Above Water, McAvoy Media / Amazon Prime Video
Head Above Water is an original 4-part documentary series that celebrates Australian swimming through the eyes of reigning champion Kyle Chalmers, two-time Olympian Bronte Campbell, retired Olympic hero Ian Thorpe and aspiring Olympian and global music superstar Cody Simpson.
Working closely with Swimming Australia, McAvoy Media gained unprecedented access into the inner sanctum of Australian Head Coach Rohan Taylor and his entire team – both swimmers and coaches.
Traversing between Sydney, Adelaide, Brisbane and Los Angeles, this production offers an outstanding and rare insight into the world of an Australian Olympic swimmer and the Australian Olympic swimming team.
Making Their Mark, JamTV Australia / Amazon Prime Video
The final episode in the seven-part series Making Their Mark charted the final stages of Richmond Football Club’s journey towards the 2020 Premiership.
Through the highs and lows, viewers gain unrivalled access into the club’s locker room, coaches’ rooms, boardroom, training sessions, medical assessments and player’s accommodation in the Gold Coast Hub during a the COVID-marred 2020 AFL season. This episode explored themes of redemption for Richmond after a series of off field incidents had earlier threatened to derail the Tigers chances of a historic third premiership in four seasons.
The Tigers players and coaching staff overcame personal and collective obstacles to triumph in the most spectacular way possible on Grand Final day.
Kai and Saya, Matt Carmichael, Seven Network
The inspirational story of Kai and Saya Sakakibara became a centrepiece of the story of Australia's Olympic team at the Tokyo 2020 Games.
This entry starts with the story of Kai fighting back to ride his bike again after an horrific crash left him learning to walk again, through their journey to Saya's Olympic debut, her own heartbreaking crash and finally Kai's vow to become a Paralympian.
Matt Carmichael’s ability to build trust and a connection with the Sakakibara family helped him create deeply personal profiles of these determined athletes.
Best coverage of sport for people with disability
Tom Decent, The Sydney Morning Herald/The Age, ‘The power of the Paralympics’
As one of two reporters in Tokyo, Tom Decent ran a Paralympics live blog from first thing in the morning until late in the evening and wrote more than 50 articles over 12 days.
Print editions featured three to four articles each day, covering high-profile sports and lesser-known events such as goalball and boccia. Highlights included a convicted Spanish terrorist, an American swimmer whose father tried to kill her with a suicide bomb, and the second tallest man in the world playing sitting volleyball.
Importantly the coverage shone a light on the brilliant Australian athletes whose performances made them household names.
Julian Linden, The Daily Telegraph, ‘Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games’
Julian Linden was the only Australian print journalist who covered both the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games on site in Japan.
For the Paralympics, his reporting included a focus on issues like funding, health protocols, overcoming adversity and keeping faith after the 12-month postponement. The coverage included an eight-page preview liftout – “Green and Bold” – as well as daily reports for all News Corp mastheads, including breaking news on the team’s performances and a stream of features and profiles for print and online.
Nick McArdle, Channel Nine, ‘Abdullah Karim: Powerchair Footballer’, Sports Sunday
Australia's Abdullah Karim is recognised as the world's best powerchair footballer and is expected to be one of the biggest stars of the 2022 Powerchair Football World Cup in Sydney this year.
In Sports Sunday’s profile, Karim shares his love of the game, his life story and why he believes every day should be cherished. We also see the special bond between Abdullah and his mother Susan. While generally unknown in Australia, Karim is an international superstar in his chosen sport where he's often compared to Messi and Ronaldo.
The program hopes this profile launches a mainstream platform for Powerchair Football ahead of this year's World Cup.
Kieran Pender, Mike Bowers, Guardian Australia, ‘Innovation and inner strength: the stories behind Australia’s Paralympians’
Kieran Pender’s series of reporting before and after the Tokyo Paralympic Games explored the diversity of stories among the Australian Paralympic Team, including athletes and support staff.
Across four features and a podcast episode, his reporting demonstrates the value of spending time with subjects face-to-face. Pender and photographer Mike Bowers spent hours with the interviewees across half a dozen visits to the Australian Institute of Sport and via Zoom.
