The SESF is incredibly fortunate to have the support of its ambassadors, all who bring not only a long list of accolades, but so too a commitment to provide mentoring and guidance to scholarship recipients. All stars in their own right, and all having passed through the School Sport pathways, SESF’s ambassadors are enabling us to reach new audiences but more importantly, are providing insight and guidance on goal setting, the importance of defining your values and pathways to success, via one on one mentoring to our scholarship recipients.
The SESF Mentoring Program was initiated by Olympic Gold medalist and SESF ambassador Mack Horton in 2019, who is back mentoring two new SESF alumni in 2020. Significantly the SESF has ten Olympians / Australian representatives mentoring twelve SESF scholarship winners/alumni in 2020. With the current COVID 19 challenges for everyone, mentoring sessions are virtual with mentors set up in their own ‘mentoring pods’ with their men-tees, parents/guardians and two SESF committee members involved. All can write to each other, set mentoring goals and tasks, ask questions and post photos, videos and updates.
The mentoring Program sits under the guidance of SESF Committee Member and AFL legend Nathan Burke as our ‘Mentoring Team Leader’ who regularly collaborates and runs online training sessions with all SESF mentors. The SESF Mentor Program follows the strictest of protocols and governance.
Olympic and Commonwealth Medallist.
The Sports Excellence Scholarship Fund is proud to welcome Mack Horton OAM to our exclusive group of ambassadors. Horton is a perfect fit for many reasons. Nick Mooney, Executive Director of SESF, says “Mack is an inspirational athlete and a passionate advocate for school sport and students in schools across our nation.” Horton cherishes his school sport memories. “Team Vic and School Sport Victoria has been a major part of my swimming journey. Going away with the Team Vic team was the start of my swimming pathway and gave me the understanding that I could take my sport further.”
Mack Horton is one of Australia’s most successful elite athletes. The Olympic and Commonwealth Gold medalist started his illustrious swimming career while in school, making his first international debut as a 13 year old, breaking the first of many Australian records as a school boy. From this it was clear that Mack was destined for greatness, but he has always had a grounded perspective when it comes to his international success, stating that he felt a similar sense of achievement from winning his school championships as he did an Olympic Gold.
Horton overcame a fear of water at age 11, and less than two years later he broke his first of many Swimming World Records. These aspects of his story will inspire the next generation of emerging athletes. “Meeting my swimming hero Grant Hacket at the 2006 Commonwealth Games provoked me into wanting to be just like him. Now I want to inspire other athletes to not only be their best, but to be the best.”
Most elite athletes begin their journey in school and Horton is no different.
Bec was awarded a Sports Excellence Scholarship in 2018 for her participation in the School Sport Australia Triathlon Championship.
Bec became the SESF’s first scholarship recipient to attend an Olympic Games when she competed in the 20km Race Walk in Tokyo.
Bec Henderson grew up a talented Triathlete, being selected to represent Team Vic at the School Sport Australia Triathlon Championships in 2016, 2017 and 2018, where she was also named captain of the squad.
Since 2018, Bec has continued training in both Triathlon and Race walking and was able to set her sights on the Tokyo Olympics when they were delayed by 12 months due to COVID-19.
Bec achieved her goal of attending an Olympic Games at just 20 years of age, becoming the youngest competitor in the 20km Race Walk at the Games, where she finished 38th. This was an amazing achievement for Bec, who had only began focusing on the 20km event in March 2021.
Outside of sport, Bec is studying a Bachelor of Biomedical Science at Monash University, having juggled her athletics and education in year 12 to finish the year as Dux of her school in 2019.
The SESF could not be prouder to have their first Olympian in Bec Henderson as an ambassador and mentor, Bec is a great role model for Australia’s future Olympians and athletes to look up to.
Gabby was awarded a Sports Excellence Scholarship in 2016 for her participation in the School Sport Australia15 Years and Under Girls Australian Football Championship.
Gabrielle Newton graduated from Greensborough College in 2019. Little did she know how much her life would change after being the AFLW number one draft pick for the 2020 season. Gabby is a talented dual athlete, in demand for both elite level Australian Football and elite level Basketball being selected in the AFLW Western Bulldogs and spending her off seasons to play for the Southern Sabres in the NBL1.
