Celebrating Excellence and Legacy: UNSW Sport Hall of Fame Lunch 2023

After a 5-year hiatus the UNSW Sport Hall of Fame Lunch was back again yesterday. Held at the prestigious Tattersalls Club in Sydney, it was an extraordinary event that brought together outstanding individuals and celebrated their remarkable achievements within the UNSW sporting community and beyond. With Stephanie Brantz as the charismatic Master of Ceremonies, the day was filled with laughter, heartfelt speeches, and a deep appreciation for the transformative power of sport. 

The renowned sports presenter and commentator, dazzled as the MC for the event. Her infectious energy, quick wit, and engaging banter created an atmosphere of warmth and camaraderie, ensuring that everyone had a fantastic time. Brantz set the tone for the day, bringing her charm, and captivating the audience from start to finish.

The event kicked off with an Acknowledgement of Country by Rosina Baumann, a proud Butchulla woman, and our Arc Indigenous representative. Baumann's heartfelt words paid tribute to the traditional custodians of the land, emphasizing the importance of recognizing and respecting Indigenous culture and heritage. Her beautiful acknowledgment set a tone of inclusivity and cultural appreciation for the entire event.

Professor Alex Steele, the Pro-Vice Chancellor for Education and Student Experience at UNSW, delivered opening remarks that highlighted the profound impact of sport beyond athletic achievements. He emphasized the role of sport in building a stronger community, fostering personal growth, and promoting well-being. Steele's insightful words reminded everyone present of the broader significance of sports in our lives.

One of the highlights of the day was the engaging Q&A session with Moya Dodd, AO, a distinguished figure in sports administration, UNSW alumna, and former vice-captain of Australia's women's football team. Dodd, recently appointed as an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO), shared invaluable insights from her career as both a footballer and a lawyer. The audience hanging on to every word as she spoke passionately about the progress made in women's sports and highlighted the work that still needs to be done. She spoke of her admiration of the impact that Title IX has had so far in the United States in sport and hopes that it can be  soon introduced to education institutions in Australia. Dodd discussed her upcoming honour of having the new Village Green grandstand named after her, viewing it as a tremendous privilege.

The event proceeded with the induction of the five outstanding individuals into the UNSW Sport Hall of Fame. The first inductee, Chris Allum OAM, expressed his gratitude to his family, his wife, and UNSW for the opportunity to pursue a Master of Education specializing in Gifted Education. Allum's unwavering dedication to education and sport was recognized and celebrated by all. His exceptional accomplishments, including his fourth degree, were applauded as a testament to his commitment.

Despite not being able to attend in person, Phil Cheetham, a UNSW alumnus who has been residing in Arizona for over 20 years, sent a heartfelt video message expressing his gratitude to UNSW for the nomination. He extended his congratulations to his fellow nominees, highlighting the wonderful achievements he was proud of and how thankful he was to UNSW for this recognition.

Victoria Roberts, another remarkable nominee, was honoured even in her absence. Her award was accepted by her mother, Patricia, and sister, Sophie. Roberts' acceptance video touched the audience as she shared her achievements in rowing, academics, and her passion for athlete welfare. Her inspiring journey exemplified the holistic approach to success celebrated by the Hall of Fame.

A poignant moment occurred as the late Rob Heming, who had passed away earlier in the year, was honoured posthumously. His daughters, Heidi and Peta, accepted the award on his behalf. Simon Poidevin, a friend of Heming's, delivered a touching speech, reminiscing about Heming's life, his exceptional character, and his incredible skills as a player. A heartfelt video tribute further immortalized Heming's impact and contributions.

The event reached a crescendo with the introduction of the final nominee, Dr. Jeni Saunders. Her immense achievements and dedication to athlete care and well-being ignited the crowd's enthusiasm. The "Dr. Jeni Saunders fan club" erupted in cheers from tables 6 and 7, highlighting the deep admiration and respect she garnered. Dr. Saunders's inspirational journey and her humorous anecdotes about the athletes she had cared for, some of whom were even in the room, had everyone laughing.

As the event drew to a close, Stephanie Brantz invited Greg Allum OAM, father of nominee Chris Allum OAM and a member of the UNSW Sport Hall of Fame, to the stage. Greg extended his heartfelt congratulations to all the nominees and emphasized the significance of being part of this esteemed group. "It was an honour to meet some outstanding people and catch up with friends. We are all fortunate to be members of the fantastic family of UNSW Sport." His words resonated deeply, inspiring continued commitment to contribute to UNSW and its sporting legacy. 

The UNSW Sport Hall of Fame Lunch showcased the remarkable achievements and contributions of exceptional individuals within the UNSW sporting community and around the world. As the event came to an end, a shared sense of pride and anticipation for the future permeated the room, ensuring that the UNSW Sport Hall of Fame Lunch will continue to be a cherished tradition.

It served as a powerful reminder of the transformative power of sport and the importance of honouring those who have made significant contributions to the UNSW sporting community and beyond. As the UNSW community eagerly awaits the next Hall of Fame celebration in 2025, the anticipation is already building for another unforgettable day.