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Mark Taylor tribute luncheon, Sydney, 12 September 1997: transcript of address

EOE

Well, thank you very much David. To Mark and Judy and to their Mum and

Dad, to Denis Rogers, the Chairman of the Australian Cricket Board and

Australian cricket lovers all. This is one of those immensely enjoyable

occasions for an Australian Prime Minister, it really is, and you know,

you're in need of them occasionally.

Everybody has their childhood dreams and I had one fleetingly for a few

months when I was about six that I might be Captain of the Australian

Cricket team. It lasted for a very short period of time and then I decided

to focus on politics. All my life I really have regarded being Captain of

the Australian Cricket team as the absolute pinnacle of sporting

achievement and really, the pinnacle almost of human achievement in

Australia. And that is the sentiment that millions of Australians

throughout my life have had and to you Mark, it is a tremendous personal

pleasure to be here today to salute somebody who represents some great

Australian characteristics.

You have ability, you have superb professionalism, you have enormous grit,

you have great integrity, you have a capacity to fight back in adversity,

you're a great family man and you're a real inspiration to sports men and

women all around this country.

The statistics of your career are pretty well known. Suffice to say, that

as a captain, only Don Bradman and Lindsay Hassett on a percentage basis

have done better. You're number six in the total number of runs of all

Australian batsmen of all time and you've been a great slip fielder. But

above all, you've been a great leader and a great captain. You have

endured criticism, some of it quite vituperous and mean and unAustralian,

but you've fought back from that and your friends and supporters admire you

immensely.

I remember the moment that I shared with you in the dressing room before

the commencement of the rain-delayed Lords Test only a few months ago. You

knew that we'd started not so well, we lost the First Test, the Englishmen

had won the One Dayers and you knew you had a fight ahead of you. What I

admired about your attitude then was that you were realistic. You knew

that you were under a lot of personal pressure, although you'd done very

well in the First Test in the second innings, getting your century that

warmed the hearts of Australian cricket followers all around this nation.

But you were also realistic about the task that faced you. And of course

at that particular time we were experiencing a brief moment of English

cricket triumphalism. I happened to arrive in England just before the

Second Test started and I got reminded of that by some of my friends in the

media just about every day that I was there but the day when an Australian

Prime Minister has got to apologise for barracking for the Australian

cricket team wherever it is has not come, as far as I am concerned.

At that particular time, our erstwhile great enemy was feeling pretty smug

and pretty triumphal and you knew that you, along with your team, had a

great struggle ahead of you. But you responded absolutely magnificently

and the leadership that you gave to your team, the inspiration that you

gave to your team, as well as your own personal contributions, were really

quite magnificent.

So as a man, as an Australian sporting leader, as an Australian sporting

icon, and heaven knows, as we come towards the end of this century we need

icons, we need people to respect for their human qualities, their capacity

to acknowledge that they have valleys of despair and defeat and reversal as

well as mountains of achievement, and you've gone through all of that and

you've retained a great integrity and a great modesty.

It was terrific to meet your mother and father. I told them both that I

saw their smiling faces at Edgbaston along with that your wife when you

scored that great century and to have your family share those moments of

success and those moments of triumph is an absolutely tremendous thing.

So can I say to you, Mark, on behalf of a proud and greatful nation, that

you have occupied the greatest sporting post that this country can offer

anybody with decency, with grace, with great professionalism and great

skill. As one of your consistent supporters and advocates, I am proud to

say to you on behalf of a very grateful nation, thank you for what you have

done. Thank you for what you continue to do and thank you for what you

will do in the future. I wish you and Judy and your two children every

happiness and every success and on behalf of a very grateful Australian

nation, thank you for what you have done for Australian cricket, a game we

love with such intense passion and pride.

Thank you.