There’s not much Lauren Jackson didn’t achieve in her legendary basketball career, but Hall of Fame recongition is a huge honour
Jackson concedes she was too hard on herself during her playing days, often letting the pressure to perform overtake the joyous moments.
Even now as a doting mother of two and a dedicated professional working for Basketball Australia, she often forgets about her decorated basketball career.
It’s only when accolades like induction into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame come up that Jackson allows herself to truly reflect, and appreciate, her achievements in the WNBL, WNBA, Europe and on the international stage for Australia.
“My career feels like a lifetime ago now,” Jackson said frankly.
“The idea of me not having children and a full-time job – it seems like I had another life.
“But when I have to sit back and reflect on my career, what I was able to achieve being an Australian female athlete was remarkable.
“The longer that period goes by, the more it does feel like a dream, especially my achievements over in America and with the Australian team.
“I know when I was an athlete, I wish I would have appreciated it more.
“Now looking back, I think I was a bit hard on myself.
“Oh, I mean, I must have been pretty good you know.”
In many people’s minds, Jackson is the greatest Australian basketballer of all-time.
Better than Andrew Bogut, Andrew Gaze and the future King, Ben Simmons.
It seems like a big call to make, but the stats don’t lie.
Two WNBA championships with Seattle, three WNBA MVPS, four WNBL MVPS while she collected two golds, three bronze and three silvers for the Opals.
It’s a personal tally that firmly places the girl from Albury in the record books as one of the greatest Australian basketballers.
A humble Jackson says it is a privilege to be named in the Sport Australia Hall of Fame alongside her sporting idols like Australian swimming legend, Dawn Fraser.
“The Sport Australia Hall of Fame is very prestigious,” she said.
“It really is the best athletes in Australia, so you are among a group of remarkable human beings who have achieved so much in sport.
“I guess I was just really lucky to achieve what I did, and it is a huge honour to be a part of the Hall of Fame with people that I idolise like Dawn Fraser and Louise Sauvage.
“To be recognised is a massive honour.
“Retirement brings these types of awards and achievements, which I guess is just further confirmation for what I was able to achieve.
“They are incredible women, so to be recognised alongside them and become a member of the Hall of Fame is very exciting.”
Jackson has been retired from basketball for four years, but she is continuing to give back to the game that gave her so much.
The legendary Australian is helping the WNBL make giant strides forward through her Head of Women’s Basketball job.
Jackson played a major role in the set-up of the league’s North Queensland hub during the coronavirus pandemic while she pushed for the competition’s first Collective Bargaining Agreement in 41 years.
“It has definitely been an evolution for me with basketball,” she said.
“The sport has been my life. I grew up as the daughter of two Australian players and then wanted to follow in their footsteps, so I feel like basketball was in my blood for sure.
“My journey as an athlete, into an older elite athlete and then into administration has given me a broad perspective on basketball in Australia and globally.
“Now I’m in a position where I can play a part in pushing the sport forward in my role with Basketball Australia, which is exciting.
“Like everything, it comes with its challenges, but it is so rewarding to still be involved in the sport that has been my life and my passion – it is really incredible.”
“Just moments like that, I would love to have some of those of my own.”
Brown’s memory may be a bit hazy as the kick was actually from 30m out and only struck the left upright but she certainly wasn’t far off.
Her memory won’t be as hazy if Brisbane can beat the Roosters and claim their third straight NRLW title on Sunday afternoon.
“It’s crazy because it’s such a different squad,” Brown said when asked how hard it is to win three straight premierships. “One of the girls said there’s only four girls in this squad from the first year. That shows how diverse the squad actually is and how much it has grown each year.
“It’s a massive thing for the club to have such a different group of girls each year and to still come away with success. That speaks a lot about the Broncos as a club.”
Brown started the year as a part of the Australian rugby sevens squad bound for the Tokyo Olympics.
When the COVID-19 pandemic postponed the Olympics, Brown thought it was time to follow her first passion.
“I’ve always watched rugby league since I was three or four years old and it was always one of my dreams, to play for the Brisbane Broncos,” Brown said.
