Gary McSweeney was honoured for his indelible contribution to NSW Catholic Primary Schools sport when the organisation saluted their most outstanding performers for 2023.
Two of the region's rising young stars were among those recognised for their achievements with St Xavier's Gunnedah's Molly Ramien and St Philomena's Moree's Leeroi Stokes both receiving Maroon awards.
The first time NSW Catholic Schools Sport have held a primary awards night, in tribute to McSweeney, who lost his battle with cancer in March, the male, female and multi-class Sportsperson of the Year were awarded the Gary McSweeney Award.
The most prestigious awards of the night, McSweeney's children Georgia and Jack were on hand to present them.
"Gary McSweeney's legacy is incredible, paving the way for all students and staff to fulfil the potential as athletes, administrators and good-hearted individuals," the screed about the awards read.
He was instrumental in the opportunities and pathways that Catholic schools' athletes enjoy today as one of the driving forces in initiating the Catholic system's inclusion in the NSW PSSA carnivals.
He took the first-ever Polding team away to a state carnival, and later went on to be the first member of the Catholic school system to be appointed to an executive position with the NSWPSSA.
Locally he was involved with Armidale Diocese sport for around 30 years, and was at the time of his passing, the Armidale Diocesan Primary Sport Council chairperson.
Ramien received her Maroon for her outstanding success in the pool.
First representing Polding in 2021, in 2023 she won the 11 years girls 50m backstroke at the NSWPSSA Swimming Championships. Progressing onto the School Sport Australia Swimming Championships, she went on to clinch gold in the 100m backstroke and as part of the medley relay team, and silver in the 50m backstroke.
Her award citation described her as a "dedicated high-achieving athlete and scholar" and noted that she is also a House Captain.
"Not only is she an exceptional student overall, but she is also a humble individual, who is deeply committed to giving her best in all endeavours," it read.
"Her dedication to her swimming training can be seen throughout her success at the various championships."
Stokes excelled for the Armidale Diocese in numerous sports but was awarded his Maroon for rugby league.
He made his mark with selection in the NSW PSSA 12 years team to play at the School Sport Australia Championships in Townsville, helping them to go on and win the tournament.
"Leeroi's respectful and modest demeanour instantly endeared him to the rest of the team, who sought his guidance and leadership," his citation read.
"He displays an impressive combination of skill, sportsmanship, perseverance and teamwork."
"His extraordinary dedication to his team is evident as he consistently goes above and beyond to support his fellow team-mates, both on and off the field."
Four other Armidale Diocesan students were also nominated: Stella Mace (St Joseph's Walgett) for cross country, Dustin Taber (Holy Trinity, Inverell) for rugby union, Alexis Whitton (St Xavier's Gunnedah) for swimming and Isaac Riches (St Mary's Armidale) for golf.
The latter, who made headlines as a five-year-old when he attracted the attention of Jason Day, is not long back from the School Sport Australia 12 and under golf championships in Perth, where he helped the NSW team win bronze.