THE search for amateur sporting stars and unsung heroes across East Lancashire is over as the shortlist for the Lancashire Telegraph’s annual Grass Roots Heroes Awards is revealed.

Following the resounding success of last year’s ceremony, the Lancashire Telegraph has once again teamed up with United Utilities to recognise and reward the people who contribute so much to their communities through participation in sport.

And after months and hundreds of nominations, a shortlist for nine categories has been finalised – while there is still the chance to have your say in our People’s Choice award.

The editor of the Lancashire Telegraph, Kevin Young, is delighted with the response for 2012 and said: “Sport is so important to life across East Lancashire.

“We are indebted to United Utilities for their support and I am delighted that the Grass Roots Heroes Awards have once again been so well received and supported by the sporting community.

“It was incredibly hard to draw up a shortlist as we had so many high quality entries.

“I believe that our candidates reflect just how strong the area is.”


James Fry, Basketball Guided Rossendale Raptors to three consecutive promotions and, in April, to the English Basketball League Division Four title – the greatest achievement in club’s 50-year history.

Plays an active tole in the community. Works hard with club juniors and also in schools in the area.

Sarah Todd, Gymnastics Has been involved in trampolining for 25 years, competing at international level.

She is now a level four coach and has been selected to work alongside national squad coaches.

Worked at Blackburn-based Jump UK alongside her dad Chris but now works with children other areas of Lancashire.

Alf Love, Kick Boxing Guided his club to its best ever haul of medals of 32 medals at the recent World Championships in Canada making it a grand total of 127 in 16 years.

Has been involved in martial arts for more than 30 years and his expertise and love of the sport has helped youngsters in the area flourish.


Darwen Vale, Basketball Made history when they became the first team to win five consecutive county titles which sealed an unbeaten run from year seven to year 11.

Vale were also crowned Blackburn and Darwen 3 v 3 champions and also won the borough league title.

Team entered Central Venue League and won both at under 14s and under 16s. Were presented with a special trophy Lancashire Schools Basketball Association to mark their historic five county successes.

Rossendale Colts, Rugby After narrowly missing out on the league title the previous season, Dale went one better this year by winning the Raging Bull NW Colts League.

Finished as treble winners as they won Raging Bull Colts League Cup final and also the Cock of the North Cup which brought together the four best teams from Lancashire, Yorkshire, Cumbria and the North East.

Several of the Rossendale Colts team have now gone on to play for the current First XV in National League Three North.

Burnley Tornados, American Football The Burnley Tornados were established just over three years ago as a Youth American Football Club, ensuring they are affordable to all.

They won the North West Championship, the Northern Conference and came third at The National Finals.

The club also won the first ever Lancashire Rose Bowl Trophy, the first ever winners of this competition.

In a tournament in Scotland they won every game to finish the season with a record of played 27 games, won 25.


Faz Dalal, Football A volunteer who has made a huge contribution to the community for two decades.

Runs Blackburn United’s Youth Academy sessions on Saturdays and then spends most of his Sundays helping with all the junior’s teams.

Ray Rydell, Boxing Works at Fit2XL Boxing Club six days a week, training people from the ages of five to full grown adults.

Takes boxers to compete around the country at his own expense and does not get back till well after midnight – and all this while having full time job.

Darren Wright, All sports GOES above and beyond the line of duty to assiste a range of community groups and sports clubs, helping to obtain funding.

Has helped created many new projects – such as Burnley Bears Disability Sports Club – and worked hard to save Burnley Gymnastics Club.


Blackburn Northern Tennis Gained promotion to National League One in July, that is the highest level they can play.

Were beaten semi finalists in the prestigious Roscoe Cup for Lancashire teams. Northern won it for the first time in their history last year.

Extended their incredible record of victories in the Slazenger East Lancashire Tennis League Open Division One Knockout Cup to make it four wins on the trot – and their 13th success in 16 years since the competition went Open in 1997.

Mill Hill FC, Football One of the most successful teams in the history of the Blackburn Sunday League.

Created history by becoming the first club in the league to win the treble – winning both the league and cup double and also adding the coveted Lancashire FA Sunday Trophy which is regarding as one of the most difficult county cups to win.

The majority of the players are from the Mill Hill area and have been with the club for many years.

Such success is down to their loyalty to the club.

Rossendale Raptors, Basketball Sealed the most successful year in their 50-year history by winning the EBL Division Four (North) title on the back of 20 straight victories.

The feat was all the more remarkable as it was the Raptors first season in the national league.

It was the club’s third successive promotion.