“But at that time, it wasn’t an achievable dream because the girls didn’t have a team. I’ve always loved rugby league and I’ve watched it since I was little. I knew the rules and all of the things like that.
“The skill transfer from sevens to rugby league with ball playing and the passing, catching, even the kicking side of rugby union, that assisted in my transition to rugby league.
“But I put it down to loving the game since I was young and always wanting to have a crack at playing rugby league. Now I have that opportunity I just want to run with it and see how I go.”
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Sam is a sports reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.
You remember where you were when Cathy Freeman won gold in the 400 metres at the Sydney Olympics.
You watched Ian Thorpe win the 400 metres freestyle in world record time on the first night of competition.
Australia won 58 medals at the Sydney Games: 16 gold, 25 silver and 17 bronze — its biggest haul.
The massive build-up and the unprecedented focus on gold medals ensured the team had its rock stars: Freeman, Thorpe, Hackett, Perkins and O’Neill. All won gold.
But, so did many others who were never under that intense spotlight.
Now, 20 years on, those athletes are reflecting on their 15 minutes of fame. Some are sanguine, while others wonder why they didn’t get more recognition.
Lauren Burns: Women’s taekwondo 49kg division gold medal
Lauren Burns seemingly came from nowhere to win gold in taekwondo in her 49kg division. It was the first medal in the sport, which was making its Olympic debut.
Burns’ moment of fame was boosted by the incongruous connections that media love to make. She’s the daughter of the singer and songwriter, Ronnie Burns, who was a household name in Australia in the 60s and 70s.
But aside from starting taekwondo because her father and brother were doing it, Burns was entirely her own woman.
The fact that it was a new Olympic sport meant she had barely any official funding.
“I had a sponsorship with an organic vegetable shop,” Burns said.
“My first tournament was in New York (in 1993). It was actually at Madison Square Garden, which was pretty crazy. But we had to pay our way, we paid part of our flights, we paid for our tracksuit.”
However, the financial hardship was outweighed by the sheer delight that after more than a decade in the sport, taekwondo finally had a place in the Olympics.
“There was never really an expectation like ‘oh I should have that much attention or our sport should have that sort of spotlight,’ because we’d never had it,” she said.
The final itself went off without a hitch as Burns beat her Cuban opponent Urbia Melendez by four points to two.
“I just had this incredible, single-minded, myopic focus on winning gold — so that was what I was really there to do,” she said.
“It wasn’t until I came off and my coach grabbed me, and I was running around the stadium, and it was it like ‘Yes, I did it’.”
The next day was a blur as the media interviews came thick and fast.
“I did so many that I lost my voice,” she said.
“I ended up getting some strapping tape and I just put it over my mouth because I needed people to see that I just couldn’t speak.”
Burns retired straight after the Olympics and threw herself into numerous projects — particularly public speaking.
“I was on such a high and it was like I was on the hamster wheel and I said yes to everything. Write a book? Great. Finish a uni degree? I’ll do that.
“I always had a bag in the hallway because I was travelling interstate all the time and never really knew where I was.”
It took five years for her to slow down.
“I stopped and went ‘woah’, and that’s when I kind of had that reflection of you know, who am I without my sport? Who am I if I’m not Lauren the taekwondo girl?”
Burns finished her degree in naturopathy and nutrition, and continued her public speaking career — which has only now been curtailed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Tom King: Sailing 470 class gold medal with Mark Turnbull
Tom King and his crewmate Mark Turnbull didn’t so much fly under the radar as sail under it.
Australia hadn’t had a competitor in the 470 class at the Olympics since 1984, so King and Turnbull did well just to make the team for Atlanta in ’96, where they finished 23rd.
But by 2000, King knew they were good enough to win gold.
Unlike some of the other high-profile medal chances, the pair deliberately chose to stay incognito.
“We weren’t doing it for media profile and fame and fortune, we were training to try and win the Olympic gold medal because that’s what we wanted to achieve,” he said.
It was all about executing a plan. During nine races across more than a week, they did that perfectly — achieving victory in the final race of the regatta.
