Champion Status at Risk of Being Devalued

At the weekend we attended the WAIS Athlete of the year awards and would like to thank WAIS for the invitation. As always it was an enjoyable evening, even though 80% of those attending do not seem to know what constitutes “Black Tie” as a dress code.

A year ago we questioned the selection of the athletes inducted into the Hall of Champions, and sadly a year later we have to do the same. Although having last year raised the issue as to how Louise Sauvage could not be in the Hall Of Champions we were pleased to see her inducted this year. What is a little embarrassing is this outstanding athlete with a disability is already in the Hall of Legends in the New South Wales institute of Sport!

The Hall of Champions was originally put forward by the Sportswriters Association of WA in 1983. The criteria to be accepted into the Hall are as follows: Outstanding sporting achievement at the highest level, the athlete must be accepted as a product of the WA sporting system or have established their reputation while resident in WA. The athlete must also have retired from the highest level of competition for five years.

Joining Louise Sauvage in the Hall of Champions was former AFL footballer Peter Matera. This now takes the Australian Rules recipients to 24. Only four sports have more than ten past players in the Hall of Champions, Hockey with 21 Cricket with 13 and Athletics 10. A further 20 sporting categories share 54 places in the Hall of Champions, which hopefully highlights and unbelievable imbalance.

It was pleasing to hear one of the attending Politicians comment that the selection committee needs to be looked at as the bias is now unhealthy. The question is will this actually happen?

It is totally ridiculous that a sport played solely in one country should have more inductees in the Hall of Champions than all of the sports that compete internationally.

On the night there were two athletes inducted into the Hall of Legends and one again we saw a domestic athlete rewarded ahead of sports stars whose names would be known outside of Australia. Graham “Polly” Farmer and Dennis Lillee being the two to be given this huge honour. Lillee deservedly so have retired as the leading wicket-taker of all time, and a man who is spoken of around the world as a legend of the game of cricket.

When Mr. Farmer collected his award it was obvious that his health is in decline, and one could not help thinking that this award was given more out of sentiment at this time. This is because surely the name Walter Lindrum is more revered globally in sports circles than his, or more recently Luc Longley’s amazing achievements in the best basketball league in the World, the NBA would see him ahead of this year’s recipient. Then there is Squash player Barbara Wall who won the British Open back in 1979 when seeded eight, this tournament regarded by all in the game, and certainly at that point in time as the equivalent of a World Championship.

We have to stop accepting domestic achievements being judged alongside international achievements, it is an insult to those who have achieved on the World stage, and is embarrassing to sports fans. By all means have two categories, one for Australian based teams and athletes and the other as International athletes, but we have to start having a sense of perspective.

If the current selection committee cannot give that then we need intervention to make sure that the honour of being inducted into the Hall of Champions and the Hall of Legends is not diminished.
The following sports have the following number of athletes in the Hall of Champions (sports such as Hockey include male and female athletes) :
Australian Rules – 24
Hockey – 21
Cricket – 13*
Athletics – 10
Swimming – 9
Netball – 4
Water Polo – 3
Harness Racing – 3
Horse Racing – 3
Tennis – 3*
Squash – 2
Surf Lifesaving – 2
Golf – 2
Billiards – 2
Lacrosse – 2
Surf Riding – 2
Cycling – 2
Bowls – 1
Speedway – 1
Basketball – 1
Yachting – 1
Association Football – 1
*Ernest Parker was inducted for both Tennis and Cricket.
Athletes with a disability are included in thier chosen sport. e.g. Louise Sauvage – Athletics

Champion Status at Risk of Being Devalued
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