Gabby commenced her sporting journey within school sport when she was successfully selected in the Team Vic Basketball State Team in 2017, 2018 & 2019, as well as in the Team Vic Australian Football State Team three times, 2012, 2015 & 2016.
We are so pleased to have Gabby Newton on board as an SESF Ambassador.
Monique was awarded a Sports Excellence Scholarship in 2015 for her participation in the School Sport Australia 15 Years and Under Australian Football Championship.
A highly talented athlete, Monique Conti has achieved so much in her sporting career to date.
Combining her two favourite sports, Football and Basketball, Monique excelled at both throughout her junior years, representing Australia in Basketball in addition to being part of the inaugural AFL Women’s Academy and playing VFLW for Melbourne Football Club.
After a terrific 2016/17 Basketball season culminating in Monique winning the WNBL Rookie of the Year, Melbourne Boomers signed Monique to a four-year contract, showing just how critical the Year 12 student was to the team.
On the back of her strong finish to the VFL Women’s season, Monique was taken with the third pick in the 2017 Victorian AFLW Draft by the Western Bulldogs resulting in her playing at the elite level in both Basketball and Football.
In 2018 Monique won an AFLW Premiership with the Western Bulldogs, receiving the honour of being named best on ground in the game.
This was followed when Monique was awarded the Western Bulldogs Best & Fairest award in 2019.
Monique made the decision to join the Richmond Tigers for their inaugural season in 2020, and despite the teams struggles on field, Monique also took home the clubs inaugural Best & Fairest award.
Monique also made a change in basketball, making the move to the WNBL’s Southside Flyers and being a member of their 2020 Championship team.
We know that there is still so much more to come in Monique’s already successful career, and we’re so proud to have her as an SESF Ambassador, helping to inspire the next generation of sporting stars.
Australian Olympian and Commonwealth Medallist
Brooke is a 24 year old Long Jumper based in Melbourne, Australia, training under the guidance of her coach Russell Stratton.
Brooke began the sport of athletics at a young age of 5, at the Nunawading Little Athletics Centre, where she found her passion for long jump after winning her first state gold medal in U9. Brooke won many State and National titles through her younger years, and has also represented Australia at both a World Youth and junior level. Beyond these achievements, Brooke has progressed to be the current Australian Open Long Jump Champion, a Rio & Olympic Finalist, a World Indoor finalist and a World Championships finalist.
More recently, Brooke took home silver at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in 2018 with a jump of 6.77m and placed 7th at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics with a jump of 6.83m.
Brooke is a wonderful asset to the SESF, taking on mentorship opportunities as part of her Ambassadorship and always working to promote the SESF and assist Victorian students wherever she can.
Maddy was awarded a Sports Excellence Scholarship in 2015 for her participation in the School Sport Australia 15 Years and Under Australian Football Championship.
Since receiving a scholarship from the SESF, Maddy Prespakis has become a 2X AFLW All Australian, 2X Carlton AFLW Best and Fairest winner, AFLW Rising Star Winner and AFLW League Best and Fairest Winner.
Maddy is without a doubt one of the AFLW’s brightest stars, and it doesn’t get much better than that at her tender age!
In 2015, a teacher at Gisborne Secondary College suggested that Maddy trial for the Team Vic 15 & Under Girls Australian Football Team, opening Maddy’s eyes to another high-level football opportunity that she could further develop from. Upon selection in the team, Maddy received an SESF scholarship and went on to be part of the Championship winning Team Vic side in Geelong.
Maddy is thankful for the experience that the SESF was able to provide her stating that “With all the costs my parents were having to cover for the all the sport my sister and I were participating in, the scholarship I received from the SESF took a great strain off my family and enabled me to be a part of the Team Vic program without the added financial pressures. ”
The SESF looks forward to watching Maddy’s career continue to prosper and is grateful for her contribution as an SESF Ambassador.