“We had our highlight about halfway through the race when we managed to catch the American team who won silver, right off Bradley’s Head, in front of a very big crowd,” he said.
“For us that was an extraordinary experience because we’d never had a crowd attend any of our events.”
But their moment in the spotlight was short lived, as another event stole the headlines. The Australian walker, Jane Saville, had been disqualified from the 20 kilometre race just as she was about to enter the Olympic Stadium to claim gold.
“It certainly frustrated me a little bit. I think I felt we were deserving of more recognition than we got,” King said.
“There were some experiences in the days that followed in the aftermath of the games that were pretty disappointing in terms of the lack of acknowledgement when the media was being dominated by the swimmers and other athletes.”
It’s a bugbear for King, who says he was conscious of an “us and them” mentality within the Australian Olympic team.
“That’s not to say that many of the swimmers aren’t deserving of that attention … but there are so many other athletes that have achieved similar levels of success in their disciplines whose achievements for some reason haven’t received the same kind of attention. That’s been sad in a way.”
King retired from sailing after the Olympics and was depressed at times as he tried to find his place in the world outside of the rigid confines of elite sport.
“I found it very difficult. It took me really five or six years to get comfortable or confident in a business environment,” he said.
Post-athletic career welfare remains a passionate topic for King, who served for a time as the chairman of the Australian Olympic Committee Athletes’ Commission and the AOC board.
Now he’s a successful fund manager and looks back with immense pride at what he achieved, not only in winning gold at the Sydney Olympics, but in paving the way for a generation of sailors who came after him.
“It was an extraordinary event for Australia,” he said.
Belinda Stowell: Sailing 470 class gold medal with Jenny Armstrong
Belinda Stowell won her gold medal with crewmate Jenny Armstrong, just hours before Tom King. It was an incredible day for Australian sailing at the Olympics.
Stowell’s journey began in her native Zimbabwe when she was just four.
“You’re out sailing, and hippos are making their noises in the bay,” she said.
“In some ways I guess it probably made me really observant.”
She emigrated to Australia when she was 19 and took up sailing seriously, deciding in 1995 that winning a gold medal would become her sole focus.
“I was probably obsessive about winning gold — probably to prove something to myself to be the best in the world,” she said.
“Being able to have that one driver almost helps you lift yourself off the canvas. There were definitely ups and downs — and significant downs at moments.”
The lack of money was one.
“I slept on people’s floors … from Cronulla to Palm Beach,” she said.
And she battled for years with a chronic injury to her shoulder — arguably the most important joint in the body for a sailor.
“My shoulder was subluxing (partially dislocating) about five or six times a race.
“From 1998 I saw a surgeon and he said, ‘you’ve got to have seven months out to have an operation, your shoulder is like ice on a plate’. And I said, ‘I’m about to go into my Olympic trials so it’s just not an option.’ I remember on the bus home from the surgeon just bawling my eyes out.”
She opted against the operation until after the Games and won gold with the help of a team of physios and the support of her crewmate, Armstrong.
“We had the glorious moment of winning the last race and winning the regatta at the same time,” Stowell said.
Like King, her moment in the sun was partially eclipsed by Jane Saville’s disqualification.
But that lack of recognition compared to the star athletes and swimmers never mattered to Stowell.
“I didn’t really mind, because I looked up to those athletes so much and used them for inspiration,” she said.
“I thought I was the bees’ knees, because I also got a stamp with my head on it and we got $10,000 from Australia Post.”
Unlike Burns and King, Stowell continued in her sport, sailing at the 2004 Olympics in Athens — where she and Armstrong finished 14th. She even made a comeback to compete at the 2012 London Games, finishing 7th.
For the last 16 years she has coached sailing at the Western Australian Institute of Sport.
As for her gold medal?
“It means that I was the best in the world for two weeks,” she reflected.
A woman who breached Western Australia’s tough COVID-19 rules three times — despite suffering from a chronic lung condition — has been narrowly spared an immediate jail term, receiving an eight-month suspended sentence.