They sought to underscore the sporting achievements, innovation and preparations of Australia’s Paralympians. They aimed to sensitively portray the unique challenges they faced without dwelling on their disabilities and in doing so, grapple with a dissonance – these are ordinary people, doing extraordinary things.
Seven Network, ‘Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games’
The Seven Network proudly brought Australian viewers the biggest and best Paralympic coverage ever for Tokyo 2020.
Across 13 days starting with the Opening Ceremony, fans could choose from an unprecedented offering of up to 16 live streams on Seven and 7plus. With a firm resolve to include hosts, reporters and commentators with disabilities, Seven assembled an on-air line-up for Tokyo 2020 of which more than half was comprised of former Paralympians – an unprecedented achievement in Australian broadcasting.
The coverage shattered all previous Australian television audience records for the Paralympics, with the Opening Ceremony reaching 1.94 million people and each day of competition reaching between 2.5 to 3 million viewers.
Best sports photography
Jay Town, Tennis Australia ‘Eye on the ball’
Jay Town was determined to capture the expression of concentration on Rafael Nadal's face as he hoisted the ball into the air for service during the Australian Open. With extraordinary timing, Town captured Nadal’s eye in sharp focus through his fingers as he served to Stefanos Tsitsipas on Rod Laver Arena.
Daniel Pockett, Getty Images ‘To the moon and back’
Using in-camera multiple exposure, Daniel Pockett has created a striking image of Jason Behrendorff of the Perth Scorchers fielding in the moonlight during the January 23, 2021 Big Bash League match against Melbourne Stars at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
David Gray, Agence France-Presse ‘Unusual scenes at the Australian Open’
The 2021 Australian Open tennis championships were like no other, with COVID-19 restrictions meaning many matches were played without crowds. This unusually quiet environment led to David Gray capturing scenes of players interacting with their surroundings, such as Naomi Osaka carefully removing a butterfly from her dress, Rafael Nadal blowing a dandelion from his sweaty palm, and Frances Tiafoe serving in 'spotlight sunlight' in an empty stadium.
Phil Hillyard, AFL ‘Buddy is Back’
When Lance Franklin signed a mega $10 million dollar, 9-year deal to join the Sydney Swans ahead of the 2014 AFL season many expected he wouldn’t see it out. After missing much of the 2019 season, injury struck again in the 2020 pre-season and he did not play a single match that year. Franklin returned in Round 2, 2021 at the SCG in a new-look Sydney Swans team. He went on to play 17 games of the home-and-away season, once again winning games off his own boot and bringing fans through the gates.
Best sport coverage by an individual - audio
This award recognises an individual who has delivered exceptional audio coverage of sport through radio or digital media during the nomination period. This could include, but is not limited to, radio and podcast productions.
Neroli Meadows, Ordineroli Speaking
Ordineroli Speaking is a multi-award-winning podcast that celebrates resilience in sport by sharing the human stories behind the stars.
Guests in Season Two tackled issues including childhood trauma, social issues, sexuality, race, grief or mental health with all who shared their stories motivated to help those listening.
Episodes included Sam Stosur discussing her journey to self-acceptance, Caitlin Thwaites on coping with COVID-19 and Hayden Ballantyne on working through grief, with the podcast regularly making news headlines in Australia and internationally.
Liam Flanagan, The Scorecard with Liam Flanagan’, LiSTNR
Described as a ‘one stop shop for sport’, Liam Flanagan’s The Scorecard brings a new style to sports news in Australia.
Providing a daily fast fun hit of sport, The Scorecard gives its audience everything they need to know for the day and has proved popular with listeners, with more than 1.5 million downloads in the first 12 months.
The Scorecard is now heard by an average monthly audience of more than 130,000, consistently sits in the Top 20 on the Triton Digital Podcast Ranker and has been selected for Spotify’s curated playlists including ‘Podcast Picks of the Week’ and ‘Your Daily Drive’.
Gerard Whateley, SEN
Gerard Whateley shapes and leads the sporting agenda through his daily radio program Whateley and in his role as chief caller for SEN where he covers major events not just in Australia but around the world.