The team in made up of players from around the Valley and further afield and star player Stephen Gayle was named EBL Division Four North player of the year.


Barbara Jones, Swimming Joined Clitheroe Dolphins 33 years ago as a poolside helper but within months became a qualified swimming teacher and coach.

Works poolside four days a week and puts in many more hours at home working as club treasurer.

Recently turned 80 but shows no signs of retiring – is even helping to run the club’s Micro League B team.

Eddie Hart, Cricket Has been one of the reasons why the Blackburn and District Amateur Cricket League has been so successful.

Has served the league with distinction for more than four decades.

He had played in the league, has been an umpire and had worked hard on the committee in a number of roles but mainly as treasurer.

Derek Carter, Cricket Was groundsman at Burnley Cricket Club for nearly 20 years and has also worked at Burnley Belvedere as well.

Recently retired from his role as groundsman.

He has been awarded for his work at local level by the Burnley Cricket Development Group while he was also shortlisted for the Lancashire Cricket Board OSCAS for groundsperson of the year.


Mohammed Patel, Football gave up playing football at an early age to concentrate on refereeing.

He has since gone on to win a number of awards for his officiating skills – most recently voted young referee of the year by the Blackburn Referees Association.

Referees in the ELFA, Blackburn Rovers Academy, and runs in the line in the senior West Lancs League.

Rossendale Special Olympics Ski Team Only formed a year ago but competed in the Special Olympics Great Britain National Alpine Ski Championships in Italy where they won a clutch of medals – including three national champions.

Have now set their sights on bigger and better things.

Thomas Sutton, Football played for Wilpshire Wanderers from U7s to U16s but gave up playing to coach the club’s U7s team.

Organises the weekly training sessions and players look up to him as a role model and also show a lot of respect but also still have fun.

Eventhough the team do not win many matches they come off the pitch with a smile and reached cup final last season.


Connor Byrne, Climbing Regarded as one of the best young climbers in the country and a possible Olympian of the future.

Won the recent British Lead Climb Championships – a title he defended from last year – and he also competed in the European Youth Championships in France and was first placed GB climber.

Natalya Irvine, Athletics Won the year seven title at England School Fell Championships in Cockermouth.

Was also first in the Burnley Schools cross country finals and was selected to represent the borough in the Lancashire Cross Country Championships.

Has also shown she is a very talented triathlete.

Katie Rilett-Young, Swimming Won five individual gold medals at two team awards at the annual Dwarf Sports Association Games and two gold medals at the National Junior and Youth Disability Championships.

Selected for the ASA Talent Development Programme and has trained with Paralympian star Ellie Simmonds.


Karen Driver, Swimming THE Colne swimmer had a fantastic year in the pool winning six British Masters titles and getting a new personal best time at the World Championships in Italy.

Won gold medals in both the long course and short course British Championships and was sixth in the 400m with a new pb in World Championships.

Tom Baron, Tennis Competed in the National Veterans Indoor Tennis Championships and won both the singles and doubles over 80s titles.

Was runner-up in the singles and doubles in the Grass Court Championships and represented GB in the World Seniors, finishing as runner-up in the plate competition.

Chloe Love, Kick Boxing Recently returned from the World Kick Boxing Championships in Canada where she won her first adult title but incredibly her 11th consecutive world crown.

Been kick boxing since she was three and has a has a personal haul of 12 golds, seven silvers and four bronze medals from World Championship finals.


Blackburn and Darwen Police ABC Boxing THE club is situated in one of the most deprived areas of the town, which has a very high crime rate including, drugs and anti social behaviour.

With limited resources the club, founded in 2002, opens four times a week to allow young people to get off the streets to take part in sport, take part in physical activity, and instil discipline into young people Since moving to new premises has produced three North West champions and also a member of the club represented the region against Scotland.

Alf’s Black Belt Academy, Kick Boxing Could rightly lay claim to being one of the most successful martial arts clubs in East Lancashire.

The club has won medals in the World Championships ever year since it first entered in 2006, amassing a total of 127 medals.

Club’s success down to hard work and passion. This was typified on their return from the World Championships. The club’s young members spent the half term break in the gym – training twice a day, three times a week.

East Lancashire Rangers, Football The team was formed in 2011 and forms part of the Accrington & District Junior Football League and is for players aged over 18.

The team play in the the Disability Count League It took some time for the players to find their feet and losing several games this did not dampen the enthusiasm of the players and continued to improve.

The culmination of the 2011 12 season so the team win the Disability Count championship in the LFA Disability Count League.