Sport

Sam has runs on the board

By Alex Mitchell

Sam Atukorala is renowned for his work promoting cricket to Shepparton’s multicultural community and now his massive effort has been recognised on the national stage.

At the recent A Sport for All Community Cricket Awards held at Melbourne’s Junction Oval, the hard-working and passionate volunteer took home the prestigious Community Ambassador of the Year award.

His work in cricket flows perfectly with his role as the local Ethnic Council’s project co-ordinator and he said the award was a genuine shock.

‘‘Cricket Victoria nominated me as the Victorian representative to the national awards,’’ he said.

‘‘I was told I was in the final eight, and then in final two, and asked to attend the awards night.

‘‘I didn’t have any real hopes, I don’t think I did much, I love helping people, that’s my work at the Ethnic Council.

‘‘We have the tools and ability and support to use cricket as a social connection tool. It’s an honour.’’

Atukorala has been part of a lengthy list of community projects that use cricket to promote harmony between different cultural backgrounds, particularly by bringing the game to people new to the country.

Among his list of projects was the A Sport For All program, which promotes the sport to as many backgrounds as possible.

‘‘Cricket being Australia’s favourite sport, as ambassadors it’s our duty and responsibility to promote cricket to anyone who loves to play, regardless of their ability, gender or age or cultural background or religious or ethnic background,’’ Atukorala said.

‘‘It’s for everybody, and that’s what we do as ambassadors, and we got support from Cricket Australia and Cricket Victoria.

‘‘We managed to do a number of things working with Ethnic Council and Victoria Police.

‘‘We organised a Community Cup which is between ethnic communities, police and the indigenous community, the third year we’ve played that.’’

The humble award winner said his work would not have the same impact if it was not for the work of fellow volunteers — particularly Shepparton police multicultural liaison officer senior constable Matt Walker and Alana Baldi.

‘‘I’m honoured and humbled to accept that award; it reflects all the great things happening in the region as well as Victoria.

‘‘We do things together and it’s not an individual achievement. Everybody is part of that journey we’ve been on together.’’