Netball trailblazer Anne Sargeant OAM has become the 37th Legend of Australian sport, elevated to the pantheon of greats at the 31st Sport Australia Hall of Fame Induction and Awards Gala in Melbourne.
In other awards, presented to a sell-out audience of Australia’s sporting elite, USA PGA winner Jason Day held off a stellar field of nominees to receive ‘The Don’ award as the Australian athlete who most inspired the nation through their achievements in the past twelve months.
Earlier in the evening eight Australian sporting greats were Inducted as Members into the Hall of Fame and five young athletes were announced as recipients of the Scholarship and Mentoring Program to assist them achieve their sporting dreams.
Surfer’s Mick Fanning and Julian Wilson were awarded the ‘Spirit of Sport Award’, Kerryn McCann’s 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games gold medal winning run was enshrined into the Hall of Fame as a ‘Great Sporting Moment’, and the ‘Silver Bullets’ Athens Olympic men’s 4x400m relay team was recognised with the Team Sport Australia award (more details below).
Sargeant elevated to become the 37th Legend of Australian Sport
Anne Sargeant OAM has proven diamonds do last forever, as the Sport Australia Hall of Fame elevated the star netballer to become the 37th Legend of Australian Sport.
Sargeant began playing netball at the age of eight and went on to represent Australia for eleven years from 1978 to 1988, captaining the team from 1983.
“I’m still in shock. I’m mortified there could have been a mistake made,” Sargeant said.
“It’s an amazing compliment.”
Always the team player, Sargeant distanced her individual brilliance from the elevation and focused on what the honour means for her sport as the first netballer to be elevated to the status of Legend of Australian Sport.
“It’s so great for netball – this elevation. It’s just brilliant for my sport, and a real acknowledgement of how consistently brilliant the sport has been over a long period of time,” said Sargeant.
“I have trouble myself, being from a team sport environment where you don’t get singled out – I can just think of so many wonderful people before me who I regard as a legend or an icon in my sport or sport in general.”
“I do know clearly how hard I worked, not just on court to be a successful athlete and role model, but I remember working really hard to grab any opportunity I could to promote the sport and get it out there and make everyone aware of this gem that they had.”
“If the elevation is an acknowledgement of that, then I am exceptionally proud”
From the age of 10, Sargeant represented her district, Manly-Warringah in New South Wales, where she captain/coached the team to six NSW titles in six years. She played for the NSW Open team from 1978, and was captain from 1982 until 1988, during which time the team won the national championships in 1984, 1985, 1987 and 1988.
A towering shooter, in 1978 Sargeant was selected in the NSW and Australian teams, touring England with the undefeated national squad.
Sargeant played in three world championships, the last two as captain. In 1979 she helped Australia to equal first place with New Zealand in Trinidad & Tobago, and in 1983 Australia defeated New Zealand in Singapore. In 1987, in Glasgow, Scotland, Australia finished third behind New Zealand and Trinidad & Tobago.
Sargeant played in the tri-Test series against England and Trinidad & Tobago in 1981, and in 1986 led the team in another tri-Test series against Jamaica and New Zealand.
Her other international achievements include touring New Zealand in 1982, captaining the Australian team at the inaugural Australia Games in 1984 and at the world games in 1985.
In 1988 Australia won the international series against Trinidad & Tobago, and in 1986 she led Australia on an undefeated tour of England.
Among many highlights of Sargeant’s career was a tour of Wales in 1985 when she captained an undefeated Australian side and posted a career personal best of three consecutive 100% shooting games.
She was inducted into Sport Australia Hall of Fame in 1987, as well the NSW Hall of Champions in 1988 and awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia that same year for her service to netball.
Day’s night as Jason snares ‘The Don’
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Jason Day became the second Australian golfer in the past three years to receive the esteemed ‘The Don’ Award, and the second Australian golfer overall following Adam Scott’s win in 2013.
Named after the inaugural Legend elevated in the Sport Australia Hall of Fame – Sir Donald Bradman AC – ‘The Don’ Award is regarded as the highest individual honour that can be bestowed on a current Australian athlete, and is awarded to a sportsperson who, through their achievements and example over the last 12 months, is considered to have most inspired the nation.
