Australian netballers Liz Watson, Jo Weston and Kiera Austin have joined the Victorian Institute of Sport honour roll as winners of the prestigious VIS Award of Excellence.
Joining previous winners such as Cathy Freeman, Dylan Alcott, Lydia Lassila, Mack Horton, Cadel Evans and 2022 recipient Jemima Montag, the trio were recognised with the 2023 Award of Excellence for their multiple international triumphs with the national team, the Diamonds.
The Award of Excellence recognises the most outstanding achievement in high performance sport by a VIS athlete.
Watson, Weston and Austin shared in a Quad Series victory in January, won the World Cup in August and followed that with success over New Zealand in the Constellation Cup in October. In all, the Diamonds won 16 of 19 Tests in the year and claimed all of netball’s major trophies.
Watson captained the Diamonds throughout and Austin was voted MVP of the World Cup final.
The trio were among five finalists for the 2023 Award of Excellence, with world champion Para-cyclist, Emily Petricola, and world champion wheelchair rugby player, Shae Graham, the other nominees.
Graham, the first woman to represent Australia in wheelchair rugby where teams can be mixed, was a member of the ‘Steelers’ who defeated Canada in the final of the Wheelchair Rugby World Cup in October.
Petricola won gold at this year’s UCI World Cycling Championships as part of her preparation for the 2024 Paralympic Games in Paris, a success which followed a three-gold medal effort at the 2022 Para Cycling World Championships.
The evening also saw the VIS honour a number of its other athletes, among them Petricola who won the VIS Para Athlete Award.
Austin won twice on the night, being the recipient of the Open Universities Australia Performance Lifestyle Award, which recognises excellence from an athlete in their studies, career ambitions, and/or work setting whilst pursuing their high-performance sporting career.
Austin completed a Bachelor of Medical Science degree in 2023 and is hoping to work in a medical field – possibly reproductive health – in the future.
Leon Sejranovic, who won a bronze medal at the Taekwondo World Championships, and Amy Lawton who is a star member of the Hockeyroos, shared the 2XU Rising Star Award. Former Hockeyroo goalkeeper and current VIS Performance Lifestyle Adviser, Rachael Lynch, won the Sarah Tait Spirit Award.
The Frank Pyke Achievement Award, presented to an athlete who enjoyed a successful sporting career, made a significant contribution to the VIS and their sport and who has built a successful post-athletic career, was awarded to former aerial skier Lydia Lassila.
Lassila, a five-time Winter Olympian, gold medallist in Vancouver in 2010 and Award of Excellence winner, was a VIS scholarship holder for 16 years and is the founder and director of bodyICE.
A big congratulations to all VIS athletes for their achievements in 2023. Your hard work, determination, and passion have shone through in both sport and life. Here's to exciting new successes in the year ahead.