From the Burnett to Brazil and back: 2016 in sport
IT HAS been a big year in sport for the South Burnett. We welcomed home an Olympian, crowned new champions in various bat and ball sports, and celebrated both junior and senior representative success on a state and national level.
We followed former South Burnett stars as they continue to spread their wings in the domestic and international sporting arenas, and back home have seen an emphasis on grassroots development ensure the next generation of stars are looking bright.
We watched in awe as Kingaroy's favourite daughter Taliqua Clancy made a dream Olympic debut in Rio, and collectively shed a tear when that dream fell agonisingly short of a medal in the quarter-finals.
The 24 year-old put Kingaroy on the world map with her performances on Rio's famous Copacabana Beach, before falling to US veterans Kerri Walsh Jennings and April Ross. You can expect Clancy to return with a vengeance at Tokyo 2020.
We have supported Kingaroy, Queensland and Australian international Holly Ferling as she continues to be the face of women's cricket, and a role model for the numerous budding cricket stars coming through the ranks back home.
From Kingaroy to Brisbane and now Sydney, Holly's brother Lane looks likely to continue the Ferling legacy after signing with the Cronulla Sharks for the 2017 National Youth Competition, with the former Red Ant junior showing a maturity beyond his years in his approach to the sport.
Lane will also represent Australian Universities at the World Cup in Sydney next year alongside good friend and fellow Red Ant junior Chris Ostwald, after the pair helped lead Queensland to a dominant win over their New South Wales rivals in October.
The South Burnett has served as a breeding ground for a host of former and current rugby league stars like Lane and Chris, and will soon transition to a proving ground with the Western Mustangs expected to enter the Intrust Super Cup from 2018.
One such star, Chris Sandow, continues to raise the flag for Cherbourg across the other side of the globe, citing his desire to be back with friends and family as a reason for his shock departure from Super League side Warrington Wolves.
We enter 2017 with more questions than answers over Sandow's future, but regardless of the British headlines we will follow his journey with interest.
And on Cherbourg, youngster Tyrese Gyemore jetted off to New Zealand with a Queensland Murri rugby league side in December, playing against and participating in a cultural exchange with his Maori counterparts, ahead of a potential call-up in next year's State of Origin curtain raiser.
Staying back home, the Sippel family have continued to rival the Ferlings as South Burnett's number one cricketing family.
A strong showing by Jared Sippel on the Sunshine Coast for the Queensland under-18 side have put selectors on notice, as the talented teenager continues to amaze with his batting prowess.
Jared proved he can do it on the touch field as well, helping guide his Mighty Ducks side to an upset win over Gumps in the Kingaroy Touch Association's Open final.
Sister Courtney recently returned from Tasmania, where she was a standout for the Queensland under-18 girls at the national championships. Hampered by a back injury that restricted her to just batting, Courtney relished the opportunity with the bat to produce a handful of timely knocks in a young, inexperienced Queensland line-up.
In the local competition, Courtney made the move to Brisbane where she debuted against Southern Stars players in a trial of fire that left all watching confident in her ability to take the next step.
Dad Ashley joined Jared in the Goodchild Shield-winning South Burnett side, which claimed back-to-back Goodchild honours in a showing that belied the struggles of the local competition this season.
But recent headlines have been owned by Courtney's teammate Renee Irvine, with the 15 year-old Murgon talent moving through her bingo list of cricket scalps at an alarming rate.
Selection in the Cricket Australia XI for the same national championships as Courtney was quickly followed by a surprise debut for the Queensland Fire in the Women's National Cricket League.
Queensland Cricket PR manager Stephen Gray stopped short of comparing Renee to Holly Ferling, but the proof was in the bowling as Renee took Ferling's place in the Fire team with the latter on Southern Stars duty - an eerily similar path to the one taken by the Aussie pace ace.
Her dual domestic debut complete, Renee jetted south for an opening round meeting with Courtney Sippel's Queensland side to open the national championships in Tasmania.
Days later and her bingo card was complete, with selection in the Australian female under-18 Talent Squad bettered only by the announcement Renee would be the 2016-17 Women's Big Bash League Brisbane Heat Rookie.
With the youngsters setting the pace on the pitch, the wiser-heads like Kingaroy State High School teacher Matthew Langford have done their best work on the water.
The Kingaroy angler will drop the anchor on his teaching career in 2017 to focus on his fishing, and you need only speak with him to know the South Burnett's dams are in good hands.
With a passion for fishing and penchant for helping wherever he can, Langford is leading the charge for a more professional competition structure in Australia using the thriving US circuit as motivation.
Joining him are the likes of Terry Allwood and Corey Goldie, who themselves enjoyed a highly successful year on the water and are vocal advocates for utilising the luxuries afforded to the South Burnett via Boondooma and Bjelke-Petersen dams.
Back on land, and Blackbutt axeman Mitch Argent came from last in the STIHL Timbersports Australia standings to book his ticket on the flight to the World Championships in Stuttgart, Germany.