The field of 12 nominees was nothing short of exceptional. Shortlisted to four finalists, Day pipped rugby league star-turned American football convert Jarryd Hayne, the greatest female track cyclist in history Anna Meares and the joint nomination of brave surfing great Mick Fanning and his courageous mate Julian Wilson.
Other former winners of the award which commenced in 1998 include Sally Pearson (2014, 2012), Cadel Evans OAM (2011), Lydia Lassila OAM (2010), Mathew Mitcham OAM (2009), Glenn McGrath AM (2007), Alisa Camplin (2002), Cathy Freeman OAM (2000) and Ian Thorpe OAM in 1999.
In 2015 there could be but one winner and the year belonged to Jason Day.
Long touted as a star of the future, Day turned professional in 2006 and broke into the world’s top ten some five years later. He would claim his maiden World Golf Championships title in February 2014.
In June 2015, the 27-year-old’s immediate playing future looked to be in jeopardy, as he collapsed during the second round of the U.S. Open from an attack of vertigo. He soldiered on and by the end of the third round, was tied for the lead, before finishing fourth overall.
The display beggared belief, and signalled to all that the Queenslander could not be underestimated. Just two months later, Jason Day was crowned 2015 PGA Champion at Whistling Straits – his first win in a major a truly dominant and flawless exhibition of golf, and his 20-under-par setting a new record in the process, as the first player to do so in a major.
Speaking via video link from his home in Ohio, United States, Day demonstrated his trademark humility and praised the other nominees for their stellar years.
“I just wanted to thank everyone for attending and I’m extremely humbled and honoured to win this prestigious award,” Day said.
“Such a great year as this, to be able to cap it off with ‘The Don’ Award, it goes down in my memory as one of the best years that I’ve ever had.”
“I’m looking forward to hopefully replicating or improving on years like this, and really trying to represent not only myself but represent golf, and golf in Australia and also the Australian nation around the world the best I possibly can.”
“I’d like to congratulate the other 11 nominees – what a fantastic year they’ve had. All the way from the Socceroos to Mick Fanning punching a bloody shark in the face, it’s been an amazing year for all the 11 other nominees.”
Day apologised for his absence due to the pending birth of his second child, and thanked his mother for receiving the award on his behalf.
“We’re expecting baby number two to come around so you can kind of understand why I’m not there,” Day said.
“My mother … [will] receive the award and I couldn’t think of a better person.”
“She’s been my biggest supporter and she’s sacrificed so much for me, not only over the years but when I was a small child.”
“For her to give me the start I needed, the opportunity I needed to hone my skills and get better as player put me on a springboard to get to where I really wanted to be, which was on the PGA Tour and playing against the best players in the world.”
Eight stars and servants of Australian sport honoured with Hall of Fame Induction
The night also saw the Sport Australia Hall of Fame induct as Athlete Members six of the nation’s greatest champions who have achieved the highest honours at the top level of competition and as General Members two skilled servants who have shown outstanding achievements in administrative roles.
The Inductees will join 533 existing Members who represent the pinnacle of over 160 years of sporting excellence.
“To be selected into The Sport Australia Hall of Fame is not just a matter of being a champion athlete or sportsperson, you actually have to have a little bit of extra intangible quality that really elevates you into that level of greatness which the Hall of Fame acknowledges and represents,” Selection Committee Chairman Robert de Castella AO MBE said in awarding one of the highest of this sporting nation’s individual honours.
2015 Sport Australia Hall of Fame Inductees
|Ryan Bayley OAM||Cycling|
|Priya Cooper OAM||Swimming (AWD)|
|Leisel Jones OAM||Swimming|
|Ricky Ponting AO||Cricket|
|Norm Provan||Rugby League|
|Casey Stoner AM||Motor Cycling|
|Helen Brownlee OAM||Administration – Canoe/Olympics|
|John O’Neill AO||Administration – Rugby Union/Football|
Scholarship and Mentoring Program to help nurture future stars
Five young Australians were also recipients of The Sport Australia Hall of Fame 2016 Scholarship and Mentoring Program. In addition to being mentored by a Sport Australia Hall of Fame Member and some of Australia’s greatest athletes, recipients also receive a $5000 sporting expenses grant, and an international return airfare, courtesy of Etihad Airways.
