Why Ricky Stuart, Jarrod Croker, Caroline Buchanan, Marianna Tolo, Kelsey Lee Barber, Patty Mills, Robert de Castella and the Brumbies top the list of the most influential Canberra sportspeople.
During the COVID-19 shutdown, sportspeople demonstrated their capacity to inspire the community in their struggle to stay afloat mentally and physically.
In many respects, the majority of those in this highly subjective list had already established themselves as community role models.
Capital Football, Hockey ACT, Tennis ACT, Cricket ACT, ACT Basketball and Netball ACT have shown leadership as organisations during COVID-19 with inspirational messages and guidance during and while emerging from the shutdown.
Sportspeople such as Michael Milton, Nick Kyrgios, Robert de Castella, Lauren Boden and Melissa Breen have continually inspired us as a community.
Marianna Tolo and Carrie Graf, along with the UC Capitals, have become important advocates in the promotion of women’s sport. Apart from their incredible deeds on the court, the team are positive role models. Marianna and Carrie have taken it a step further through advocating for better promotion, greater financial support and media coverage of women’s sport.
Caroline Buchanan has inspired the next generation through her performances in mountain bike and BMX as an eight-time world champion and her comeback from serious injury. But it has been her ability to engage through social media with positive messaging that has seen her become an important role model to young sportswomen in particular.
Patty Mills is a global superstar on the back of his performances in the NBA but it has been his role of advocate for a range of issues that has seen his influence stretch well beyond his efforts on the court. This has ranged from the promotion of Indigenous issues to calling for people to stay home during COVID-19.
David Pocock remains an enormously influential presence in Canberra, despite not playing for the Brumbies, with his environmental platform resonating well beyond the ACT. The departures of Pocock, Henry Speight and Christian Lealiilifano have seen the club in a rebuilding phase in terms of personality players. The Brumbies, as a team under coach Dan McKellar, has the ability to be a positive influence with effective use of social media platforms as well as being the dominant Australian side in Super Rugby while playing attractive rugby.
Kelsey Lee Barber, by virtue of winning gold in the javelin at last year’s World Track and Field Titles, has become an important figure in Australian sport. This has been amplified in the lead up to the Olympics. Her performances have inspired a generation of young athletes in Canberra seeking to follow her pathway.
The Raiders team by virtue of making last year’s Grand Final has a great profile within and beyond Canberra with Jarrod Croker as the most popular player among supporters.
For mine, Raiders coach Ricky Stuart continues to be the most influential person in Canberra sport. As a champion player his profile was enormous. If at all possible his profile has lifted even more as a coach. This has been amplified through his role in charities in Canberra and the fierce protection of his players and the city.
As I mentioned at the top of the column the list is very much subjective but if nothing else, these individuals and teams illustrate the calibre of sports people in our city.