LOCAL HEROES WHO MAKE A DIFFERENCE
PICKING a winner from the nominees short-listed for this year's Outstanding Contribution category will again prove difficult to predict.
But whoever's name is read out at the Herald's sports awards at the Pavilions on December 3 will once more prove popular.
The Outstanding Contribution category, this year sponsored by Devonport Royal Dockyard Employee Trust, contains five sporting figures who have not only made their mark in their chosen sport, but have also made a difference and undoubtedly raised the profile of their sport.
That is true of all five finalists who have contributed so much which has prompted a grateful to nominate them.
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THE recently retired international diving star admitted just being nominated for a Sports Personality prize has helped ease the personal pain of a wretched 2012.
Graddon finally made the decision to call time on her career with Plymouth Diving after missing out on the London Olympics and having one injury too many.
But Graddon, who among other accomplishments competed in the 2006 Commonwealth Games for England and won an individual European bronze medal for Great Britain two years' later, admitted being a finalist had 'come as a big but fantastic surprise'.
The 25-year-old said: "It isn't an easy decision to turn your back on 18 years of diving, but in the end, the choice was made for me.
"And I thought being nominated for a sports award would never happen for me again.
"So to be a finalist so soon after retiring is a real shock and I'm very flattered and grateful.
"I've always done my best in competition and, hopefully, along with Tonia (Couch), Tom (Daley) and Sarah (Barrow), I've helped raise diving's profile nationally and Plymouth Diving's expertise internationally.
"I'm very proud to be considered for this award."
Graddon won the Amateur Sports category in 2005 and our next nominee is no stranger to the dais at a Herald extravaganza either.
MICHAELA BREEZE MBE
BREEZE won the main award – the Sports Personality prize – in 2006, after her inspirational and gold-winning performances at that year's Commonwealth Games in Australia.
The former Ivybridge Community College PE teacher has been nominated not solely for her fantastic career as an athlete but also as coach and mentor to the next generation of lifters.
The 33-year-old holds the distinction of being the first British female weightlifter to compete at an Olympic Games and won back-to-back gold medals for a Wales at the Commonwealth Games at Manchester in 2002 and Melbourne four years' later.
In addition, Breeze competed at the Olympics at Athens in 2004 and four years on was doing her best for Britain in the 63kgs category at Beijing.
She has also produced 13 international weightlifters in her 11 years at Ivybridge, including British champions Helen Jewell, Sonny Webster and new weightlifting wonder Ryan Baugh.
Fifteen-year-old Baugh is also a nominee – for the Young Sports Personality of the Year category and although Breeze runs her own gym in Wales, she provides the programmes and drills for her talented charge.
Indeed, the ever-generous Breeze said she was 'touched and speechless' at being told of her nomination, saying: "I thought my days of being put up for awards were long past."
Breeze, who was awarded the MBE for her services to weightlifting in the 2011 Birthday Honours, told Herald Sport: "I'm absolutely overwhelmed – I never expected this at all.
"I'm very grateful for the nomination and I know what a great occasion the sports awards are, having been lucky enough to be a winner in 2006.
"I consider it a privilege to be able to put something back into the sport by coaching others and, hopefully, giving them the same chances that I was fortunate enough to have."
NEEDS little introduction, too, particularly to the city's basketball fans, for the names of Keith Mollard and Plymouth Raiders are virtually synonymous.
Mollard is definitely someone who can be described as one of Plymouth sport's unsung heroes.
The retired teacher is never happier than doling out credit to others, seeking to deflect praise heading his way.
However, he is owed a collective pat on the back as Mollard was among the founding fathers of the BBL powerhouse outfit way back in 1983.
And, 30 years on, the 76-year-old is still there on match-days commentating on his beloved Raiders at the Pavilions.
Mollard, along with match-day colleague Frank Pocock, was among a group which merged city basketball sides Kanaries and Plympton.
They had a vision then for the future of basketball in Plymouth, said Mollard, who was named BBL Volunteer of the Year at the end of last season.
And now he's in with a shout of winning another prestigious prize at the Pavilions on Monday December 3.
So, how does it feel?
"I'm quite shocked to be honest," said Mollard, whose playing career includes a two-year trainee stint as a goalkeeping hopeful with Chelsea – Jimmy Greaves et al – and also as a player with Raiders.
"I'm honoured, humbled and just plain chuffed to have been nominated.
"But as you will know, I can't claim exclusive credit for where Raiders are now, there are so many others like Frank (Pocock) who have worked tirelessly to make the club a success.
"It's our 30th anniversary this year and it's marvellous to see Raiders play in front of packed houses at a fabulous venue like the Pavilions.
"It's been very rewarding and thank you to those who put me forward for this award."
MUCH-LIKED and admired in equal measure is our final nominee, Steve Luffman, who is adept at both rugby and cricket, and just as passionate about promotion both disciplines.
The 48-year-old – 'in earth years' – has just returned to his first love OPMs after successful spells coaching and playing for the first XV at another Devon rugby side, Tavistock.
Citations proposing Luffman for this award speak of his infectious enthusiasm for both cricket and rugby and his hunger for knowledge so that he can pass on his experiences to others.
Which is exactly what he has been doing after previous successful spells as a captain of Plymouth Cricket Club in the summer months and over the winter at Tavistock RFC.
He has retired from first-team action, leaving that to his 21-year-old son Jake Luffman who is showing every indication of matching his dad's accomplishments on the field of play.
If young Jake does, much of the credit will go to father Steve, who has helped to further the careers of young England stars Jack Arnott and Charlie Attis.
However, the reward for a sportsman of Luffman's corinthian ethos is simply to have enjoyed playing games he loves.
And, said the likeable Luffman, being nominated for the Outstanding Contribution category is the cherry on the parfait for him.
"I'd no idea that I'd been nominated let alone made the final shortlist, so it's amazing," said Luffman, who by day is an optician.
"It's a hugely humbling honour that people think enough of you to put your name forward, particularly for doing something you enjoy and have done so since the late 70s.
"I still enjoy my sport and am only too willing to pass on whatever I have learned either from my career as a player or from the coaching courses.
"I'm shocked, in a nice way, to be a nominee and I'm looking forward to the awards night."
OUR NEXT nominee represents what The Herald awards programme is eager to promote – grassroots sports – and those who soldier on through the thick and the thin of the good times.
Freeman, who is 52 years young today, has been a rock in the junior rugby world for the best part of three decades.
The All Saints law and vocational training tutor has enjoyed various successful roles in the game he loves as player, selector and now director of rugby at Devonport High School Old Boys.
Under Freeman's stewardship, DHSOB have re-invented themselves after briefly flirting with oblivion around 15 years ago. While not tearing up any trees in Devon Two, their youth programme is second-to-none.
As well as being an example to other clubs, Stonehouse Sharks, as the youth arm of the Old Boys is known, is a source of great pride to Freeman and his troops down at Stonehouse Creek.
Freeman said: "I'm really chuffed to have been selected as a finalist but I know really the nomination is shared with all the others at the club who have worked so hard to make it all click into place.
"We've got two senior sides and in the good times three but the real growth area is junior rugby.
"We run teams from under 10 up to mid-teens and it's so refreshing to see how the youngsters have taken to the game.
"A few years' back we started out with around three teams and now the number has at least trebled.
"The kids are the future of rugby in the city and, hopefully, DHSOB and like the other coaches down here at Stonehouse I see it as a privilege and duty to make sure that happens."
FOR ticket and table information for The Herald Sports Personality of the Year 2012 awards, contact Clair Skelley at The Herald on 01752 765532 or email her at email@example.com