2020 in review: Highs to Lows in Sport

Danielle RaffaeleNorth West Telegraph
Mackayla has been selected for the Australian under 18s softball team
Camera IconMackayla has been selected for the Australian under 18s softball team


Big plans for the year ahead

The year started on a hopeful note with Port Hedland Touch Association electing a new committee ahead of the season with hopes to send the squad to the WA State Touch competition.

PHTA also saw female participation take off with growth in numbers across the league.

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Former vice-president Nick Witham took up office as president, while Ray Cowen moved into the position ofbecame vice-president, stepping up from his previous role as referee co-ordinator.

Treasurer Tash Wuruki and secretary Jess Templeman retained their positions, and Hailee Heta and Rudolph Snyman came on board as games co-ordinator and referee co-ordinator.

Brad Pawlenko at the 2018 WA Country Championships.
Camera IconBrad Pawlenko at the 2018 WA Country Championships. Credit: Alissa French

Ready to shine on big stage

Hedland’s Water Polo Association was gearing up for the coveted WA Country Championships after a decades long halt to the competition.

South Hedland Aquatic Centre prepared to host regional teams from across WA with hopes the Hedland team would redeem themselves from a disappointing after third placing in 2019.

It marked a special announcement for the mining town following the Hedland Sport Awards which catapulted the sporting association to the forefront of local fixtures.

The women’s A squad started to prepare for their appearance on the regional stage, with hopes to take down fierce cross-Pilbara rivals Karratha.

Mackayla Denney with her WA State teammates
Camera IconMackayla Denney with her WA State teammates

Josh stars for State

In softball, local rising star Josh Denney outshone both his siblings to take out the Softball Nationals competition in the under-14 category.

Brother Kade and sister Mackayla had both previously contributed to the State softball team but Josh was the first in the family to take his talents across the nation, and followed a long line of Hedlanders taking to the State softball stage, including Chloe Glasson who represented her State in the under-16 team early last year.

Diamond sports have been a stand-out for local athletes for many years, with a spread of age groups representing Hedland in the State team.


South America beckons Mackayla makes team Australia

Hedland’s long history with diamond sports was solidified when young superstar Mackayla Denney was selected for the under-18s Australian softball team. Having left Hedland in July 2018 to pursue her dream of Olympic glory.

The announcement of Mackayla’s selection came after the 2020 under-18 national championship, the Elinor Mckenzie Shield, where Mackayla represented WA, making it all the way to the grand final against NSW.

Mackayla hoped to travel to South America in August to represent Australia to showcase her talent, however COVID-19 restrictions dashed her dreams.

Kade Denney Credit: Hedland Softball Association
Camera IconKade Denney Credit: Hedland Softball Association

Wyatt aims for ashes

Mackayla wasn’t the only star in town to earn their dream gig, with youngster Wyatt Wilson securing a spot in the Perth-based U13 Youth Scorchers Series.

His appointment marked him as one of only three regional cricket players from WA to showcase their skills on the metropolitan stage.

But it was not the first time Wyatt had been recognised for his ability as an all-rounder, he was in the State 12 and under team for two years competing against some of the best youngsters from around the nation in Perth in 2018 and Adelaide in 2019.

He was the first North Westerner to play in the competition. Wyatt said he was following in the footsteps of 26-year-old Australian bowler Nathan Coulter-Nile, also a proud local sporting star.

The Blues down Greens by nine runs

Nine runs. That was all it took for the undefeated Port Hedland squad to take out the 2020 Port Hedland Cricket Association grand final against the Wanderers.

Port captain Chris Briody won the toss at the start of the match and did not hesitate to bat first.

It was a tight tussle but in the end the green machine fell just nine runs short of the target to lose to reigning champs, the Port Hedland Cricket Club.

At the same time in the women’s competition, the season finished with a scheduled 35-over game between the Comets and the Shooting Stars which saw the Shooting Stars take home a win and end the season on top.


Pirates prove the North West is best on diamond

North West softball players still had a chance to come together to represent the region in the 2020 Crunch and Sip Junior WA Softball Championships.

The North West Pirates, made up of players from Port Hedland, Karratha, Geraldton and Wickman, made their way to Perth to challenge players from across the State.

The teams left nothing on the field, smashing balls out of the stadium and proving North West is the best, especially in the diamond sports.

Team Pilbara finished top of the ladder and despite falling short in the finals showed the city slickers what they were made of.

Country best do battle

It was a proud moment for Hedland’s Water Polo Association when they hosted the WA Country Water Polo Championship.

It was the first time in 13 years that the tournament had been held.

Geraldton, Karratha, Peel and Bunbury took part in the competition, each bringing one team while hosts Port Hedland offered two teams. The week of matches was challenging for Hedland teams, but one which will go down in the association’s history as a perfectly planned and executed tournament.

Swans baseballer Sarah Zeigelaar at the Marie Marland Reserve, standing before one of two shade structure's thrown back by the cyclone.
Camera IconSwans baseballer Sarah Zeigelaar at the Marie Marland Reserve, standing before one of two shade structure's thrown back by the cyclone. Credit: North West Telegraph, Daneka Hill

Siren sounds on local sport

By the end of the month, everyone was forced to hang up their boots, put down their bats and store their balls as the coronavirus pandemic took hold of sporting life in the Pilbara.

