Academy of Sports Inc Executive Officer Chris Darlington

The 2012 ClubsNSW Academy Games has officially started with a function held tonight at the Illawarra Steelers Club in Wollongong. The Illawarra Academy of Sport (IAS)  is hosting the games and welcomed guests from across the state.

Politicians, sporting representatives, and academy staff gathered to hear a number of speakers across the night, including NSW Minister for Sport and Recreation Graham Annesley, the Academy of Sports Incorporated (ASI) Executive Officer Chris Darlington and Wollongong Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbury. IAS President Brian Weir welcomed all the academies to Wollongong and thanked the ASI for allowing the Illawarra to host the games over the next three years.

Mr Darlington said hard hard work and dedication was required in hosting such an event.

“The IAS began preparations in May 2010, putting together an expression of interest in hosting the ClubsNSW Academy Games,” said Darlington.

In his role, Mr Darlington ensures all the academies work together and advocates their needs to government agencies.

Major Illawarra sporting bodies were present at tonight’s event and echoed the enthusiasm of the Games organisers.

Illawarra Men’s Hockey President Garry Bull is looking forward to seeing the hockey talent on display, including two Illawarra sides.

“It is very exciting and offers a real oppurtunity for Illawarra Hockey to showcase its talents,” said Mr Bull. He is confident the Illawarra boys and girls will perform well.

“The grassroots level is strong, through administration and the facilities available, and this produces good players.”

Special mention was made of the many volunteers who will have an active role to play over the next three days. Matthew Hayward, of Shellharbour, is volunteering through his Sports Management course at Shellharbour TAFE. He will be a marshall at the lawn bowls and basketball competitions.

“I would not miss this for the world, I am beyond excited,” he said.

The NSW Academy Games Opening Ceremony starts 10am (TODAY, Friday 13 April), University Wollongong.