Who is your Illawarra sportsperson of the year?

The Illawarra Mercury sportsperson of the year award returns and we want you to vote to decide the people’s choice award.

This year the nominees are 15 of the Illawarra and South Coast’s finest sporting products. 

And you could win. Simply register via the form below when you vote, to go into the draw to win a $100 voucher from Rebel Sport.

Not sure who to vote for? Read our nominees’ outstanding achievements underneath the poll.

Voting for the People’s Choice is now open and closes on December 29 at 7.30am.

The winner of the Mercury sportsperson of the year award and peoples choice award will be announced on Saturday, December 31.

NICOLE BECK (Bulli) AND EMMA TONEGATO (Wollongong)

Nicole Beck and Emma Tonegato with the Australian Rugby Sevens team in Rio.

Nicole Beck and Emma Tonegato with the Australian Rugby Sevens team in Rio.

Top 2016 achievement: Winning the first-ever Rugby Sevens Olympics gold.

Magic moment: Nicole Beck melting the heart of a nation when she kissed her gold medal with daughter Sophie.

Why vote for them?

Like Michelle Heyman and Caitlin Foord last year, Beck and Tonegato are on an Illawarra sportsperson of the year peoples choice award joint ticket, after winning gold together in Rio. Tonegato is one of the most exciting players in any rugby code on the planet, scoring 50 tries as Australia won the World Series. The Illawarra duo proved an irresistible force, beating New Zealand 24-17 in the final.

ROB BEVERIDGE (Wollongong)

Hawks coach Rob Beveridge.

Hawks coach Rob Beveridge.

Top 2016 achievement: Taking the Hawks to the NBL playoffs in his first season in charge.

Magic moment: Breaking the Wildcats curse, which stood for 11 years, beating his former club in Perth in November.

Why vote for him? 

The most respected coach in the NBL, Beveridge and NBL MVP Kevin Lisch led the Hawks to within one game of the championship series. Beveridge then committed to a new four-year deal with the Hawks, as Lisch left for bitter rivals the Sydney Kings. After an early season slide, Beveridge has been the mastermind behind the Hawks resurgence back into playoff contention in 2016-17.

CAITLIN FOORD (Lake Illawarra)

Caitlin Foord scores in Rio.

Caitlin Foord scores in Rio.

Top 2016 achievement: Winning Asian Football Confederation player of the year.

Magic moment: Scoring against Germany in the Olympics group stage.

Why vote for her? 

The reigning Illawarra sportsperson of the year and peoples choice award winner, Foord, along with fellow South Coast star Michelle Heyman have become key players in the Matildas rise to become an international force. The 2011 World Cup young player of the award was awarded the Asian Confederation’s top honour in December.

TYSON FRIZELL (Corrimal)

Top 2016 achievement: NSW State of Origin and Australia Four Nations debuts

Tyson Frizell scores for NSW.

Tyson Frizell scores for NSW.

Magic moment: Frizell’s never-say-die pursuit of Queensland winger Dane Gagai is the standard for a new breed of Blues player.

Why vote for him? Frizell came off the bench in Australia’s Four Nations final triumph over New Zealand in England last month. Only handed his first NSW jersey when Wade Graham was suspended, Frizell became an Origin revelation. The Dragons forward scored tries in games two and three, as well as the memorable chase to almost stop Gagai’s runaway try, in standout performances in a losing cause. 

NIC MADDINSON (Shoalhaven Heads, Warilla junior)

Top 2016 achievement: Being selected for the Australian Test team

Test debutant Nic Maddinson.

Test debutant Nic Maddinson.

Magic Moment: Simon Katich handing him a Baggy Green cap before the Adelaide day-night Test against South Africa

Why vote for him?

Maddinson was bowled for a duck under lights after coming in at No.6. But it should not undermine his selection of the enormous international potential he has. The slashing left-handed batsman has shown increasing maturity at the crease for NSW with some important centuries in this calendar year, as well as taking on the Sheffield Shield captaincy in Moises Henriques absence.

EMMA MCKEON (Mount Kembla)

Top 2016 achievement: One gold, two silver, one bronze at Rio Olympics.

Emma McKeon in Rio.

Emma McKeon in Rio.

Magic moment: Breaking 4x100m freestyle world record to win gold with Cate and Bronte Campbell and Brittany Elmslie.

Why vote for her? 

The reserved McKeon was thrust into the Olympics spotlight when she became Australia’s most successful athlete. After relay gold in world record time, her best individual swim came with a bronze from lane seven in the 200m freestyle final. McKeon was controversially banned from attending the closing ceremony final for breaking team curfew but was later allowed to celebrate following a public campaign and petiton launched by for teammate Melanie Wright (nee Schlanger), which received more than 18,000 signatures of support.

KAREN MURPHY (Shell Cove)

Top 2016 achievement: Winning the world championships singles crown.

Karen Murphy celebrates gold.

Karen Murphy celebrates gold.

Magic Moment: Drawing four shots in the final against Scotland’s Lesley Doig in New Zealand, to clinch back-to-back titles in an event held every four years.

Why vote for her?

