Eight of Australia’s best athletes will vie for the 2018 ‘The Don’ Award at next week’s sold out Sport Australia Hall of Fame 34th Induction and Awards Gala Dinner.
With just 9 days to go until Australian sport’s night of nights on Thursday October 11th 2018, the field for the prestigious award has been unveiled, revealing a star-studded list of Australian sporting champions whose achievements have most ‘inspired the nation’.
The 2018 candidates include motor sport stars Daniel Ricciardo and Indianapolis 500 victor Will Power, Matilda’s international goalscoring machine Sam Kerr, and record-breaking cricketer Ellyse Perry.
Australian Commonwealth Games heroes figure strongly in the nominations with gold medallists Kurt Fearnley AO and Madison de Rozario (athletics wheelchair racing) and outgoing Kookaburras hockey captain Mark Knowles OAM acknowledged, in addition to para-triathlete Lauren Parker who won a bronze medal at the Games one year after becoming paralysed from the waist down after an accident.
Inaugurated in 1998, ‘The Don’ Award is Australia’s leading contemporary sport award, named in honour of the Sport Australia Hall of Fame’s first Inductee, the late Sir Donald Bradman AC, and is awarded annually to the Athlete or Team who, through their performance and example has most inspired the nation.
‘THE DON’ AWARD 2018 FINALISTS
Madison de Rozario
Wheelchair racer Madison de Rozario has had an outstanding year. She won the only two gold medals available to her at the Commonwealth Games, the 1500m on the track and the marathon on the road, and then followed up by claiming the London Marathon a week later, the first Australian woman to win this prestigious event.
She did this four years after missing the Glasgow Commonwealth Games after acquiring a 40cm blood clot in her leg on the flight to the UK, which required surgery and on-going therapy. This year she had to overcome a personal tragedy when her grandmother, who had planned to join the rest of her family to watch her compete, passed away two weeks before the Games.
She is an acknowledged role model for people with a disability, with a focus on promoting positive attitudes towards body image.
Kurt Fearnley AO
Few athletes in history have captured the heart of the people in the way veteran wheelchair racer Kurt Fearnley did at the 2018 Commonwealth Games.
Fearnley became the face of the Gold Coast Games with two superb performances – gold in the marathon on the road and silver in the 1500m on the track.
His inspirational attitude contributed more to the image of the event than any other competitor and as a role model for the historic inclusivity of the Games he was honoured with selection as Australian Team Flag Bearer for the Closing Ceremony.
His performances set a standard of determination for people both with and without disabilities. “The ability of sport to take you on a journey, to showcase respect, resilience, discipline, beauty, will never cease to amaze me,” he said.
Soccer superstar Sam Kerr, the 2018 Young Australian of the Year, continues to pile up awards and accolades, confirming her status as the most successful, watchable and inspirational female footballer Australia has produced.
Against Norway at the Algarve Cup in Portugal, she set a national record by scoring 12 goals across seven successive international matches. She then became the first woman to score more than 50 goals in America’s National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL).
In a remarkable 12-month period Kerr was also named the Asian Women’s Footballer of the Year, ABC Sports Personality of the Year, Most Valuable Player for the NWSL, best International Women’s Player at the Excellence in Sport Performance awards in Los Angeles and was nominated for the FIFA Female Player of the Year for the second successive year.
Mark Knowles OAM
Australian men’s hockey captain Mark Knowles completed a stupendous career by leading the Kookaburras back to the No 1 world ranking and then to a record sixth consecutive Commonwealth Games gold medal at the 2018 Commonwealth Games.
In an honour reflecting the esteem in which he is held in world sport, Knowles was named the Australian Team Flag Bearer for the Opening Ceremony on the Gold Coast. During the Parade of Nations, he notably moved back behind the first rows, weaving through the Australian team to lead from the back and allow other athletes the honour of leading the Australian team around the stadium.
The Games saw the retirement of Knowles as Australia’s most decorated player – 325 games, one Olympic Gold medal (2004), two World Cup titles (2010, 2014), four Commonwealth gold medals (2006, 2010, 2014, 2018) and was named world player of the year in 2014.
Para triathlete Lauren Parker’s story is incredibly powerful. Just one year after becoming paralysed from the waist down when she crashed her bike on a training ride for the Ironman Australia , this former elite able-bodied triathlete took out the bronze medal for the Para Triathlon WC at the 2018 Commonwealth Games.
In the crash she broke ribs, a shoulder blade and pelvis, punctured a lung, and, worst of all, damaged her spinal cord. Told she had virtually no chance of ever walking again, she defied doctors by resuming training three months before the 2018 Games. She ended up on the podium, after an agonising physical and mental journey, wearing one of the most courageous medals of the entire event.
“She believed she could, so she did!”
