Adam Melling, Ryan Cuskelly and Nick Shailes have made it onto The Northern Star's list of the region's greatest sports stars of all time.
Adam Melling, Ryan Cuskelly and Nick Shailes have made it onto The Northern Star's list of the region's greatest sports stars of all time. Contributed

#41-50: Northern Rivers' greatest sports stars of all time

THE Northern Rivers can lay claim to some of Australia's best sportspeople.

We've got talented cricket players, football stars, surfers, track and field athletes and swimmers who have gone on to represent their region, state and country at the highest levels.

But who's the best of the best? Who deserves the title of the Northern Rivers' greatest sports star of all time?

The Northern Star has been trawling through the names and their achievements to come up with a list of the top 50 sportspeople from the region.

In the first part of the series, we reveal #41-50.

We welcome your feedback, so email with your suggestions and thoughts.


50. Islay Lee

Carolyn Cameron and Islay Lee.
Carolyn Cameron and Islay Lee.

LONG before the Oarsome Foursome made rowing a high-profile sport, dual Olympian Islay Lee showed he was made of the right stuff.

Lee, who was born and bred in Lismore, rowed stroke in Australian men's eights crews at Montreal in 1976 and again at Moscow in 1980.

He also represented his country at world championships in the Netherlands in 1977 and in New Zealand in 1978 where they finished fourth in the finals after being edged out for third by the host nation.

A talented athlete, Lee's prowess saw him hold national championship 15 times -- four times in sculls and 11 times in sweep-oared boats.

From 1976 to 1980 he was Australia's prominent sweep-oared stroke, setting the pace in Sydney Rowing Club crews which won five successive national titles in the coxed four, three successive titles in a coxed pair, and in three successive King's Cups winning New South Wales selection eights.


49. Ben Auckram

Ben Auckram.
Ben Auckram. Alison Paterson

ONLY a few months after he took up swimming, Ben Auckram started breaking records.

Now aged 15 and in Year 9 at Trinity College, the Lismore teen has broken local, state and national records in various multi-classes.

His resilience was tested when, only 20 weeks before the 2019 NSW multi-class state titles in Sydney, he underwent surgery to have an injured foot re-broken and set.

But he was in the pool the day his cast was removed and he claimed five gold medals for five events at the October event.

Ben started swimming at the Year 5 school camp after a teacher suggested he join the Lismore Workers Swim Team where he found he could leave his spina bifida in the wheelchair and be the best possible version of himself in the pool.

Since then Ben has competed in many multiswim classes and has set national records at events including the Australian Age Championships.


48. Nick Shailes

Nick Shailes.
Nick Shailes. Supplied: Madeleine Flanagan

LISMORE-born world softball champion Nick Shailes is tour de force in the game having been a fixture on the Australian men's team for a decade.

Shailes, 34, is considered a formidable infielder and extraordinary batter and has played in five World Baseball and Softball Confederation World Championships since 2009.

Named in the 'All World' team on 10 separate occasions, Shailes has also been awarded the Leading Hitter in 2007 and 2016, named the Most Valuable Player in 2010, 2013 and 2015 and has won six International Softball Congress titles in 2010 to 2011, 2013-15 and again in 2017 with two different teams.

He grew up playing and used to watch his mother Kayleen, a former NSW State player.

Shailes was voted as the Best Player in the World in 2015 by his peers.

Having made the decision to move to Canada in 2015 to continue his playing career, Shailes is at the peak of his career.


47. Ryan Cuskelly

Ryan Cuskelly.
Ryan Cuskelly. Jono Searle/Getty Images

FORMER Evans Head squash player Ryan Cuskelly, 32, is one of the world's top squash players.

Since he joined the Professional Squash Association World Tour in 2006 he has been charging up the ranks.

In 2007 Cuskelly won his first title at the Topend Open Series then in 2009 he won four PSA World Tour titles to elevate himself into the world's top 50 for the first time.

A dynamic player Cuskelly played a magnificent game at the Northern Ontario Open in 2015 where he stunned Laurens Jan Anjema in the final.

After reaching the last four of the Hong Kong Open in August 2016, Cuskelly made the world's top 15 for the first time.

In 2018 he was runner-up to Max Lee in the final of the Canada Cup, ahead of winning the Chicago Open.

In June 2019 Cuskelly won the Australian Nationals and with Yamba mate Cameron Pilley claimed the World Doubles Championship.


46. Guy Creighton

Guy Creighton.
Guy Creighton.

A FORMER member of the Casino Pony Club, Guy Creighton competed in equestrian at the highest level including the Montreal and Los Angeles Olympics.

In 2018 Creighton, 70, was named the inaugural Inductee of the Equestrian Queensland Hall of Fame.

An outstanding rider, Creighton competed for Australia at two Olympic Games, took part in 14 Nations Cups, won 13 World Cup events and was placed second at seven others.

He also claimed four Australian Championships among many other accolades.

