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Our Past, Our Present, Our Future – Young stars to learn from former greats

The 30 year anniversary of The Sport Australia Hall of Fame provides a perfect occasion to reflect on our rich sporting history, and how it will shape and influence our sporting future.

The Sport Australia Hall of Fame was first conceived in the mid 70’s by national sports administrator Garry Daly who through his passion for sport had the vision to establish a Hall of Fame across all sports and genders to recognise and acknowledge our nation’s greatest sporting heroes, on and off the field of play. He set about researching Halls of Fame worldwide to develop a model for Australia. Garry’s vision was realised in 1985 when The Sport Australia Hall of Fame was established.

It is this vision that now connects Cathy Freeman with Betty CuthbertSusie O’Neill with Dawn Fraser, and Adam Gilchrist with Sir Donald Bradman, via the 525 Sport Australia Hall of Fame Inducted Members.

In the coming weeks we will unveil the 2014 Sport Australia Hall of Fame Inductees, to be celebrated at the 30th Annual Induction and Awards Gala Dinner, Australian sport’s night of nights, on Thursday 9 October.

Importantly, The Sport Australia Hall of Fame Members, our greatest Australian athletes, are also inspiring the next generation via a scholarship and mentoring program. The 2015 scholarships have been awarded, and are detailed below.
Future stars to learn from former greats

Five of Australia’s most promising young athletes have been accepted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame Scholarship and Mentoring Program for 2015. The program aims to inspire the young sports people by providing financial assistance and allowing them to be mentored by some of Australia’s greatest athletes, Sport Australia Hall of Fame members including Olympic 400m champion Cathy Freeman and cricketing great Adam Gilchrist.

Paige James (WA, gymnastics), Tom O’Neill-Thorne (NT, wheelchair basketball), Jake Bensted (VIC, judo), Liz Watson (VIC, netball), and Caitlin Parker (WA, boxing) triumphed over almost 100 other applicants to be selected in the program.
In addition to being mentored by Sport Australia Hall of Fame members, recipients also receive:

–       $5000 sporting expenses grant

–       International return airfare, provided by Etihad Airways

–       On-stage presentation at The Sport Australia Hall of Fame Induction and Awards Gala Dinner


Athlete Sport Mentor
Jake Bensted Judo Stan Longinidis (kickboxing)
Paige James Gymnastics Cathy Freeman OAM (athletics)
Tom O’Neill-Thorne Wheelchair basketball David Bell OAM (hockey)
Caitlin Parker Boxing Adam Gilchrist AM (cricket)
Liz Watson Netball Debbie Watson OAM (water polo)


Jake Bensted is a 20-year-old judo champion, dominating his Australian opponents and rapidly rising up the international ranks, recently winning the bronze medal at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

Fourteen-year-old Indigenous gymnast Paige James has excelled across a range of disciplines in both national and international competitions in recent years and has the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio in her sights.

Wheelchair basketball player Tom O’Neill-Thorne has been in excellent form for the Queensland Spinning Bullets in the NWBL. The 17-year-old also represented Australia at the IWBF World Championships in Korea earlier this year.

Caitlin Parker has become a force to be reckoned with on the boxing scene. The 18-year-old recently picked up a bronze medal at the 2014 Youth Olympics in Nanjing, China.

Melbourne Vixens player Liz Watson has proven she will be one of Australian netball’s future stars with the 20-year-old selected in the Australian under-21 squad set to tour New Zealand.

Scholarships are awarded to aspiring athletes under the age of 21 to help young Australians reach the highest levels of their sport by providing encouragement, funding over a 12 month period and an international airfare from major sponsor Etihad Airways.

“Not only does the scholarship and mentoring program provide recipients with financial assistance, it allows them unrivalled access to some of Australia’s sporting greats,” said John Bertrand AM, Chairman of The Sport Australia Hall of Fame.

“It is one of the most sought after scholarships for aspiring athletes in Australia and we are proud of the success of the program in its first seven years. At the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games in London, 17 previous scholarship recipients were representing Australia.”

The scholarship and mentoring program provides just as much reward for the mentors, with all jumping at the opportunity to be involved.

Cathy Freeman is looking forward to assisting her 14 year old charge, saying “I’m truly thrilled and excited to have the opportunity to play a mentoring role to Paige James. I thank Sport Australia Hall of Fame for inviting me to be a part of this special role in which I aspire to assist Paige by being a support to her as she moves towards her personal sporting goals.”

Cricketer Adam Gilchrist expressed similar sentiments in discussing his mentor role with Caitlin Parker.

“I am honoured and thrilled to be asked to work alongside Caitlin as she pursues her sporting dreams. Boxing is no doubt one of the toughest sports and requires a huge amount of commitment and sacrifice, so with that in mind I’m sure Caitlin is already a fine athlete. I hope I am able to pass on some knowledge from my experiences that will help her achieve all she desires and represent our country with pride,” Gilchrist said.

Established in 1985, The Sport Australia Hall of Fame aims to preserve and celebrate the history of Australian Sport and excite the next generation of Australians to achieve their potential both in sport and in life.

Introduced in 2006, the Sport Australia Hall of Fame scholarship and mentoring program has seen 56 scholarships awarded across 28 sports and provides recipients with the opportunity to draw on the experience and wisdom of Sport Australia Hall of Fame members.


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