Nation’s top fridgies win big at National Refrigeration Competition

After three intense days of competition, the winners of the 2016 WorldSkills Australia National Refrigeration Competition were all smiles as they received gold, silver and bronze medals:

Nathan McHugh
Brisbane Region
TAFE Queensland SkillsTech

Hayden McColl
South West QLD Region
TAFE Queensland SkillsTech

Matthew Cleave
Sydney West Region
TAFE NSW South Western Sydney Institute

The National Refrigeration Competition was held from Tuesday, 17 to Thursday, 19 May at the Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre in conjunction with the Air Conditioning Refrigeration and Building Services (ARBS) Exhibition.

With fellow industry professionals looking on, it was game on for the nation’s top 10 refrigeration apprentices.  They had just 18 hours to demonstrate that they have the best skills and knowledge of refrigeration and air conditioning in the country by completing four tasks: Installing a refrigeration system, commissioning an air conditioning system, refrigeration fault finding and electrical fault finding.

The atmosphere throughout the three days of competition was filled with myriad of emotions.  We saw plenty of flames flying on Day 1 as the competitors completed the majority of their welding components, much to the spectators’ delight.  The competitors found their rhythm on Day 2, serenaded by the hum of refrigeration vacuums.  For the final few hours of competition on Day 3, the pressure was on as the competitors scrambled to finish their projects.  Despite the tension, the competitors were all smiles by the time tools down was announced at 11:30am, clapping each other on the backs for a fantastic effort.

The stakes of this competition were high: Not only were these talented young men aiming for national gold and a trip to the annual Chillventa Exhibition in Germany, the competitors were vying for a chance to represent Australia as a Skillaroo at the 44th WorldSkills Competition in Abu Dhabi next year.

“We’re training hard, and it’s hard to see where you sit until the day,” says 2016 National gold medallist Nathan McHugh.  “My heart is racing – it feels awesome!”

Supported by the Australian Government and Heatcraft Australia, the National Refrigeration Competition is the culmination of close to a year of hard work and dedication for these talented young apprentices.  Their journey began at WorldSkills Australia Regional Competitions held across the country when close to 100 young hopefuls stepped up to the plate.  After their medal-winning performances at the regional level, the 10 competitors that progressed to the National Competition dedicated close to a year training for their shot at greatness.

“We feel it’s important to support the industry we’re a part of,” said Michael Ryan, Director of Sales at Heatcraft Australia.  “It’s important to encourage young people to achieve greatness, but also to realise that they’re part of something much greater than what they do.  The stronger our industry is at the grass-roots level, the stronger it will be longer term and more relevant to the country.”

“Congratulations to gold medallist Nathan McHugh representing the Brisbane Region,” says WorldSkills Australia Interim CEO, Brigitte Collins.  “What an amazing three day effort!  You have joined an elite club of Australian champions.  Congratulations also to silver medallist Hayden McColl and bronze medallist Matthew Cleave and all the competitors, employers, training providers and most importantly our industry partners for your ongoing support of Refrigeration.”


All queries including competition statistics, interview opportunities and imagery can be directed to WorldSkills Australia Communications & PR Coordinator, Devon LaSalle on 03 9249 1000 or

We would like to thank the Australian Government, ARBS and the following 2016 National Refrigeration Competition sponsors for their support:

Heatcraft Australia

Refrigeration Reclaim Australia

BOC, Box Hill Institute, Danfoss, Lu-Ve and Rothenberger