Inspirations of a nation nominated for ‘The Don’
From the Olympics to Paralympics, the heart-stopping NRL grand final and the race that stops the nation, the Sport Australia Hall of Fame has unveiled eight outstanding nominees for the 2016 ‘The Don’ Award.
Seven individuals and one team have made the shortlist of athletes who have inspired the nation over the past twelve months during which Australian athletes and teams have again excelled on the world stage.
‘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.
‘The Don’ is awarded annually to the athlete or team who, through their performance and example over the past year (September 2015 – September 2016), has most inspired the nation.
‘THE DON’ AWARD – 2016 NOMINEES
Dylan Alcott OAM – Tennis
Dylan Alcott is now a three-time Paralympic gold medallist and one of only a few Paralympians to win gold in two different sports. In Rio, the world no 1 ranked quad tennis player won both the singles and doubles titles. In the doubles, he teamed with fellow Victorian Heath Davidson to upset the triple Paralympic quad doubles champions. A former Sport Australia Hall of Fame Scholarship holder (2011 – mentored by Andrew Gaze), within the selection period, Alcott also won two Grand Slam singles titles (US Open and Australian Open).
Kim Brennan – Rowing
Kim Brennan went into the Rio Olympic Games as reigning world champion and favourite. After bouncing back from the near sinking of her boat in the heat, Brennan became the first Australian woman to win the Olympic women’s single sculls title. Widely renowned as an athlete who epitomises both the Olympic spirit and the essence of Sir Donald, Kim was awarded the honour of carrying the Australian flag in the Rio 2016 Olympic Games Closing Ceremony.
Kyle Chalmers – Swimming
Kyle Chalmers became the first Australian male to win the blue-riband Olympic 100m freestyle event since Michael Wenden in 1968. The 18-year-old from South Australia made his senior international debut in 2015 and just 18 months prior to his win in Rio was still undecided on a career in AFL football or to follow his swimming aspirations. Kyle’s win was watched by a full house at his school Immanuel College in Adelaide, along with millions of Australians who thrilled in his come from behind victory.
Curtis McGrath – Canoeing
From war veteran to Paralympic gold medallist. Four years ago Curtis McGrath stepped on a landmine while serving as an Australian Army combat engineer in Afghanistan. As he was being airlifted to safety, the then 24-year-old made a vow to those who helped save his life that they would see him represent his country again – at the Paralympics. Good to his word, the Queenslander won gold in the KL2 200m canoe sprint. McGrath was chosen as Australia’s flag bearer for the Rio 2016 Paralympic closing ceremony.
Anna Meares OAM – Cycling
For Anna Meares Rio represented another high point in a glittering career. Meares inspired her teammates with a stirring address upon selection as team captain and Australian flag bearer at the Opening Ceremony. Taking bronze in the keirin, her sixth Olympic medal, Meares became Australia’s most successful female cyclist and the only Australian Olympian in any sport to win four medals across four disciplines across four Games.
Michelle Payne – Horse Racing
Michelle Payne became the first female jockey in the Melbourne Cup’s 155-year history to win the race that stops the nation. In a sport renowned for its male dominance, Payne overcame numerous barriers to become a leading jockey and with it a role model for females within the racing fraternity and the broader community. Her brother Steven, who has Down syndrome, was the strapper for winning horse Prince of Penzance, and played a big role in his preparation for the race. Together they touched the hearts of all Australians.
Australian Olympic Women’s Rugby Sevens Team – Rugby Sevens
When it was announced that Rugby Sevens would be added to the Olympic program, the net was cast wide for players for Australia’s women’s team. They came from athletics, touch football, AFL and basketball to join those already playing the sport and the rest is history. A gold medal match win over New Zealand lauded as having done as much for Australian rugby as the World Cup wins of 1991 and 1999. Now world series and Olympic champions they have raised the profile and opened the door for female participation and excellence in what has been historically a male dominated sport.
Johnathan Thurston – Rugby League
Johnathan Thurston’s performances on and off the pitch across the 2015 season were without peer. Kicking the winning field goal in extra time for the Cowboys to take the NRL premiership, Thurston became the first person to win four Dally M’s. He won the Clive Churchill medal as player of the grand final, voted Captain of the Year, Halfback of the Year as well as the Proven-Summons People’s Choice medallist as player of the year. A proud indigenous leader Thurston has become the perfect role model for kids who look up to the game’s stars.
Paralympic champion and former Sport Australia Hall of Fame Scholarship holder Dylan Alcott said just to be nominated for ‘The Don’ Award alongside the stars of Australian sport was a huge honour.
“I remember back in grade two I did a school assignment on Sir Donald Bradman, and to think I am now nominated for an award named in his honour is incredible,” Alcott said.
“I am a very proud Paralympian, and to be recognised for this award as an elite athlete first and foremost who just happens to have a disability means a great deal to me and the Paralympic movement. Sport has changed my life, and without sport I don’t think I will be the happy and healthy person that I am today. It is a privilege to represent Australia on the world stage, and to know that my actions over the past 12 months have inspired people across the country means a great deal to me.”
Michelle Payne described the honour of being included in the company of Australian sporting royalty as humbling.
“As an Australian I have always been amazed at the depth of extraordinary talent that we have in this country and especially highlighted this year being an Olympic one. There are so many athletes who have inspired us and who so deserve recognition. I feel humbled to be considered amongst so many wonderful people,” Payne said.
Olympic gold medallist Kyle Chalmers said: “It is an honour for me to be recognised for such a prestigious award. Hopefully my race proves to young Australians that anything is possible when you train hard, set goals and listen to your coaches.”
Selection committee Chair Robert de Castella AO MBE said ‘The Don’ was unique and our nation’s most prestigious contemporary sporting award.
“It’s not the sports star or team of the year award, it’s an award that seeks to capture, celebrate, recognise and reward the individual or team who has ‘most inspired the nation’ through their performance,” de Castella said.
“It is easy to be bedazzled by phenomenal athleticism and amazing sporting excellence, and there is nothing wrong with this. Indeed it is one of the greatest things about sport.”
But, maybe something that is less tangible than the scoreboard, less clear than the fastest, strongest, or highest might be even more important to recognise and foster. ‘The Don’ Award seeks to recognise that essence of an individual that makes us, as a nation, stop, reflect on ourselves, and, if needed realign our values and lives, just as the Sport Australia Hall of Fame did when the award was created.” de Castella added.
‘The Don’ Award for 2016 will be presented at the sold out 32nd Sport Australia Hall of Fame Induction and Awards Gala Dinner – presented by Etihad Airways – on Thursday, 13th October 2016 at Palladium at Crown, Melbourne.
Presented by Etihad Airways, the Sport Australia Hall of Fame Induction and Awards Gala Dinner is also the largest gathering of Australian sporting greats in the one room for the one night each year, in celebration of Australia’s finest.
2016 will mark the 32nd edition of this event, with a further eight Australian sporting icons, from on and off the field, to be inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame.
In addition to the eight Inductees, Australian sport’s ‘night of nights’ will see the elevation of one current Member to Legend status, becoming the official 38th 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.