The key issues, debates and interviews take place under his thoughtful consideration and sharp questioning spanning AFL, cricket, horse racing, the Olympics and more.
Whateley provides memorable and contentious moments including Nathan Buckley on Collingwood's disastrous salary cap, India's historic win at the Gabba, the call to arms to address the spate of fatalities in the Melbourne Cup to Olympian Genevieve Gregson’s heartbreaking Achilles injury at Tokyo.
Mel McLaughlin, ‘No Turning Back’, Seven News
Mel McLaughlin spoke to a host of amazing athletes, from seasoned champions to new stars, who shared their extraordinary stories in the lead up to the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.
Guests included Madison de Rozario, the Aussie Spirit’s Kaia Parnaby, Bel White and Taylah Tsitsikronis, Jess Fox, Patty Mills, Sam Fricker and Bendere Oboya. Athletes were inspirational, honest and raw as they spoke in depth with McLaughlin on what it meant to represent their country at possibly the most anticipated Games in Olympic history.
Best sport coverage by an individual - written
This award recognises an individual who has delivered exceptional written coverage of sport in print or online media during the nomination period.
Phil Lutton, The Sydney Morning Herald
In a year dominated by the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, Phil Lutton covered these major events from every angle.
From an investigation revealing secret meetings to secure the Brisbane 2032 Olympics to a deadline piece on Ariarne Titmus’s 400m freestyle victory over Katie Ledecky, Lutton displayed versatility and dedication to his coverage. He secured an interview with Cody Simpson as he put his successful music career on hold to return to competitive swimming, and united Cate Campbell with the two young letter-writers who helped her return from a disappointing Rio Olympic campaign.
Lutton also secured the only interview with Maddie Groves who sensationally withdrew from the Olympic swimming trials amid claims of poor treatment of athletes within the sport.
Emma Kemp, Guardian Australia
Emma Kemp focuses her coverage on the people who participate in sport.
She is fascinated by who athletes are, what motivates them and why, what life events have informed their ambitions and choices and, in turn, how sport has shaped them. In 2021, Kemp wrote about athletes from a number of sports, including VFL footballer Alan Lynch and the devastating impacts of concussion, and rugby union star David Pocock’s activism. An Ash Barty tribute highlighted the significance of an Indigenous Australian woman winning a Wimbledon Tennis Championship while a football team for Rohingya refugees showcases the power of inclusive sport.
Julian Linden, The Daily Telegraph
Along with the rescheduled Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, 2021 sporting news was dominated by governance and integrity issues that continue to challenge sports.
Julian Linden was lead writer for News Corp’s coverage of both games, reporting news and athlete profiles which attracted record audiences. He was also at the forefront of exposing and examining major issues. Along with Simon Orchard, he did a deep dive into the toxic culture inside the Hockeyroos, uncovering abuse, bullying, body shaming and intimidation. With Craig Lord, he was also heavily involved in a long investigation into swimming’s world governing body FINA which led to an overhaul of the entire organisation.
Linden was also involved in major investigations into women’s football and gymnastics.
Jonathan Howcroft, Guardian Australia
For two weeks in early 2021 the eyes of the world were on Melbourne Park.
The Australian Open tennis championships weren’t guaranteed to go ahead. Player arrivals caused discontent. Hotel quarantine proved controversial for players and locals. Once underway, the tournament was muted until Nick Kyrgios sparked it into life, but his championship ended the night Melbourne was plunged into lockdown at short notice.
As one of only a handful of reporters granted first-hand access to the event, Jonathan Howcroft focused on reporting what it was like to be in such a confusing environment with a range of colour writing, match reporting and analysis.
Will Swanton, The Australian
Will Swanton delved deeper into the bigger sport stories of the year and uncovered new ones – including Ash Barty winning Wimbledon and some of the cherished moments of the Tokyo Olympic Games. He also managed an in-depth profile of the new face of Australian boxing, Tim Tszyu, and looking into the relationship with his absent father, Kostya. In another long-form piece, Swanton looks at the contribution to Australian sport and society of Australia's first Indigenous world boxing champion, Lionel Rose. Swanton taps into to the emotion and personality of his subjects to capture what fascinates us about sport and athletes.