At the time, Hedland’s racing season was expected to be the only fixture leaving a glimmer of hope in the eyes of punters with the races the only major event on the sporting calendar.

Port Hedland Baseball Association had to cancel the third and final games of the year, including the highly anticipated grand final.

Cricket was next to fall, following the lead of State and national bodies who deemed it unsafe to continue, bringing an end to the Ray Stoddart T20 competition as team’s prepared to enter the tournaments final rounds.

Then it was announced round one of WA’s country and amateur football competitions would be delayed until May 2020.

The WA Football Commission agreed to postpone all senior and junior community football to protect the wellbeing of coaches, umpires, officials and volunteers.



Following on from the disappointing end to sporting fixtures in late March, the town’s turf club was forced to call off its 2020 racing season due to COVID-19.

Racing and Wagering WA advised all racing would be canned in the North West.

The Roebourne racing season and Broome Cup were among the beloved events called off. PHTC said it was a disappointing decision at first, but one that was sensible and not unexpected.

Heavy hitters

Hedland’s diamond sport groups celebrated two players taking out accolades at the WA Softball awards.

A light was shone on the Denney family when daughter Mackayla took home the girls’ under-23s batting award and her younger brother Josh received the same award for the under-14 boys.

Shelley Glasson scored the WA softball Volunteer of the Year Award for her tireless efforts throughout the sporting community.

The family moved to Perth in 2018 so the children could pursue careers in softball but still have strong ties with the mining community.

The eleven horses in the massive Hedland Cup burst from the gate
Camera IconThe eleven horses in the massive Hedland Cup burst from the gate Credit: North West Telegraph, Daneka Hill

Reserves shines bright for new diamond action

Last year highly anticipated work to upgrade the Port Hedland sporting fields in the wake of the devastating cyclone Veronica was completed.

New dugouts made from recycled sea containers capped off South Hedland’s Marie Marland Reserve upgrade, which also included new changerooms, a commercial kitchen and accessible toilets. It was part of a record investment in core infrastructure and public space assets, delivered in the 2019-20 annual TOPH budget.

Port Hedland Baseball Association president Darren Cosgrove said the redevelopment was a welcome sight for the Hedland diamond sports community, which had struggled with below-standard facilities for a number of years.


Tournament cancelled

Sporting disappointment continued with the hotly anticipated North West Championships called off because of the pandemic.

Netball players from Kununurra to Port Hedland were expected to participate in the June tournament but regional travel restrictions and social distancing led to the event being discontinued.

Karratha Netball Association president Tracy Kitching said the initial plan was to postpone the tournament but after further talks with the other associations the decision was made to cancel it all together.

The event was rescheduled with Karratha expected to host the championships in June this year.

Who’s the fittest of them all

Organisations put their creative thinking caps on to find alternatives to live sporting action.

Iron Worx owners took their fitness goals to an online platform during the COVID-19 isolation period, running weekly workout competitions for gym junkies at home.

The company established a score board system and a webpage to host the competition and contacted local businesses to get involved while isolating in their homes.

Hellena Djiagween will run the New York Marathon in November.
Camera IconHellena Djiagween will run the New York Marathon in November.

Marathon mission to help her people

Mother-of-two Hellena Djiagween was set to run in one of the world’s largest marathons in the United States after being selected for the gruelling challenge.

The marathon was part of the Indigenous Marathon Project that would have seen 16 hand-picked competitors run in the New York City Marathon in early November.

Despite the cancellation of the event due to the global pandemic, Ms Djiagween said she had always dreamed of participating and wanted to get involved to lead by example for her people.

She said there were pathways for young people in the community and it was about encouraging them to reach out and better themselves.


Council passes reforms to club fees

Exciting developments to local sport were made with the Town of Port Hedland passing reforms to restructure sporting club fees to make admissions fairer for smaller groups.

The changes saw player fees set at $5 per junior and $30 per adult, meaning the larger the club’s member base, the bigger the fees payable to the Town.

Storage in sporting sheds was also amended to a square-metre model to ensure only required equipment was retained by sporting clubs and associations.

The charge for bins at events transitioned from a charge for 10 bins to a per bin basis model.

The Town also reduced the JD Hardie centre fees to encourage local families to get involved in the facility.

Body clashes return

After months of lock downs and restrictions to local sport the community warmly welcomed the return of contact sport following the easing of State COVID-19 related restrictions.

Port Hedland teams dusted off their boots and grabbed their bats to return to body clashes.

During this phase gyms were also able to return to full operations after being limited to holding fitness classes for 20 people.

Mighty glad to be on the track after lockdown off and racing

The town welcomed the return of BMX with the association meeting for the first time since lockdown.

A night of competition saw BMXers get back up to speed after a big break from competition with a series of racers at the locals BMX track.

The group was also excited to announce the return of regular training sessions and started to set their sights on the Northwest Pilbara Crown Super Series, which is expected to host the towns of Hedland, Karratha, Tom Price and Newman in a BMX tournament this year.

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