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Australia's greatest sporting icons.

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Media Release




EMBARGO: 10.30 P.M.


14 October 1999




Indigenous stars from Australia’s two loading football codes, the AFL’s Nicky Winmar and the NRL’s Cliff Lyons were historic joint winners of the 1999 Natio nal Sportsman of the Year award at the, 7th National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Sports Awards in Hobart tonight.


Described by Aboriginal and Torres, Strait Islander Commission deputy chairmen Ray Robinson as Australia’s greatest living sporting icons, Winmar and Lyons, accepted their awards in front of a capacity audience of 450 people at Wrest Point Casino.


Commissioner Robinson said the two footballers were arguably the most popular sportsmen in Australia and their dominance and longevity in their respective codes reflected their commitment, determination and passion for success.


Commissioner Robinson said: “Their greatness and strength lies not only with their superb skills but with how they have overcame serious obstacles along the way.”


Commissioner Robinson described Nicky Winmar as an inspirational light for all Aboriginal people.


“Nicky is proud of his Aboriginality and has endured his share of racial sledging during his brilliant career. Who will ever forget the St Kilda match against Collingwood in 1993 when Nickys simple gesture made all of us sit up and take notice of the ugly side of sport?


“ Nicky has never been more eloquent or effective for our people than he was in that moment. His stance against racism changed the game forever.


“Nicky is arguably the most creative player ever to play Australian Rules. He is the first Aboriginal player to play over 250 AFL games and was one of the driving force behind the AFL’s Racial Vilification Code.


“Aboriginal people are playing at AFL level in record numbers and all of them are gifted but few can compete with the extraordinary skills of Nicky.


“He has the complete set of footy skills. A magnificent high-flying mark, a long, accurate kick, pin point passes by hand and foot and a fierce and effective tackler,” said Commissioner Robinson.


Winmar has won several best and fairest awards, All Australian and State of Origins selections, equal third in a Brownlow Medal, leading goal kicker and a night premiership.


But this year, his first with top AFL club Western Bulldogs, has proven to be one of his most special because of tonights award and earlier this year his being awarded one of his greatest treasures - the 1999 NAIDOC Sportsperson of the, Year Award.


When talking about Aboriginal Rugby League players at the highest level it is doubtful if any one player has been discussed more than Manly Warringah’s Cliff Lyons.


Commissioner Robinson said Cliff Lyons legend had achieved icon status because of his grace, athleticism and determination to win.


“Cliff is truly an enigma in today’s game. The more complex rugby league gets the more precious and valuable Cliff becomes,” Commissioner Robinson said.


“He has been described as the master of deception and his sleight of hands still bewilders many of today’s players.


“However I believe Cliff s greatest attribute is that he sees opportunities that are not apparent to other players. He has an acute awareness of what is around him and clarity of  thinking in the frenzy of the moment not found in his opponents.”


Commissioner Robinson said that Cliff Lyons’ extraordinary achievements clearly identify him as one of the greatest players in rugby league.


“Cliff has played over 300 premiership matches, won the Dally M Player of the Year twice, and was the Clive Churchill Medal winner.


“He has represented Australia 13 times, was selected in a Rest of the World team, played m two premiership winning sides for Manly Warringah and was instrumental in having an Aboriginal team play in the World Sevens competition.


“ However I believe his greatest rugby league achievement is still to come, when Cliff captains the Aboriginal Rugby League Team in the forthcoming Test Match against Papua New Guinea.”


Commissioner Robinson said it is more than Nicky Winmar and Cliff Lyons sporting achievements that endear them to all Australians. Sporting fans or not, all Australians admire their strength and the reflection in their characters of the best of what it is to be Australian.


Further Information: Paul Molloy 0419 690 926

ATSIC Office of Public Affairs



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