IT WAS Isabel Crawford's magical take on the death of Osama bin Laden, combined with a consistent and interrogative argument, that captured the attention of judges who have crowned her the state's public speaking student champion.
The year 12 student from Smith's Hill High School beat five other speakers to win this year's Plain English Speaking Award.
This came after she initially impressed judges with her first speech in which she used Lord Voldemort, the villain behind the Harry Potter series, to question the justice of bin Laden's killing.
''My speech has really evolved, especially as the Arab spring sort of started to develop … and I've seen the consequences of corrupt justice systems and when the West does compromise its integrity,'' said Isabel, the 35th winner of the Herald-sponsored event.
The six finalists presented judges with a range of topics, from the presence of US marines in Australia to the ''illness of the broadsheet''.
But it was the depth of Isabel's argument in her speeches that gave her the winning edge.
''She didn't just skim across the surface,'' said Peter Kerr, the executive editor of the Herald and one of three judges. ''I think in both the prepared and impromptu she went the extra distance and really delved deeper into the topic.''
The judges were impressed with the standards of all the other finalists: Madeleine Boxall from St Catherine's School Waverley, Harry Godber from Sydney Grammar School, Greer Brennan from Riverside Girls High School, Lucinda Lester from North Sydney Girls High School and Claudia Zwar from SCEGGS Darlinghurst.