Awarded an AM for significant service to athletics as a marathon runner, administrator, and mentor to young athletes in 2014 Queen’s Birthday Honours, Steve is an Australian Sports Commission Board Member and Athletics Victoria Life Member.
Additionally, Steve was also Chef de Mission 2010, 2014 and 2018 Australian Commonwealth Games Team
Steve began his athletics journey in 1976 at age 14 and achieved various career highlights including:
-1986 Commonwealth Games Marathon – Bronze medal
-1990 Commonwealth Games Marathon – Silver medal
-1994 Commonwealth Games Marathon – Gold medal
-1998 Commonwealth Games 10 km track – Bronze medal
Still running everyday covering over 100km a week, Steve recently won the Oceania Masters Athletics 50+ Cross Country title and in 2009 ran a world age record for a forty six year old of 29.59mins for 10km on the road making me the oldest person to run under the 30minute barrier.
Steve is an integral member of the SESF Ambassador team, making a big impact on the future sporting stars of Australia with his mentoring and coaching.
2012 Paralympic Swimming Gold Medallist, 3 Time Australian Representative & World Championship Medallist
”School Sport is one of the most amazing things that a school kid can experience in their educational career.”
Matt Haanappel was born in 1994 with Cerebral Palsy. His sporting career was supported from the beginning as he was born into a strong sporting family, which includes retired Tour de France winner Cadel Evans AM.
As a young boy Matt competed in a wide range of sport and recreational activities. Many of these were within the school sport system where he competed for his school in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne. His sports included Aussie Rules Football, Basketball, Tee-Ball, Cricket and Tennis.
Matt first competed in his chosen sport of swimming at the 2005 VPSSA State Swimming Championships at age 11, where he won a gold medal in the 50m Freestyle for Students with a Disability – a medal that he treasures dearly to this day. He was selected for his first Team Vic Swimming Team in 2008, competing in the Pacific School Games in Canberra, and then was selected to represent Team Vic again in 2009, 2011 and 2013, as well as 2012 where he was Team Captain.
Matt represented Australia at the 2012 London Paralympic Games, winning a Gold and Bronze medal for the Freestyle and Medley Relays respectively. In 2013 he won his first international individual medal, a Bronze in the 100m Freestyle S6 at the IPC Swimming World Championships. 2014 took him to the Pan Pacific Championships in Los Angeles, returning home with 3 Gold, 2 Silver and a Bronze Medal, as well as an invite to join Swimming Australia’s Paralympic Squad at the Australian Institute of Sport.
On Australia Day 2014 Matt was awarded a Medal in the Order of Australia (OAM) for his services to sport and the community as a Gold Medallist and supporter of many community programs.
Matt took most of the 2015 swimming season off to recover from shoulder surgery in preparation to be selected for the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games team.
Outside of swimming, Matt studied a Sports Management degree at the University of Canberra, whilst supports many disability organisations throughout Victoria with his work and passion.
Matt is an active and respected member within the SESF Ambassador group, taking part in mentorship opportunities as they arise.
Dual Olympian, Dual Commonwealth Games Gold Medalist, 3 Times World Championship Team Member, National Champion and Victorian Female Athlete of the Year
”My passion for sport and specifically gymnastics came when I joined my local gymnastics club as a 7 year old for fun. As the sport quickly progressed for me I experienced 3 different primary schools to accommodate my gymnastics needs as I moved closer to where I trained. Beginning at St Michael’s Primary School in Berwick, moving to Mentone Park Primary School and then Stonnington Primary School when the gym relocated to Prahran.”
Ash made her first National team as a 13 year old and was a National Team member from 2004 to 2012 whilst completing high school at Melbourne Girls’ College in Richmond.
As gymnastics is generally a young sport for girls, Ash was experiencing the demands of elite sport that most athletes would go through in their mid to late 20s. Luckily, Melbourne Girls’ College provided Ash with the assistance and flexibility to achieve both her sporting and academic goals, allowing her to go to the Beijing Olympics during year 12.
Ash finished up her gymnastics career as a two time Olympian, dual Commonwealth Games gold medallist and a three-time world championship team member.