Dual sport star Ellyse Perry’s profile continues to rise.
She scored a women’s Test cricket record of 213 not out in the Ashes day-night match against England.
Perry capped off a stellar year by winning the International Cricket Council’s Rachael Heyhoe-Flint award for the International Player of the Year and for the second time, took out the prestigious Belinda Clark Medal, awarded to Australia’s best female player.
Also, a former international soccer player, Perry is one of the most popular role models for aspiring young Australian sportswomen.
Proving that persistence pays, IndyCar racing driver Will Power became the first Australian to win one of the world’s most revered sporting events, the Indianapolis 500-mile (805km) race.
It took him 11 attempts, including a second placing in 2015. Two weeks before taking the IndyCar he won the road course event, the Indy Grand Prix.
The two victories took him to 34 career wins, joining dual Indy winner Al Unser Jr in equal eighth place on the all-time Indy win list.
For a driver who once struggled on oval circuits the win was the realisation of a long-cherished dream. After believing for years that the great race was beyond him, he attributed his win to determination and positive thinking.
F1 driver Daniel Ricciardo has had another sensational year recording his sixth and seventh Formula 1 Grand Prix wins in China and Monaco respectively
But it was his triumph at Monaco that was a truly standout performance, achieved after battling engine gremlins and overheating brakes for more than 50 of the 74 laps of the famous street circuit.
Ricciardo used his wits and just six of his eight available gears to hold his nerve and join Sir Jack Brabham and Mark Webber as the only Australians to win the flagship Monaco race, his best F1 victory.
Both victories were marked by his trademark smile and unusual mode of celebration, drinking champagne from his shoe, which make him one of Australia’s most popular sports figures.
Australian flag bearer at the Games’ closing ceremony, Kurt Fearnley is hoping to finally take home the accolade after being nominated for the fourth time. Fearnley was also named a ’The Don’ Award finalist in 2015, 2013 and 2010.
Fearnley provided audiences with two superb performances in what was to be his last Games – winning gold in the wheelchair marathon on the road and silver in the 1500m on the track. Honoured with selection as Australian Team Flag Bearer for the Closing Ceremony, Fearnley has been nominated for ‘The Don’ Award for setting a standard of determination for people both with and without disabilities.
“It’s an honour,” Fearnley said.
“I’ve grown up with the belief that sport has the ability to lead our country. Sir Donald Bradman represents that leadership perfectly. A leader on the field and a figure of integrity off the field. It’s an honour to receive any nomination that I am in any way associated to the legend of the great man.”
The Games also saw the swansong performance of one of Australia’s most accomplished hockey players, Mark Knowles.
Leading the Kookaburras back to the No 1 world ranking and then to a sixth consecutive Commonwealth Games hockey gold medal, Knowles receives the nomination with gratitude and humility.
“As an Australian athlete, there are not many honours that can compete with that of ‘The Don’ Award,” Knowles said.
“The way he conducted himself on and off the field was of the highest integrity and this is something that I have also tried to do. In looking at the past finalists and winners, it makes me extremely proud of the country kid from Rockhampton I’ve been able to become.”
It was a year Sam Kerr isn’t likely to forget, after impressing the world and setting a national record of scoring goals – 12 in all – in seven successive international matches, Kerr confirmed her status as the most successful, watchable and inspirational female player Australia has produced.
“This is such a prestigious award and as an Australian athlete, this nomination means so much to me,” Kerr said.
Nominated for a second time after recognition in 2014, Daniel Ricciardo will be aiming to become the first motor sport athlete to take home ‘The Don’ after racing to two 2018 victories in Formula 1 – including the flagship Monaco Grand Prix earlier in May. Battling engine gremlins and overheating brakes, Ricciardo used his wits and just six of his eight available gears to hold his nerve and join Sir Jack Brabham and Mark Webber as Australians to win the historic race.
“Sir Donald Bradman is an Australian legend full stop,” Ricciardo said. “To be selected for an award in his name based on my own achievements this year, is pretty special. I’m honoured.”
Also doing great things in the world of motor sport is Indy Car racer Will Power, who after 11 attempts became the first Australian to win the famous Indianapolis 500. Realising a long-cherished dream, Power saluted after believing for years that the great race was beyond him, attributing the victory to determination and positive thinking.
Receiving her first nomination for the sought-after award, dual sport star Ellyse Perry adds her name to the finalists list in 2018. Scoring a women’s Test cricket record 213 not out in the Ashes day-night match against England, Perry capped off a stellar year by winning the International Cricket Council’s Rachael Heyhoe-Flint award for the international player of the year and the Belinda Clark Medal, awarded to Australia’s best player. A former international soccer player, Perry is one of the most popular role models for aspiring young Australian sportswomen.
