Belfast Telegraph Sports Star of the Year Jonathan Rea has said he will donate any prize money he picks up when the new Superbike season opens in Australia next month to the country's bushfire appeal.
The five times World Superbike champion was crowned the main winner for the third time at the Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards' star-studded ceremony in the city's Crowne Plaza Hotel last night.
Among the sporting icons attending the ceremony were boxing champ Carl Frampton, football legends Pat Jennings and Martin O'Neill, Tyrone GAA manager Mickey Harte and Ulster Rugby stars Tommy Bowe and Stephen Ferris.
Although Ballyclare-born star Rea was unable to receive the award in person, his wife Tatia, who comes from Australia, said her family's house in Wandiligong, outside the town of Bright in the state of Victoria, had come under threat from the fires raging across her home country.
"As Australians, we have lived with bushfires during the summer all of our lives," she said.
"However, this year has been an exception - something so much more than 'normal fires'.
"I first realised the severity of the situation when my parents got a knock on their door at our Wandi property, which is North East of Victoria.
"The police told them they had to evacuate. Luckily for us they had somewhere else to go, back to our coastal family home on Phillip Island.
"Since then our home has been under direct threat twice with the fires only 6km away.
"It is a miracle that we've escaped this devastation and our home still stands, unlike so many others.
"That's why Jonathan has decided to make a donation to the bushfire appeal when we are out in Phillip Island next month for the start of the 2020 World Superbike season."
Rea's unprecedented run of success on the world stage means he holds a record number of championship wins, race victories and career points.
In 280 races during his career, Rea has enjoyed an impressive 168 podium places, 88 race wins and 67 fastest laps, and has also been named Irish Motorcyclist of the Year for the last four years.
Other awards on the night saw former Ulster and Ireland rugby captain Rory Best, who retired from the sport after leading Ireland in the World Cup in 2019, inducted into the Belfast Telegraph Sports Hall of Fame.
There was double success for the Northern Ireland football team, lifting the Team of The Year honour, while Michael O'Neill picked up the Manager/Coach of the Year crown. The Rising Star award went to 16-year-old Holywood golfer Tom McKibben, while Banbridge rower Philip Doyle kicked off his Olympic year with Ireland by taking the George Best Breakthrough Award.
And in what has been a truly exceptional year for golf, Wilma Erskine - former general manager of Royal Portrush Golf Club and widely recognised as a key figure in securing the hugely successful Open Championship - received a Special Recognition Award.
Contributions to sport at grassroots level were also recognised, with Paddy Rea the recipient of the Local Hero Award for her efforts in making golf accessible to people with special needs at Cushendall Golf Club.
Sports star of the year
YOUNG PLAYER OF THE YEAR
WJ 'PADDY' PATTERSON SERVICES TO SPORT
GEORGE BEST BREAKTHROUGH AWARD
LOCAL HEROES AWARD
HALL OF FAME
MANAGER/COACH OF THE YEAR
Platinum: Michael O'Neill
Gold: Nelson Lindsay
SPORTSPERSON OF THE YEAR WITH A DISABILITY
TEAM OF THE YEAR
Platinum: Northern Ireland men's senior football team
Gold: Slaughtneil senior camogie team
YOUNG TEAM OF THE YEAR
Northern Ireland Schools Under-18 football team
MALCOLM BRODIE PLAYER OF THEYEAR
Platinum: Mark Downey
Gold: Ciara Mageean
RISING STAR AWARD
SPECIAL RECOGNITION AWARDS
GAME CHANGER AWARD