NAIDOC Week is held annually to celebrate the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The NSW Hall of Champions acknowledges Indigenous athletes on the Roll of Honour who have been pioneers, legends and household names. As well as being nationally and internationally acclaimed in their sport, they have actively supported their communities, providing opportunities in education, health and sport development. We pay tribute to them as athletes and as a source of inspiration for the next generation.
1945 - 2011
A giant of rugby league, Arthur Beetson played for Balmain in 1966, and later for Eastern Suburbs and Parramatta. He captained Eastern Suburbs to two premierships and played 28 representative games for Australia.
As captain of the Australian Test team against France on the 1973 Kangaroo tour, Beetson became the first Indigenous Australian to captain Australia in any major sport. A great believer in education and employment for young Indigenous Australians, two Foundations were formed in his name to provide scholarships towards this goal.
Nicole Cusack represented Australia in netball for nine years, earning 52 Test caps and played in the winning national sides in the 1995 World Championship and at the 1998 Commonwealth Games.
A mentor and coach developing the next generation of netball athletes, Nicole was inducted into the Netball NSW Hall of Fame in 2007. She is also an inductee in the Aboriginal and Islander Sports Hall of Fame.
In the 1990s Laurie Daley played 24 Tests for Australia and 23 State of Origin games for NSW, captaining three consecutive Origin wins. He also played a then record 244 games for the Canberra Raiders.
Born in Junee, and a member of the Waridjuri people, Daley has coached the Indigenous All Stars since 2011. In 2008 he was named at five-eight in the Indigenous Team of the Century.
1949 – 2001
NSW and Australian amateur flyweight and bantamweight champion between 1965 and 1973, Joseph ‘Joey’ Donovan competed at two Olympic Games – 1968 and 1974.
The Kempsey-born star served for many years in the Royal Australian Navy. He became one of only two Indigenous Australians qualified to judge and referee amateur boxing. A respected member of the NSW Boxing Authority, Donovan was selected as a role model for school children in the lead-up to the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games.
Mark Ella is considered one of Australia’s all-time rugby union greats. He played in 25 Tests for Australia, 10 of them as captain. In 1984 he became the first Australian to score a try in each of the four Tests on a Wallaby tour.
Mark’s brothers Gary and Glen were also Australian Wallabies, and his sister Marcia played for the Australian Netball team. As Executive Producer and Head of Indigenous television station, NITV, Mark has worked at highlighting Indigenous sporting achievement.
Former world number one tennis player, Evonne Goolagong has won Wimbledon twice – 1971 and 1980. Australia’s first Indigenous tennis player, she won four Australian singles titles, the French single and was runner-up in four US Opens and three Wimbledon finals.
Evonne returned to Australia after living in the US to connect her children with their Aboriginal roots, Wiradjuri family and culture. Evonne was Australian Sports Commission’s Ambassador to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Communities. She also runs the Goolagong National Development Camp, encouraging Indigenous children to stay in school through playing competitive tennis.
Between l995 and 2009 Michael O’Loughlin was Sydney Swans record holder for most games played (303), the second highest goal kicker for the club (521), and a member of the 2005 premiership-winning side. Michael became the first Swans player to reach 300 games in AFL history. In 2000 he was named in the Indigenous Team of the Century.
Passionate about improving opportunities for young Indigenous Australians, O’Loughlin launched the GO Foundation with fellow Swans player Adam Goodes. In 2010 he became the first Indigenous Head Coach to be appointed at the Australian Institute of Sport AFL Academy.
1926 – 1952
Dave Sands was Australian middleweight, light heavyweight and heavyweight champion between 1946 and 1952. He had 100 fights for 87 wins, one draw, ten losses and two no-contests.
Born Dave Ritchie, at Burnt Bridge Mission, near Kempsey, he was one of six brothers who boxed. It is claimed they fought 607 bouts between them. They also toured with boxing troupes. Dave, however, was the most gifted of the six brothers.