Murphy and Merle Richardson (1985) are the only Australians to win the women’s crown in singles at the world championships. Murphy has played more than 500 times and has won Commonwealth Games gold in the pairs in Melbourne, as well as a string of other international medals. While Murphy plays for Cabramatta in Sydney, the Shell Cove is a legend of Australian lawn bowling, a status only enhanced by her latest international victory.

JARROD POORT (Warilla)

Top 2016 achievement: Competing in the Rio Olympics 10km marathon swimming 

Jarrod Poort

Jarrod Poort

Magic Moment: A one-man breakaway, Poort became a cult Australian figure of the Olympics by leading for nine kilometres, before being caught in the closing stages

Why vote for him? 

Four years ago, Poort was the last picked on the Australian swimming team with a B-qualifying 1500m freestyle time. While he didn’t make it past the heats in London, even then his focus was on the 10km event in Rio. Which is why, even though he missed out on a medal, it made Poort’s courageous solo effort so special, a tactic seldom seen in marathon swimming. 

AMANDA REID (Werri Beach)

Top 2016 achievement: Rio Paralympic cycling silver medal

Paralympian silver medallist Amanda Reid.

Paralympian silver medallist Amanda Reid.

Magic moment: Posting a C2 Paralympic Games record time of 40.354, adjusted to 37.581 under the C1-C3 classification, Reid described it as her best ever ride.

Why vote for her?

Switching from swimming to cycling proved a master stroke for Reid, who has cerebral palsy and an intellectual disability, at her second Paralympics. Just days before travelling to Rio, Reid feared she had broken her arm after a heavy fall in training, but refused to let it dent her confidence when it mattered. As the second last time trial final rider Reid knew she had captured either silver or gold with her time, only to be edged out by a world record adjusted time from Dutch woman Alyda Norbrius.

SHANE ROSE (Berry)

Top 2016 achievement: Rio Olympics equestrian team eventing bronze medallist 

Berry's Olympics bronze medallist Shane Rose.

Berry's Olympics bronze medallist Shane Rose.

Magic moment: Rose was a spectator on the final day, disqualified after defaulting three times in the cross-country event, but his teammates helped lift him to a place on the medal dais.

Why vote for him?

Well known on the South Coast, Rose – now living at Werombi near Camden – became an Australian equestrian legend with a second Olympics medal. Rose had won silver in Beijing and despite the disqualification for the last day, his Australian teammates pushed through in the showjumping to win bronze. Teammate Chris Burton said they were proud to do it for Rose “he has been the anchor of the team".

CASEY SABLOWSKI (Albion Park)

Top 2016 achievement: Competing at a third Olympic Games, in Rio.

Albion Park's Casey Sablowski.

Albion Park's Casey Sablowski.

Magic Moment: An Olympics medal may have again eluded her, but Sablowski retires as one of the greats of Australian hockey and Illawarra sport.

Why vote for her?

As a nod to her remarkable career achievements. Aside from being one of the nicest people you’ll meet, Sablowski (nee Eastham) has inspired a generation of young hockey players, particularly in the Illawarra and South Coast. Sablowski debuted for Australia in 2006 at the age of 17, before playing at the Beijing Games the following year and was world young player of the year in 2009. 

JAMES TURNER (University of Wollongong)

Top 2016 achievement: Rio Paralympics T36 800m athletics gold medal.

James Turner wins Paralympics gold.

James Turner wins Paralympics gold.

Magic moment: In world record time, Turner won the final by seven seconds in 2:02.29.

Why vote for him?

After moving to Wollongong in 2015 to study at university, Turner became the toast of the Illawarra and provided an iconic Paralympic moment of celebration with a leap in the air while the Australian flag was draped around him. Turner had pushed for a place on the ParaRoos football squad, but the decision to turn to athletics had a golden afterglow.

ALEX VOLKANOVSKI (Wollongong)

Top 2016 achievement: Winning UFC debut

Alex Volkanovski wins his UFC debut bout.

Alex Volkanovski wins his UFC debut bout.

Magic moment: Two minutes into the second round, Volkanovski punches his way to a TKO stoppage victory against Japan’s Yusuke Kasuya.

Why vote for him?

The Wollongong mixed martial arts fighter had twice been denied his chance inside the octagon. First on an Australian card, where management issues meant he missed out, before an event in Manila was cancelled after an injury to headliner BJ Penn. Finally in November, the Wollongong wonder who is regarded as a rising star in the sport, was able to make his mark.

TYLER WRIGHT (Culburra)

Top 2016 achievement: Winning World Surf League title.

Tyler Wright celebrates the world title win.

Tyler Wright celebrates the world title win.

Magic moment: As her brother recovers from a career-threatening concussion injury, Wright wore his competition No.3 shirt while securing her maiden world championship.

Why vote for her?

From laid-back tour surfer, who was simply enjoying the ride, Wright’s transformation into focused world champion was complete when she claimed the title in France. Wright won five tour events, including the year-ending Maui Pro. But it was her runner-up finish in France which sealed her triumph, dedicating it to her uncle who passed away, as well as brother and world tour talent Owen, who suffered a serious head injury after a fall at Pipeline last year.

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