Since retiring after the London Olympics, Ash has now completed a Master in Clinical Exercise Physiology (Rehabilitation) and remains involved in the sport, speaking publically where opportunities present and introducing primary school children to gymnastics to show them the benefits of building strong foundations through these skills.
Ash is another SESF ambassador who also participates in the mentorship program, offering wonderful insight on her experience as a student and elite athlete to the next generation of stars.
“I am proud to be an SESF ambassador after my really positive school sport experiences and I look forward to inspiring the next generation of young golfers!
So Oh is a true product of the School Sport Victoria inter-school program and “Team Vic” representative pathway.
“I really first started getting inspired by golf when I played in the Victorian Primary School Golf Championships and I really enjoyed being part of Team Vic, going to the School Sport Australia National Golf Championships in grades 4, 5 and 6.”
From this pathway, Su won the Primary School Golf Championships, and also received a coveted Victorian Sporting Blue Award, in 2009.
After winning the Australian Ladies Masters in 2015, Su joining the LPGA Tour in 2016 and was part of the Australian Olympic Team in Rio 2016.
So far in her career, Su has placed top 10 13 times at professional tournaments, an outstanding achievement at such a young age.
Su is an important member of the SESF Ambassador program and has enjoyed connecting with her mentee throughout the period.
We are thankful for Su’s effort to be a part of the SESF and look forward to a wonderful partnership in years to come.
Sophie is an Australian Hockey player, whose unconventional pathway to success is an inspiration.
As a youngster Sophie loved playing Cricket and tried out for the Team Vic 12 Years and Under Cricket Team, and while she was not selected for the Team Vic team, to her surprise she was selected to play for the SSV Australian team.
Sophie still has the baggy blue from her Team Vic uniform and speaks very fondly about the experience she had in the team.
Cricket was another of the many sports that Sophie was passionate about, and after much encouragement from family and friends, Sophie decided that she would try her hand at the Team Vic 12 Years and Under Hockey trials. Sophie still remembers the day clearly, as they read through the names and it became clear that she had not made the team.
Sophie didn’t let this come between her and her love for Hockey and used this opportunity to push her onto bigger and better things. Sophie trained hard and looked for any opportunity she could to play Hockey at the highest level, being selected for every future Hockey Victoria team she was age eligible for.
For this reason, Sophie is passionate about living by the words that ‘hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard.’
It hasn’t been smooth sailing, with setbacks getting in the way of her progress multiple times. “I have faced a fair number of health set- backs throughout my career to date. I was diagnosed with chronic fatigue in 2013 and suffered very badly for 3-4 years. In 2015 I was diagnosed with glandular fever, and was also diagnosed with eating intolerances (gluten, lactose and fructose intolerance). Some days while in year 12 I was unable to get out of bed. This impacted every area of my life. The biggest lesson that I have learned is that listening to my body is very important.”
Since finishing school, Sophie has relocated to Perth, Western Australia in order to train and play alongside The Hockeyroos.
Sophie is keen to share her message with students nationally, that setting goals and following your dreams is important, and not letting setbacks take your eyes off your goals. Her mantra is clear: “hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard.”
We are incredibly proud of all that Sophie has achieved so far and grateful that we can have her as an SESF Ambassador.
Dual Olympic silver medallist and five-time world championship medallist
School Sport Victoria is excited to welcome Joshua Dunkley-Smith as an SSV Ambassador.
Growing up in the outskirts of Geelong, Joshua Dunkley-Smith was introduced to rowing through school sport. It was during this time that he learned his craft, as he continued to improve his speed, fitness and technique. To his friends and family it was clear that he not only had a passion for the sport, he also had a talent that would one day have Dunkley-Smith representing Australia in the green and gold.
Dunkley-Smith’s decorated achievements speak for themselves. A dual Olympic silver medallist, and five-time world championship medallist is enough to impress anyone, but it doesn’t end there. In 2018 Dunkley-Smith was arguably in the best form of his life. The 28-year-old powerhouse rower posted the fastest ever 2000m time on an ergo, breaking a 10-year-old record held by Kiwi Rob Waddell.