2016 Scholarship and Mentoring Program Recipients
|Jacob Birtwhistle (TAS)||Triathlon||Glynis Nunn-Cearns OAM|
|Tayla Hanak (SA)||Surfing||Layne Beachley AO|
|Ellen Ryan (NSW)||Lawn Bowls||Dawn Fraser AO MBE|
|Georgia Sheehan (QLD)||Diving||Natalie Cook OAM|
|James Willett (NSW)||Shooting||Stan Longinidis|
Scholarships are awarded to aspiring athletes under the age of 21 to help them reach the highest levels of their sport.
Sport Australia Hall of Fame chairman John Bertrand AM said the five successful scholarship recipients have demonstrated they are quality young people within sport and life in general.
“The Sport Australia Hall of Fame recognises outstanding achievements on and off the field, and it is a privilege to play a vital role in nurturing the nation’s next wave of talent – both as athletes and people,” Bertrand said.
“We congratulate our five scholarship holders, wish them well in their future endeavours, and hope these talented young Australians will get immense benefit from the experience.”
Team Sport Australia Award
The 2004 Athens Olympics Australian men’s 4 x 400m relay team was recognised for their significant contribution to Australian sporting history as recipient of this year’s Team Sport Australia Award
The ‘Silver Bullets’ produced one of the great shocks of the 2004 Athens Olympic Games when they raced to the silver medal behind an all-conquering American outfit.
The Australian men’s 4 x 400m relay team of John Steffensen, Mark Ormrod, Pat Dwyer and Clinton Hill were fortunate to even make the final, going in ranked 11th before sneaking into the final as the seventh fastest qualifier.
However a wonderful team effort and an audacious and barnstorming final leg from anchor runner Clinton Hill ensured the team would forever be etched in Australian sporting history as the ’Silver Bullets’.
Great Sporting Moment
Throughout our nation’s history, there have been many outstanding sporting moments that collectively contribute a significant thread to the Australian sporting tapestry.
The mighty Melbourne Cricket Ground has witnessed many great sporting moments over more than 100 years, none more so than Kerryn McCann’s stirring marathon victory at the 2006 Commonwealth Games.
Those who witnessed the 2006 Commonwealth Games women’s marathon in Melbourne would to this day count themselves lucky. It was the most memorable of finishes, with Australia’s defending champion Kerryn McCann going quite literally stride for stride across the final 10km with Hellen Cherono Koskei of Kenya. As each woman pushed the other to their limits, the lead changed hands multiple times before the race made its turn into the Melbourne Cricket Ground before 75,000 people.
It was McCann who appeared to surge forward from the second she entered the iconic stadium, as if lifted by a deafening roar of the home crowd who were undoubtedly willing her home. Koskei made a move of her own immediately thereafter, looking to move past the Australian. But with a wealth of experience at her disposal and knowing full well this would be her final race, Kerryn McCann pushed through the pain of cramping calves to simply will herself to the front one final time. From this point she was never headed.
The 38-year-old mother of two broke free to cross the line in front by a full two seconds, defending her Commonwealth Games title and etching her name forever in the chronicles of sporting history.
Spirit of Sport Award
Presented for just the fifth time since its inception in 2005, the Spirit of Sport Award was granted to two mates who captured the hearts of the nation.
When mates Mick Fanning and Julian Wilson took to the waters of Jeffreys Bay, South Africa for the 2015 J-Bay Open final, all eyes were locked on the tight battle between the two Australians for the world title.
But as a fin circling in the waters signified the shark below, any thought of competition was cast aside – instead replaced by two beacons of courage and mateship.
The dramatic scene played out live on television across the globe, as three-time world champion Fanning was knocked from his board, kicking and punching at the shark as it thrashed around him.
His instinctive reaction was brave enough in itself, but when rival Julian Wilson refused to flee the water and instead paddled directly towards his good mate, something uniquely Australian was demonstrated for all to see.
Fanning of New South Wales and Wilson of Queensland have both since returned to the water and resumed hostilities in the race for the world title.