Best sport coverage by an individual - video
This award recognises an individual who has delivered exceptional media coverage of sport in video format, notably television or online, during the nomination period.
David Culbert, Seven Network
David Culbert’s commentary at the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games informed, educated and entertained.
Across canoe slalom, triathlon, marathon, walks and field events at the Olympics and field and track at the Paralympics, Culbert’s breadth of coverage was unsurpassed, with his deep knowledge, engaging and often humorous style making the audience smile, laugh and sometimes cry.
Through his commentary, Australia debated the quality of long jump pit sand and got tape measures out in lounge rooms to see exactly how high Brandon Starc had jumped.
He combined brilliantly with experts giving them space to share their knowledge, highlighted by his commentary with Richard Fox in the canoe slalom which was widely regarded as the commentary of the Games.
Matt Carmichael, Seven Network
Matt Carmichael dedicated years building up to the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, with his ability to connect with and develop trust with athletes helping him share the incredible highs and heartbreaking lows of the 2020 Games.
His work included the inspirational story of Kai and Saya Sakakibara which became a centrepiece of the story of Australia's Olympic team, Australia’s success in the pool and Dean Boxall’s animated response to Ariarne Titmus claiming 400m gold, to Jaryd Clifford’s raw emotion after taking silver in the men’s T13 5000m.
Brenton Speed, Fox Sports and Seven Network
Over the past 12 months, Brenton Speed has commentated on various sports and teams for Fox Sports including the AFL, NRLW, Socceroos, Matildas, A-League and W-League where the grand final was won in the final seconds of extra-time.
He joined the Channel 7 commentary team for the 2020 Olympic Games to call football and beach volleyball, culminating in the gold medal match for the Aussie beach volleyball team of Taliqua Clancy and Mariafe Artacho Del Solar, as well as the Matildas’ quest for that elusive Olympic medal.
Bruce McAvaney, Seven Network
October 24, 2020 was one of Australian sport’s most memorable days and was the perfect platform to showcase Bruce McAvaney’s remarkable versatility.
He brought his trademark insights to Seven’s coverage of the 100th running of the Cox Plate during the day, before joining Brian Taylor to call the first AFL night Grand Final between Richmond and Geelong at the Gabba. That call would ultimately be his last of an AFL game and he bowed out on top, capturing all the excitement and colour of Richmond’s 31-point triumph with his trademark passion and accuracy.
McAvaney also spearheaded Seven’s coverage of the most anticipated Olympic games ever in Tokyo, hosting the Opening Ceremony and calling the athletics as only he can. He also expertly led Seven Racing’s commentary team across the major spring and autumn meetings.
Best reporting of an issue in sport
This award for journalistic excellence recognises a story, or series of stories, on a single issue in sport. It seeks to promote responsible, well-researched and analytical coverage of issues affecting sport.
Selina Steele, Michael Cain, Julian Linden, The Daily Telegraph ‘Tackling abuse in football’
The Daily Telegraph exclusively revealed serious allegations by Matildas great Lisa De Vanna and other players, of indecent assault, sexual harassment, bullying and grooming inside the Matildas.
Football Australia described the revelations as a ‘tsunami’ but conceded its processes for dealing with serious complaints were outdated and, in what is likely to set a precedent for other Australian sporting bodies grappling with how to deal with complaints around inappropriate behaviour, handed the entire investigation to Sport Integrity Australia to guarantee independence and confidentiality.
While the findings are not expected until later in 2022, they are already a game changer for Australian sporting bodies.
Adrian Arciuli, Anna Henderson, Abdullah Alikhil, SBS ‘The Taliban Takeover - the end of women's sport in Afghanistan’
SBS's coverage of the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan highlighted the power of journalism to create change. Following the takeover, Australia evacuated 4,100 people from the country including women's football players, with the captain of Afghanistan’s women's football team Shabnam Mobarez, speaking exclusively to SBS about the evacuation flight.
