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Magnificent seven short-listed for ‘The Don’

They inspired Australia with their epic feats over the past twelve months and now seven of Australia’s best will battle it out against each other for one of Australia’s most coveted sports awards – ‘The Don’ – at this year’s Sport Australia Hall of Fame Induction and Awards Gala Dinner presented by Etihad Airways.

Drawing from a long-list of over 20 potential candidates, seven finalists have been short-listed for ‘The Don’ to mark one month to go to this year’s ceremony, and the list includes a stellar cast of Australia’s best performers over the past year.

From Sally Pearson’s comeback world title, Jeff Horn’s stunning defeat of Manny Pacquiao, to the Matildas demolition of Brazil in the Tournament of Nations, through to Olympic basketballer Erin Phillip’s domination of the inaugural AFLW, Emily Seebohm’s world title in the pool after Olympic disappointment, surf queen Tyler Wright’s world championship and Johnathan Thurston’s incredible State of Origin effort with an injured shoulder, all finalists have produced moments that had Australians on their feet.

The Don Award is widely regarded as Australia’s leading contemporary sporting award and is named in honour of Australian sporting legend and first Sport Australia Hall of Fame Inductee, the late Sir Donald Bradman AC.



Athlete Sport Achievements

Jeff Horn



Jeff Horn took the WBO welterweight world title in July in a unanimous points decision over a legend of the sport, Manny Pacquiao, in what many consider to be one of the best‐ever wins by any Australian boxer. Horn’s modest demeanour in the lead‐up was equalled by his dignified response following his win, which captured the attention of sports fans world-wide.

The Matildas




The Matildas produced one of their most significant achievements when they demolished Brazil 6-1 to win the Tournament of Nations in August. Undefeated, the Matildas winning run through the round‐robin tournament included an historic defeat of world champions United States and local rival Japan. The Matildas only needed a draw to win the tournament against Brazil, but did it in style.

Sally Pearson OAM





Twice a winner of The Don (2013 and 2015) Sally Pearson produced a remarkable comeback from a career threatening wrist injury to win her second world 100m hurdles title at the world athletics championships in London in August. Competing in her first major championship since 2015 after missing the defence of her Olympic title in Rio, the 30-year-old coached herself and produced a spectacular display of hurdling to claim her second world title.

Erin Phillips




Olympic basketballer Erin Phillips turned her hand to a new sport and proceeded to dominate the inaugural season of AFL women’s football. Co-captaining Adelaide to the first AFLW premiership her accolades include the league best and fairest, best afield in the grand final, the players’ most valuable player, goal of the year, Vice-Captain of the all‐Australian team and the players’ association MVP.
 Emily Seebohm OAM




2015 The Don Award finalist Emily Seebohm recovered from illness that almost convinced her to retire to win Australia’s only gold medal and retain her 200m backstroke title at the world swimming championships in Budapest in July. After struggling in 2016 at the Rio Olympics only to be diagnosed with endometriosis just months later, Seebohm returned to the top in 2017.

Johnathan Thurston


Rugby League

Rugby League star and 2016 The Don Award finalist Johnathan Thurston once again had Australians on the edge of their seats, this time at the 2017 State of Origin. After missing the opening match in the series, Thurston returned only to suffer a serious season ending shoulder injury early in the game but played on, nailing a crucial and difficult conversion late in the match to keep Queensland’s series alive.

Tyler Wright



Tyler Wright became the latest in a long line of Australian surfing champions when she won the 2016 women’s world championship with a record score.  Wright almost retired in 2015 after her brother Owen suffered a serious head injury during a competition warm‐up in Hawaii. Tyler became his primary carer, but returned to the world series in 2016 to take out her maiden world title.


Introduced in 1998, only two athletes have twice been awarded ‘The Don’ – with Olympic champions Sally Pearson (2013 and 2015) and Steve Hooker (2008 and 2009) both laying claim to dual victories. Pearson knows what it’s like to stand on the stage in front of the who’s who of Australian sport at the Sport Australia Hall of Fame awards.

“The Don Award is the pinnacle of Australian sports awards,” Pearson said.

“To be named as one of the finalists is a huge honour. That being said, the night is also very special because all the superstars of Australian sports across many decades are gathered under one roof and I look up to them all.”

Despite his achievement in defeating one of the greatest of all time in the Battle of Brisbane in July, Horn said to win ‘The Don’ would be a career highlight.

“I am deeply honoured to be considered by the Sport Australia Hall of Fame as a finalist.”

“It would be a highlight of my career if I was fortunate enough to win and have my name listed alongside the previous winners, who have all been iconic figures in Australia sport.”

“After my win over Manny Pacquiao, I was invited as a guest to the ESPY awards in Los Angeles, but attending the Sport Australia Hall of Fame night as a finalist is an even greater thrill.”

AFLW star Erin Phillips said from Washington, DC, where she is working with her WNBA side Dallas Wings, “I am just so incredibly honoured to even have my name whispered amongst the other finalists for such a prestigious award in Australian sport. The Don award is incredibly special and I am looking forward to sharing the evening amongst some of the greatest athletes in the world.”

2016 finalist Emily Seebohm returns in 2017 and said, “The Don is such an historic award, to be nominated for a second year is such an honour. To read the names of previous winners is incredible, some of which have been great idols for me and all have been the most amazing sportspeople this country and world has ever seen. A swimmer hasn’t won this award since 2005 so I would love to put swimming back on the board.”

Sport Australia Hall of Fame selection committee chair Rob de Castella AO MBE said ‘The Don’ is awarded annually to the athlete or team who, through their performance and example over the past year (September 2016 – September 2017), has most inspired the nation. The criteria for the award is inspired by the words of Sir Donald at the time of becoming the first inductee in the Sport Australia Hall of Fame in 1985.

“The Don Award is not an award for the most popular or the best performance of the year, but much more,” de Castella said

“The Don Award seeks to capture, celebrate, recognise and reward the individual or team who has ‘most inspired the nation’ through their performance,” de Castella said.

In accepting his inaugural induction, Sir Donald said “When considering the stature of an athlete or for that matter any person, I set great store in certain qualities which I believe to be essential in addition to skill. They are that the person conducts his or her life with dignity, with integrity, courage and perhaps most of all, with modesty. These virtues are totally compatible with pride, ambition, and competitiveness.”  Hard work and dedication remain essential for all individuals who must embrace, with equal fervor, opportunity and responsibility”.

De Castella said these words encompass the spirit in which the selection committee determines the annual finalists and winner.

“The Don has become the ultimate recognition of this ideal and indeed the greatest honour that can be bestowed upon an athlete or team during their competitive career,” de Castella added.

The Don award for 2017 will be presented at the sold out 33rd Sport Australia Hall of Fame Induction and Awards Gala Dinner – presented by Etihad Airways – on Thursday, 12th October 2017 at Palladium at Crown, Melbourne.

2017 will see a further eight Australian sporting icons, from on and off the field, be inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame. In addition, Australian sport’s ‘night of nights’ will see the elevation of one current Member to Legend status, becoming the official 39th Legend of Australian Sport.

Established in 1985, the Sport Australia Hall of Fame plays a vital role in preserving and perpetuating Australia’s rich sporting heritage.


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