The last - but certainly not least - member of the Australian Chopperoos justified his selection in the team with a barnstorming performance in the standing block chop to secure the Aussies' third-consecutive world title and yet another world record.
With axe in-hand for 2017, Argent could face stiff competition from brother Jack as the junior Argent stakes his claim for a STIHL Timbersports pro tour berth, after strong showings in the Rookie competition.
From Stuttgart to the Sunshine Coast, and former Kingaroy motorcross rider Joel Evans has overcome all obstacles to return to the bike in preparation for a tilt at the MX Nationals in April next year.
A horror crash in the 2015 competition had doctors fearing he may never walk again, but Evans put those fears to rest and is gearing up for a riding renaissance in 2017.
The Lucas Oil Kingaroy Speedway has also seen its fair share of motorsport action this year, but the best is yet to come with the national street stock championships set to grace Kingaroy's red dirt on New Year's Eve. Despite the prestige, our most successful speedway competitor this year was on the bike, not behind the wheel.
Youngster Cordell Rogerson is gearing up for yet another shot at the national speedway title next year, in what will be his fourth venture to the big dance at just 13 years of age.
The Kingaroy Junior Motorcycle Speedway Club champion has produced consistently strong performances at tracks across the country, and with a steely determination to reach the pinnacle of the sport it is very much a case of "watch this space” with Cordell.
"Watch this space” was something The Dream Crushers had basketball fans trumpeting, as they looked to arrest the momentum of the all-conquering Thunder in the Kingaroy Basketball Association's A-grade competition.
The Dream Crushers' hand-picked team was meant to stymie the Thunder's chances at back-to-back A-grade titles, but after a dominant regular season from the Crushers, Thunder proved they save their best for finals time - crushing their rivals' dreams and securing the 2016 double.
The upsets continued in B-grade, as Clovers firmed from regular season easy-beats to finals champions when they took care of business against Rockets.
For the junior dribblers, KBA president Sandy Sawtell oversaw an inaugural Aussie Hoops program that brought more than 100 juniors to the court, and with Sawtell's expertise and passion expect that number to grow next year.
With basketball over it was time for the netballers to take centre-court, and in arguably the most riveting grand final of the year it was Bombers who emerged victorious over Shooting Stars in the Kingaroy Netball Association A-grade final.
With scores locked at full time, the more clinical Bombers managed to hold their nerve in claiming the narrow 32-31 win at a packed Kingaroy State High School indoor courts.
In just their fourth year, the fledgling South Burnett Saints defied all expectations to reach the finals of the AFL Darling Downs competition in their maiden entry to division one. Meeting a battle-hardened Coolaroo outfit in the second round of the finals, the Saints fell to their more experienced rivals.
But the Saints are keen to renew hostilities in 2017, with an early start to pre-season setting the foundations for another odds-defying campaign.
There was nothing odd about the manner in which the Cherbourg Hornets tore their way through the South Burnett Rugby League competition this year.
The competition heavyweights flexed their muscle against Nanango Stags in the SBRL decider, but what promised a close game on paper proved anything but as Chris Sandow's former club ran rings around the Stags to the tune of 48 points.
The South Burnett premiership was added to the Hornets' extensive 2016 trophy cabinet, with a President's Cup and Reconciliation Shield sat alongside it.
In September, the Hornets proved they could do it outside the South Burnett in claiming the Murri Rugby League Carnival trophy at Redcliffe, coming from behind against the Purga Wagtails for a 28-25 victory.
Alarm bells are ringing for the oval ball codes however, after an Australian Sports Commission survey showed football is the leading club-based participation sport in the country. And if you asked Griffin Rogerson his opinion, he would tell you the news has come far too late.
The Kingaroy footballer returned from a three-week tour of the United Kingdom in early December, where he mixed and matched with the best juniors in the world.
Far from out of his depth, Griffin served up a man-of-the-match performance in his opening game against a british academy side from an unfamiliar central defensive role.
With players of Griffin's ilk working their way through the ranks of South Burnett football, the next Tim Cahill or Harry Kewell could well be a Burnett product.
The fun cousin of football - futsal - also saw its share of representative news this year, with more than a dozen players selected for Queensland teams. Three such players took things a step further, and will represent Australia on international tours in the New Year.
Josaiah Okesene, Daniel Price and Jessica Ryan will travel to Malaysia, the UK and Brazil respectively next year. Amazing individual achievements in their own right, but collectively even greater with all three students at St John's Lutheran School. Sports coordinator Graeme Moseling deserves praise for helping his talented pupils succeed.
From Aussie rules to volleyball, 2016 has undoubtedly been one of overwhelming success for South Burnett athletes.
But as the ink dries on another year of sport, our focus now turns to 2017.
With sign-ons in February and the major codes underway by Easter, next season will come and go before we know it and with it, even more stories as our sporting stars continue to shine.