SBS then secured an interview with deputy head of the Taliban's cultural commission, Ahmadullah Wasiq, who declared sport ‘is not seen as something that is important for women’.
The story sent shockwaves around the world, and subsequent international media coverage led to Cricket Australia postponing November’s historic test match between Australia and Afghanistan and put pressure on the International Cricket Council to reconsider Afghanistan's future in the sport.
Eddie Betts, AFL 360, Fox Footy ‘The Fight Against Racism’
In an emotional interview on FOX FOOTY’s AFL 360, Indigenous star Eddie Betts opened up on the toll that racial abuse has taken on him throughout his decorated career, before pleading with the nation to help him in his lifelong struggle.
Despite his personal pain, Betts said he remained committed to calling out racism and pushing for change, moving the nation with his appeal to unite all against racism. In response, all 18 AFL clubs made individual public stands, with singer-songwriter Paul Kelly also releasing a single ‘Every Step of the Way’ in honour of Betts.
His appearance on AFL 360 along with apt interviewing by Gerard Whateley and Jason Dunstall had far reaching impact and response making it a powerful report on racism in Australian sport.
David Mark, ABC News ‘Revelations of abuse in gymnastics’
The day before the Australian Human Rights Commission released its report on an independent review into gymnastics in Australia, David Mark published an online and extended TV feature outlining allegations of child physical, psychological and sexual abuse at the AIS going back decades.
It featured powerful first-hand accounts from two gymnasts who attended the AIS in the 90s and 2000s with both making serious allegations of abuse and ongoing harm they had suffered at the hands of their coaches and how they felt let down by the Institute which failed to protect them.
The stories provided a very human perspective on what has become one of the most topical issues in Australian sport: the physical, psychological and sexual abuse of children.
Russell Jackson, ABC Sport ‘Childhood sexual abuse in the AFL’
The series began with the story of former St Kilda star Rod Owen’s childhood sexual abuse by junior coaches, exposing wholesale child sex abuse in the VFL (now AFL) Little League. Inspired by Owen’s courage, other survivors came forward, as did family members of boys who didn’t live to tell their stories.
The stories drew close to one million readers and following careful interviews with 60 victims of childhood sexual abuse in football, court documents, legal and police sources, exposed the abuse of hundreds of boys in the St Kilda and Carlton Little League programs between 1967 and 1977.
Most had waited up to 50 years to tell their stories leading to many receiving overdue professional help and ongoing support.
Lifetime achievement award for sports journalism
This is awarded to an individual who has made a lengthy, significant and influential contribution to the reporting of Australian sport. Nominations are made by a Sport Australia-appointed judging panel, with the award determined by the Sport Australia Board.
The 2021 recipient was legendary sports journalist Mike Sheahan, one of Australian Rules Football’s most respected and influential journalists having dedicated 40 years of his career to the game.
- 2002 Harry Gordon
- 2003 Norman May
- 2004 Johnny Warren
- 2005 Alan Trengove
- 2006 Ian Heads
- 2007 Mike Gibson
- 2008 Bruce McAvaney
- 2009 Les Murray
- 2010 Caroline Wilson
- 2011 Roy Masters
- 2012 Peter Wilkins
- 2013 Ron Reed
- 2014 Ken Sutcliffe
- 2015 Mike Coward
- 2016 Rebecca Wilson
- 2017 Debbie Spillane
- 2018 Dennis Cometti
- 2019 Karen Tighe
- 2020 Jim Maxwell
- 2021 Mike Sheahan
2021 media awards judging panel
Note: Judges declared and managed any conflict or perceived conflict of interest prior to the panel deliberating over each award category.
Keeley Devery OAM is known as one of the greatest goalkeepers and goal defence players in the history of Australian netball, earning 69 Test caps with the Australian Netball Diamonds and a spot in the Netball NSW Hall of Fame.
In 1991, Keeley received an Order of Australia Medal following Australia’s World Cup win.
She worked as a producer for Fox Sports for 21 years overseeing production of the ANZ Netball Championship and producing Super Rugby, Test matches and Rugby World Cup broadcasts. In 2016 she joined Nine’s Wide World of Sports as head of netball.