“I’m incredibly chuffed and honored to be named as a finalist,” Perry said.
“The Don is a name that’s synonymous with Australian sport and some of the greatest achievements in Australian sport too, so to be thought of amongst a number of other candidates is a huge honor and very surprising as well.”
In terms of inspirational sporting stories, few are as moving as Lauren Parker’s bronze medal at the Commonwealth Games paratriathlon. The moment came one year after becoming paralysed from the waist down after a bike crash on a training ride for the Ironman Australia. Told she had virtually no chance of ever walking again, the 29-year-old defied doctors and ended up on the podium after an agonising physical and mental journey.
Wheelchair racer Madison de Rozario also finds herself as a finalist for the award by winning the wheelchair 1500m and the marathon at the Commonwealth Games, before racing to victory in the London marathon a week later. Four years after missing the Glasgow Commonwealth Games, de Rozario had to overcome a personal tragedy with her grandmother passing away two weeks before the Games. An acknowledged role model for disabled sportspeople, de Rozario is known for her positive attitudes in promoting body image.
Last year, boxer Jeff Horn took home the award after his stunning defeat of Manny Pacquiao to win the WBO welterweight world title.
“It is massive,” Horn said after collecting the award last year.
“I can remember growing up being inspired by previous winners such as Cathy Freeman and Ian Thorpe. To know I am potentially inspiring the future generation of athletes like these guys have done for me is an incredible feeling.”
About ‘The Don’ Award
The winner of ‘The Don’ Award will be announced at the Sport Australia Hall of Fame on Australian sport’s “Night of Nights” – the sold out 34th Sport Australia Hall of Fame Induction and Awards Gala Dinner on Thursday 11th October at Palladium at Crown, Melbourne.
Established in 1985, the Sport Australia Hall of Fame plays a vital role in preserving and perpetuating Australia’s rich sporting heritage, whilst promoting the values of courage, sportsmanship, integrity, mateship, persistence, and excellence, all underpinned by generosity, modesty, pride and ambition.
2018 will mark the 34th edition of this event, with eight Australian sporting icons, from on and off the field, to be inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame.
In addition, one existing Hall of Fame member will be elevated to Legend status, becoming the 40th official Legend of Australian Sport.
Madison de Rozario – Athletics
“Being named as a finalist for ‘The Don’ is amazing. It’s a recognition that encompasses more than what we do & what we achieve as athletes. It’s so important to me to use whatever platform sport gives me to do my part to incite positive change – even in the smallest ways. For this to be to be seen & to be chosen amongst so many other brilliant athletes & people is a huge honour.”
Kurt Fearnley AO – Athletics
“I’ve grown up with the belief that sport has the ability to lead our country. Sir Donald Bradman represents that leadership perfectly. A leader on the field and a figure of integrity off the field. It’s an honour to receive any nomination that I am in any way associated to the man and the legend of the great man.”
Sam Kerr – Football
“It is an honour and a privilege to be named a Finalist for The Don Award. This is such a prestigious award and as an Australian Athlete, this nomination means so much to me. Sir Donald Bradman truly inspired our nation and his legacy will always be remembered.”
Mark Knowles – Hockey
“As an Australian athlete, there are not many honours that can compete with that of ‘The Don’ award. The way he conducted himself on and off the field was of the highest integrity and this is something that I have also tried to do. In looking at the past finalists and winners, it makes me extremely proud of the country kid from Rockhampton I’ve been able to become.”
Lauren Parker – Triathlon
“I am absolutely blown away to be nominated for The Don Award, especially in it’s 20th year. Many of the awards recipients have inspired me to keep pushing myself in sport way beyond what I believed were my physical and mental limits. As an athlete I set out each day to test my abilities, both at training and in competition. I am humbled that my personal goals and commitment to my sport have been recognized as something worthwhile by others.”
Ellyse Perry – Cricket
“I’m incredibly chuffed and honored to be named as a finalist for the Don Award, obviously it’s a name that’s synonymous with Australian sport and some of the greatest achievements in Australian sport too, so to be thought of amongst a number of other candidates is a huge honor and very surprising as well.”
Will Power – Indy Car
“Because of Sir Donald Bradman’s almost supernatural status, being nominated as a finalist for an award named in his honour is pretty intimidating! But The Don Award means even more to me knowing that I do share his standards, values and philosophy. So even if I don’t win, this nomination is something I can take pride in – modestly, of course!”
“It’s very satisfying to know that my efforts are being recognized at home, because although I live and work in America, I am very proud to always fly the Australian flag.”
Daniel Ricciardo – Formula 1
“Being named as a finalist in The Don award is nothing short of a privilege. Sir Donald Bradman is an Australian legend full stop, so to be selected for an award in his name based on my own achievements this year, is pretty special. I’m honoured.”