This amazing record-breaking performance was the cherry on top of an already stela career. Dunkley-Smith won silver medals at the London 2012 and Rio 2016 Olympic Games in the men’s four and also has five world rowing championship medals to his name.
Dunkley-Smith is passionate about introducing as many students as possible to the sport of rowing, whether indoor or outdoor. Dunkley-Smith believes that rowing is a great entry level sport for any student, regardless of fitness levels, or ability. He believes that the team aspect of the sport, as well as individual events, are a great drawcard for anyone wishing to keep fit and enjoy rowing.
Canterbury Bulldogs NRLW Team Member
Touch Football Elite Athlete Steph Kelly is a trailblazer and young gun on the Victorian and Australian Touch Football scene.
Steph’s first taste of representative football was under the Team Vic banner, representing her state three times, including at the 2015 Pacific School Games in Adelaide.
She had the honour of being the first Victorian Girl to represent Australia at under 18’s Girls level. This is a position she excelled in, with the team winning the youth World Cup in 2018 in Malaysia.
Most recently Steph was a member of the inaugural Sydney Roosters NRL Touch Premiership Team, before moving to the Canterbury Bulldogs. Steph was also selected to compete in the Under 20 Australian Women’s Team competing at the Youth Trans-Tasman Championships.
We are glad to have Steph as an SESF Ambassador and look forward to helping her promote the sport of Touch in Victoria and mentor the next generation of emerging talent to achieve their best.
Australian middle-distance athlete, specialising in 800m.
Kelly is well known among the Australian Athletics Community, having won multiple medals at the Australian Championships.
”The lessons you learn on the sporting field such as teamwork, communication and determination are skills I use daily in my life.”
As a sport obsessed child, Kelly participated in many sports, where she found she had a knack for running fast. Kelly was successful as a junior athlete winning several State and National track and cross country championships. Throughout her childhood Kelly continued to run, proudly representing her school and local club, Glenhuntly, where she achieved a high level of success.
After achieving 2nd place in the 800m at the National Championships, Kelly represented Australia on the senior team at the 2011 World University Games where she made the semi-finals. She continued to progress through senior ranks with her breakthrough year in 2013 when she was undefeated in the Australian season, went on to win the National Open 800m title and qualified for the 2013 World Championships. She was selected in the 2014 Commonwealth Games team but sadly withdraw due to injury. In 2015 Kelly was a member of the 4x800m World Relay team which successfully took the bronze medal.
Kelly feels very lucky that she is able to travel the world, meet amazing people, and compete at the highest level of the sport. She hopes that through her running and interaction with the public she can inspire some of Australia’s next generation to compete in the sport that she loves.
The SESF thanks Kelly for all of her work as an Ambassador.
Richard was born in 1984 with Spina Bifida. He took to sport at a young age and was involved in many sports before the love of athletics took his full attention.
Richard first competed at the School Sport Victoria Primary Schools State Championships in 1995, while in Year 4, and then made his first Team Vic team in 1996 for the Pacific School Games in Perth. Since then he has competed in many national and international competitions.
Richard on school sport opportunities: ”This is where my sporting life began 20 years ago. And without that opportunity, I would never have achieved what I have in that time or been able to be an athlete and had the experiences I have around the world. I am now coaching and helping the next generation of athletes and hopefully future Australian stars”
Richard first competed for Australia at the 2002 IPC World Athletics Championships in Lyon, France, where he came away with a Bronze medal in the T53 400m. Two years later, at his first Paralympic Games in Athens, Richard won Gold in the T53 800m and Silver in the 4x100m.
In 2006 Richard won a Bronze medal in the T53 800m at the IPC World Athletics Championships in Assen, The Netherlands, followed in 2008 by Silver in the T53 200m and Bronze in the T53 400m at the Beijing Paralympic Games.
In 2010 Richard competed at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi, India, in the T54 1500m, winning a silver medal. Then in 2011 he won his first IPC World Athletics Championship gold medal, in the T53 800m, and silver in the T53 400m. In the same year Richard also won the T53 400m Gold medal at the IAAF World Championships in Deagu, South Korea.
We are pleased to have Richard on board as an SESF Ambassador.