Forget the onfield deeds – the winning and the losing, the triumphs and tribulations. This gong focuses more is about acknowledging what athletes do away from their sport, their interaction with us, the always enthusiastic, sometimes pesky rank and file. These deeds often go unreported in mainstream media circles. They shouldn’t. So many athletes give generously of their time and emotions, without fuss or fanfare.
There are some standouts who feature regularly, others who are destined never to feature. You may find them featured in the Brand Erosion section. And my bet is most will be lonely and disillusioned, not long after they finally finish competing.
But here’s to the good guys, for using their profile and popularity to great effect.
Some past monthly winners….
We’ll split the Plum Pudding down the middle, the first slab landing on the Christmas plate of shock Australian PGA golf winner Daniel Popovic. We wouldn’t have known Popovic if he’d popped out of our brandy butter at the start of the week. Apparently when he wasn’t playing golf, he was working as a Stop Go Man, or making Pizzas. Four days later, he’s the winner of a major Australian tournament, $225,000 richer and a stocking stuffed with wonderful and worldwide opportunities. Don’t you just love some of the stories that sport serves up? And how well did he handle himself? Most of us feared he would crumble, but he didn’t flinch, constantly reminding himself of his terminally ill father watching at home in Melbourne. Golf isn’t hard. What dad’s going through is hard. I can do this.” And he did. Go Daniel. Don’t stop now. The second slab of pudding – to a very different sort of winner – Cooloongatta’s Joel Parkinson, who this week finally fulfilled his dream of a World Surfing Title. Four times Parkinson had been a runner up, finding unimaginable ways of depriving himself of the crown. But he never lost his split watermelon smile. As one of his mates said: “You get the feeling that every day is the best day of Parko’s life.” Not a bad way to carry yourself.
July / August 2013
Pleasing to say there’s been plenty to catch the eye this month. AFL great Shane Crawford, chalking up another $1,328,249 (or thereabouts) for cancer research by riding his bike from Melbourne to Perth. That’s impressive. Professional Aussie cyclist, Simon Gerrans surrendering his leader’s jersey to teammate Daryl Impey, so he could become the first South African to wear the famous yellow kit – good sense of occasion there . Rugby League good guy Brent Tate, leading the way in the Qld Origin’s team record breaking run against the arch enemy from across the border. Bit of Karma there, in light of what Tate has been through – injury wise – in his career. Aston Agar – remember him? In just one warm English summer’s afternoon, he reminded us just why we watch and enjoy sport so much. I know he’s been sidelined since, but he’ll be back. And the game will be all the richer for it. However, our winner this month, the kid who first learned to swim in a lake in her native Malawi – a lake she shared with a couple of hippopotamuses. (Or should that be hippopotami?) Anyway, it’s no wonder she learned to go pretty fast. Campbell has suffered every imaginable setback in her 21 years, most of them coming at the most inopportune time. At last she’s got the individual gong she so richly deserves. Go girl.
Hard this month to go past Lil’ Lleyton. Hasn’t his stock price taken a turn for the better recently? Zero to Hero in just a few short seasons. We’re now right behind him – every step, every grunt, every “c’mon” of the way. Perhaps it’s because he’s now the underdog. We long longer expect him to win, so are pleasantly surprised when he does. Perhaps it‘s his general demeanor, the waning of the brashness that characterized Hewitt in his prime. Perhaps it’s just that he’s grown up. Or perhaps it’s because we’re starting to fully appreciate the enormity of what he has achieved over – what is it now? – 17 years? To think, he played his first Australian Open at 15. In any case, good on you, Lil’ Lleyton. You’ve convinced me there’s at least a glimmer of hope yet for our Bernie. Particularly in light of recent law enforcement intervention.