Closer to home, Creighton competed in every Royal Show across the country and is the only rider to hold the lead rider title at every event.

His influence on the sport has endured through coaching the next wave of champions and he continues to mentor riders.

He spent 15 years as the Australian Young Rider Team coach and and still continues to be a highly sought after coach, judge and course builder.


45. Adam Melling

Adam Melling.
Adam Melling. Ethan Smith / Surfing NSW

FROM Lennox Head to the World Qualifying Tour and back again, it has been a wild ride for regular-foot Adam Melling, 34, who started surfing competitively when he was nine years old in the Le-Ba boardriders club.

After winning the aptly named 6-Star Cold Water Classic in Scotland in 2009 and finishing the season in fourth on the WQS, he qualified to join the best in the world on the ASP World Tour beginning in 2010.

In 2012, Melling qualified for the World Tour (WCT), finishing 2nd at Jeffrey's Bay, 3rd in the 2011 Triple Crown and in 2012 he won The World Cup of surfing at Sunset Beach to re-qualify for the 2013 WCT.

One of Melling's biggest wins was in 2012 at the Vans World Cup of Surfing at Sunset Beach in Hawaii.

His best result in 2016 was a highly respectable 5th in Brazil, Rio de Janeiro at the Oi Rio Pro and he retired soon after.


44. Sam Brazel

Sam Brazel.

HE MAY be ranked 976th in the world but Lismore-Born golfer Sam Brazel is no slouch on the green.

Brazel, 40, first turned professional in 2002 and since then has played on the Asian Tour since 2013 and on the European Tour since 2017.

His best result to date was when the powered through the field to snatch the 2016 UBS Hong Kong Open that was part of the 2016 Asian Tour and the 2017 European Tour from under the nose of his more experienced and higher-ranked rivals.

Brazel was considered and outsider with a world ranking of 480 and the win in Hong Kong secured him his European Tour victory and gave him a two-year exemption on the tour.

Before living and working overseas to follow his golfing dream, Brazel formerly worked in the pro shop at the Lismore Workers Golf Club, where he took out the 2008 Lismore Pro-Am.


43. Katie Kelly

Katie Kelly and her guide Michellie Jones.
Katie Kelly and her guide Michellie Jones. Contributed

CASINO-born para-athlete Katie Kelly OAM won the first gold medal on debut in her sport, as Para-triathlon made its debut at the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games.

Crossing in 1:12:18, she and her guide Olympic silver medallist Michelle Jones raced over a minute faster than second-placed British pair Alison Patrick and Hazel Smith to win gold.

Born with Usher Syndrome, a degenerative disease affecting her hearing and vision, Kelly, 44, was declared legally blind in January 2015 but turned her disability into an opportunity when she began competing in Para-triathlon.

Her accolades include 2016/17 Sir Roden Cutler Award, Primary Club of Australia, 2017 Order of Australia Medal, Triathlon Australia Female Performance of the Year and Triathlon Australia Paratriathlete Performance of the Year

Prior to paratriathlon, Kelly was involved in distance running and ironman events.

In 2017, Kelly established the Sport Access Foundation to assist children with a disability with access to sport and recreational facilities.


42. Ken Nagas

Ken Nagas.
Ken Nagas. Chris Ison ROK210713clegend10

AS TOUGH as he was talented, Ken Nagas is a former Kyogle junior who starred at the Canberra Raiders and played Origin for NSW in 1994.

Queensland-raised Nagas, formerly of Bundaberg, could have played for the Maroons.

But playing first grade while spending a year in Casino as a schoolboy made him eligible for NSW.

In 1991, Nagas represented the Australian Schoolboys on the tour of England and was graded by the Raiders the following year.

Nagas was an explosive centre/winger who joined the Canberra district and in 1994 he made his debut for Country and NSW before rounding off a great year by scoring two tries in Canberra's 36-12 pitching Canterbury out of contention in the grand final.

In 1997 Nagas was selected in all five Super League Tests but was unable to adapt back into rep football after the reunification of the game.

Injuries forced his eventual retirement in 2002, although he contemplated a comeback in 2004.


41. Lyn Larsen

Lyn Larsen.
Lyn Larsen. Supplied

FORMER Australia women's cricket captain Lyn Larsen lead her squad between 1985 and 1993, including all the way to a World Cup win in 1988.

Born in Lismore, Larsen, 56, was a talented all-rounder who captained the side in 10 Test matches, including five victories.

Larsen also captained the side in 39 Women's one-day internationals, winning 27 and losing 10, including winning the Women's Cricket World Cup in 1988.

In all, Larsen played in 15 Test matches, scoring 410 runs at a batting average of 41.00 with a high score of 86.

She also bowled 354 overs of leg spin, taking 26 wickets at a bowling average of 18.73 and giving away under 1.5 runs per over.

Larsen was inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame in 1999 and the NSW Cricket Hall of Fame in 2010.

In 2013 Larsen became the first female cricketer appointed to the Sydney Cricket Ground Trust.

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