Hunter Region Sporting Hall of Fame
Photos from the event can be found HERE
Pictured L to R: Alexander (Sandy) MacNeill, Belinda Barnes, Matthew Helm, Ann-Maree Putney & Michael Fitzgerald.
Belinda Barnes (nee Wright)
Belinda was born in Lake Macquarie, NSW and grew up in Bonnells Bay.
Growing up, Belinda was able to develop her skills and improve her knowledge of softball whilst competing with the locally based "Castle Lakers" in the State League competition. Being a member of the Hunter Academy of Sport in the early 90's was also beneficial to Belinda's development as an athlete.
Belinda made her senior debut in the Australian Women's Open Softball Team, Aussie Spirit, in 2001 at the Trans-Tasman Challenge and went on to play 224 games for the team. She played in 34 international tournaments including 6 Canada Cups, 2 Japan Cups and many more.
Belinda became a key member in the Aussie Spirit Softball Team and in 2006 was selected in the Australian Team that contested the Women's World Softball Championships held in Beijing. This Team won Bronze with the first four teams qualifying for the 2008 Olympics.
Belinda achieved the ultimate in her sport when she was selected as a member of the Australian Women's Softball Team that competed at the 2008 Olympic Games where her team won Bronze.
Greg was born in 1944 in Waratah, NSW and passed away in early 2017.
He won several Australia Dirt Track Championships over a period of some 15 years until his career was cut short by injury. He is the Australia Title holder for the following meets:
The 1968 Adelaide 500cc and unlimited
The 1977 Ipswitch 500cc and unlimited
The 1978 Kempsey 500cc
The 1979 Seymour 500cc.
In addition to these major titles, Greg also won several State and Regional Titles throughout Australia and is a life member of the Hunter Motorcycle Club.
Michael was born in Sydney but spent his teenage years in the Newcastle area.
He began his Rugby representative career representing Newcastle, ACT, NSW and NSW Country before representing Australia at the age of 20 years old.
Michael was part of the Australian Representative Touring Team to the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, where he played 2 games for the Wallabies and kicked four conversions in his debut.
He was part of the NSW Country team that defeated both England and Japan, the NSW squad that defeated QLD by a then record score and played in the ‘up the Jumper Try’ Games for NSW against QLD.
Alexander (Sandy) MacNeill
Rugby Union Official
Alexander was born in Tamworth, NSW but grew up in Newcastle.
He is part of Newcastle rugby union royalty even though he quit playing as a teenager.
Alexander rose to fame as an international rugby referee between 1991 and 1993 and stood in 16 internationals, including South Africa’s return from apartheid exile at Johannesburg in 1992.
He was a referee at the 1991 Rugby World Cup in England and, although he missed most of the big games because Australia won it, he was part of the experience as the Wallabies triumphed. He was selected in the final twelve referees.
The last game he refereed was the 1993 Newcastle Rugby Union grand final when Wanderers defeated University.
Mathew was born in Bourke, NSW but spent his childhood in the Newcastle area.
Mathew is a 3 time Olympian in diving (Sydney 2000, Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008).
His silver medal in the platform diving in Athens in 2004 was the first medal by an individual male Australian diver since 1924. In Athens, Matthew joined forces with fellow diver Robert Newbery to claim the Bronze medal in the Synchronised Platform Diving.
Matthew came out of retirement in 2008 and gained selection in the Australian Olympic team for Beijing where he placed fourth in the synchronised 10m platform and sixth in the individual 10m.
Ten Pin Bowling
Ann-Maree Putney is a world champion Tenpin Bowler from Edgeworth, NSW.
She has finished in the Top 5 at 41 World Title Tournaments, crowned the South Pacific Champion in 2000, 2001, 2007, 2008 and was Australia’s number 1 Female bowler.
Ann-Maree was the 1999 World Tenpin Masters Champion in the United Arab Emirates, 2007 Bowling World Cup Champion in Russia and runner up at the 2008 Bowling World Cup in Mexico.
She was an Australian Tenpin Bowling team member every year from 1989-2009, winning 11 Gold, 11 Silver and 10 Bronze medals.
In 2008, Anne -Maree was inducted into the World Bowling Writers Hall of Fame.
Suzy Batkovic was born in Lambton, NSW and grew up in the Newcastle area playing junior Basketball for the Port Hunter Basketball Club. She burst onto the scene as part of Australian team that claimed the 1999 WNBL Championship with the AIS. This led to her becoming a staple in the Australian Opals squad, helping the team win bronze at the 2002 FIBA World Championships.
Suzy was selected by the Seattle Storm in the 2003 WNBA Draft and spent the next 7 seasons abroad, winning the 2004 Euro League title with French team Valencienne along with stints in the WNBA, Spain, Russia and Italy.
During this time Suzy was also playing for the Opals, twice winning the Maher Medal for International Player of the Year and claiming the silver medal at the 2004 and 2008 Olympic Games.
When she returned to the WNBL for the Adelaide Lightning she won back-to-back WNBL Most Valuable Player awards – between winning a third Olympic medal at the 2012 Olympic Games.
After two seasons in Adelaide, she made the move to the Townsville Fire for the 2013/14 season, earning a third consecutive WNBL All-Star Five selection.
Batkovic's veteran experience and leadership helped the Opals secure a place in the 2016 Summer Olympic Games after defeating New Zealand. She was the Championship top scorer, averaging 15.5 points.
Ryan Rowland-Smith was born in Newcastle, NSW and was the first player from the region to be signed to a professional contract, signing as a non-drafted free agent in 2000 for Seattle Mariners.
He previously played in Major League Baseball (MLB) for the Seattle Mariners and Arizona Diamondbacks. He also played in the Australian Baseball League for the Sydney Blue Sox and the Brisbane Bandits.
He was rated the number eight prospect in the Mariners organization in 2008 by Baseball America.
Currently, Ryan is based in the US working as a baseball television analyst for Root Sports Northwest, appearing on the pre- and post-game shows for Seattle Mariners broadcasts. He is also a baseball radio analyst for ESPN710 Seattle, appearing on Mariners post-game shows.