Meet the finalists: The STA Graduate Program

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The 2018 STA Graduate of the Year program is shaping up to be a cracker, with incredible state finalists vying for the national title, which will be announced later this month. 

The award, which recognises excellence in the turf industry from recent graduates, provides finalists with opportunities to enhance their personal development, professionalism, career progression and industry skills. The national winner will also receive a trip to the US, to visit some of the country’s best golf courses and sports turf facilities, courtesy of Toro Australia.

Meet the finalists

Aaron Crofts – Western Australia finalist
Green Options

Aaron is a graduate of South Metropolitan TAFE and is currently employed by Green Options at Murdoch University. In previous roles, he has been exposed to many areas of turf management including preparation of cricket wickets, AFL fields and racecourse management.

Aaron says he enjoys working in the turf industry because of the opportunities to develop his skills and learn new techniques, as research and product development advances turf management practices.

“I am very passionate about the turf Industry and feel very honoured to be representing WA. It’s great to be recognised for all the hard work and dedication I have put in over the years. I’m excited about the final announcement and meeting fellow state winners,” says Aaron.

Sam Nickolls – Queensland finalist
St Andrews Anglican College

Sam is a graduate of TAFE Queensland and is currently employed by St Andrews Anglican College on the Sunshine Coast. He was introduced to the turf industry through volunteering at his soccer club.

Sam says he is passionate about providing a good quality playing surface for the students of the college all year round.

“Winning this award has been a massive honour. I have met so many wonderful and knowledgeable people so far on this short journey and I hope I can do Queensland STA proud and bring back the national award. It has opened up many opportunities for me and I’m looking forward to how I can continue to support the industry in the future,” says Sam.

Mark Paterson – New South Wales finalist
HG Sports Turf

Mark is a graduate of TAFE Ryde and is currently employed by HG Sports Turf in Melbourne in the role of NSW Farm Operations Manager. His role includes the growing, maintenance and preparation of turf venues, such as ANZ Stadium and Moore Park.

Previously, he has been involved with many turf installation projects at Westpac Stadium, The MCG and the new Perth Stadium.
“Winning the STA NSW graduate of the year award has been an honour and a humbling experience. To be recognised for something that you are so passionate about and love turning up for each day is a great feeling. 

“I wouldn’t be where I am without the opportunities and support that I have received from my previous employer, Sports Turf Specialists, and my current employer, HG Sports Turf. I have been lucky enough to have been trained and guided by some of the best in the industry, including STA NSW.

“To know you have the support network around you 24/7 only strengthens your skills as a turf manager. It would be a great achievement to represent NSW and Australia in the USA as a national winner,” says Mark.

Rhys Taylor – Victoria finalist
Benalla Racing Club

Rhys is a graduate of the Wodonga Institute of TAFE and is currently employed by Benalla Racing Club. He takes pride in presenting a high-class, safe racing surface. He says he loves his work, as there is always something new to learn and he is given endless opportunities to develop as a turf manager.

“Winning this award has been the most amazing experience. Receiving recognition for all the effort I have put in has been incredible, not just for myself but for my family and my workplace who have supported me throughout the four years. 

“I’m so excited for April and can’t wait for the announcement and the national competition. I love pushing myself and to compete on the national stage is an absolute honour,” says Rhys.

Good luck to all four finalists, turfmate wishes you the best of luck in the national final!