Michael Earsman has served in the sports and entertainment sectors for over 20 years working in senior Communications, Public Relations and Corporate Affairs roles with some of Australia’s leading sport and media organisations.
Through these roles he has gained a 360-degree view of the sports media and a true understanding of the value of powerful storytelling to fans and sporting organisations alike.
Tim Gavel commentated seven Olympic Games and seven Commonwealth Games for ABC Radio Sport. He started in commercial radio in 1982 and joined ABC Radio in 1988 until his retirement from the ABC in 2018.
He has extensive experience commentating rowing, NRL, international men’s and women’s cricket, football, basketball and netball, weightlifting, athletics, international rugby and Super Rugby matches.
Tim was named the ABC Sports Broadcaster of the Year three times. He is currently working as media advisor for Sport Integrity Australia.
Mary Konstantopoulos is an advocate for women in sport and is the founder of ‘Ladies who League’, a media company which encourages women to get involved in conversations about sport and promotes women involved in sport no matter their capacity.
Mary is an award-winning writer, with her work featured in several several major publications including NRL.com, Siren Sport, the Sydney Morning Herald, Daily Telegraph and the Roar. Mary’s work in this space has been recognised with awards from Sport Australia, Western Sydney Women and Women’s Agenda.
Mary also sits on the Board of Hockey Australia and the Parramatta Eels NRLW Advisory Committee and is also an ambassador for Full Stop Australia who raise awareness, educate, and support women and children impacted by family violence.
Phil Lynch is a veteran Canberra TV sports journalist and broadcaster.
A former national squad member, he became the voice of Australian basketball at four Olympic Games and four world championships. Phil was appointed Prime Television’s first sports editor and enjoyed freelance stints with Network 10, Seven Network, SBS and Fox Sports.
In more recent years he has been an international commentator on sports as diverse as World Snooker and the LPGA and in 2021 he was inducted into the ACT Sport Hall of Fame.
Margie McDonald started reporting at The Townsville Daily Bulletin, before working at the Australian Associated Press's Brisbane/Sydney and London bureaus, The Australian and NRL.com - giving her experience in regional/metropolitan media, wire service and website journalism. She currently works for the NSWRL (NSW Rugby League).
In between she was Media Manager at Sydney Paralympic Organising Committee for the 2000 Paralympic Games and has covered five Commonwealth Games, four Olympic Games, six Summer and six Winter Paralympics, plus multiple tennis Grand Slam, Davis and Fed cup events.
Corbin Middlemas joined the ABC as a sports broadcaster in February 2011, four months before his 20th birthday. He has worked in four capitals cities for the national broadcaster, starting in his hometown of Perth before relocating to Brisbane, Sydney and ultimately Melbourne, where he currently resides.
He has provided play by play descriptions on various sports, including Cricket, Aussie Rules, Rugby League, Rugby Union, Basketball, Tennis and Boxing, among others. Corbin was also part of the network’s Olympic and Commonwealth Games coverage.
In recent times, he’s appeared a guest host and panelist on the ABC’s long-running television program Offsiders, and commentated domestic cricket for Fox Sports.
Glenn Mitchell is a familiar face and voice of the Australian media having commentated sports for over 20 years.
He worked as a sports broadcaster on both radio and television with the ABC, commentating at four Olympic, four Commonwealth and two Paralympic Games. He called more than 200 international cricket matches, covering 13 overseas tours, and has commentated more than 1100 games of AFL & WAFL, along with several other sports. Since mid-2011, Glenn has been freelancing in both the electronic and written media.
Away from broadcasting he held positions on the boards of WA Sports Federation, the Coaching Foundation of WA the WA Paralympic Committee.
Jim Tucker is a 43-year veteran of the sports media industry in Australia across News Corp titles, Inside Edge cricket magazine (1992-99) at ACP and freelance assignments.
His wide-ranging experience, at home and on tour, includes covering Olympic and Commonwealth Games, seven Rugby World Cups, Australian cricket, swimming, basketball, tenpin bowling and many sports in between.