Katrina East pleaded guilty to failing to comply with an order to self-isolate at home
East had been in Melbourne and had permission to return to WA on June 30
She later went to an 80th birthday party, a chemist and a playground
Katrina Lauren East, who has cystic fibrosis, received permission to return to WA from Victoria on June 30 amid fears for her health and was ordered to self-isolate at her family’s South West home for two weeks.
The Bunbury Magistrates Court was told the 29-year-old went to a chemist, a playground with friends, and finally an 80th birthday party at the South West Italian Club because she was struggling with self-quarantine.
East wept in court after pleading guilty to failing to comply with those orders and hid behind a large umbrella, flanked by tearful friends and family, as she left court.
Magistrate Joe Randazzo told her the court had exercised “mercy”, taking into account her ill health, early plea of guilty and the fact there had been no deception involved.
He warned, however, there had been “no reasonable” excuse for her breaching the order.
Defence lawyer Jodette Reynolds said her client had felt she was safe in WA, and had at the time not fully grasped that her actions could have seriously affected the health of others.
She had been in self-imposed isolation in Victoria before travelling home, and had not lived in a virus hotspot.
East also suffers from mental health issues, including significant anxiety.
Her lawyer said she was now remorseful and embarrassed and so ashamed that she felt she could not attend her church.
There had also been considerable community backlash.
Ms Reynolds said East’s lung condition was worsening and she had a significant infection, was coughing up blood and had a lung capacity of just 40 per cent.
Ms Reynolds pushed for a financial penalty and a spent conviction, as her client wanted to work in Christian ministry.
Police prosecutor Sergeant Darren Clifton said the offending was very serious but stopped short of calling for an immediate jail term.
The sentence comes just days after 28-year-old Asher Vander Sanden was sentenced to six months’ jail for sneaking over the border in a truck because she did not want to pay for quarantine at a hotel, in what’s believed to be the toughest penalty for breaching the quarantine laws.
Magistrate Joe Randazzo noted East did not “sneak” over the border and her offences had been different from that case, as there had not been deception and she had no prior criminal record.
But he warned that WA’s emergency management laws must be taken seriously.
“You came close to going to jail, but mercy has been extended to you.”
Gibbs, who has played has played 267 games in the AFL for Carlton and Adelaide since debuting in 2007, has been in and out of the winless Crows side this season having only played two games.
But the news has once again put on-field woes into perspective with the devastating blow in his personal life.
Posting a picture of Charlie and Madison in matching pyjamas, Lauren shared news about the loss.
“We were so excited at the thought of seeing these two with another sibling,” she wrote. “I started making matching pj’s for them as they were to be joined by another little one in the new year.
“Instead we will just be left with dreams of what could have been. It’s crazy how much you can love somebody that you have never met before.” Gibbs’ added that she had been speaking about the loss and hearing the stories of others had helped with her pain.
“I know I am not alone in this and speaking about my miscarriage has certainly helped,” she said. “I have taken strength from so many strong women who have supported me by sharing their stories of similar times. Thank you to all my wonderful family and friends. Grateful for my two little ones who make my world better every single day.”
The Adelaide Football Club has had several players’ partners suffer miscarriages recently with former Crows skippers Taylor Walker and Rory Sloane both losing babies in 2018.
Walker took time away from the game after the loss of his unborn child while Sloane and his wife Belinda lost their son Leo in a tragic stillbirth.
While footy fans have been left in the dark, apparently broadcasters have been given the wink of approval from AFL HQ on a likely start date. That and all the big footy issues are discussed on this week’s Herald Sun Footy Podcast.
Broadcasters have been kept in the know by league headquarters, with Gullan revealing the AFL has hinted at players returning to the field on July 10.
But Gullan conceded on the Herald Sun Footy Podcast that the situation could change in this unpredictable landscape.
“There’s a suggestion that July 10 could be the resumption date,” Gullan said.
“Radio and TV have sort of been given the ‘wink, wink’ from AFL House.
“Get your head around July 10 … get your ducks in order.
“I know it changes by the day and they keep telling us that but word out of the media — radio and TV land who deal with the AFL — (is) that July 10 could be it.”