Michelle Payne: dubbed ‘Queen Of Sport’ in Friday’s newspapers
PICTURE: Getty Images
By Mark Scully in Melbourne 11:30AM 14 OCT 2016
Our correspondent in Melbourne sees Australia’s riding queen honoured a year on from her finest hour
IT HAS been almost 12 months since her historic Melbourne Cup triumph but Australian sports fans still cannot get enough of last year’s Melbourne Cup heroine Michelle Payne.
The hoop (as they call jockeys down here) was one of the main attractions on an evening in Melbourne that saw stars from across the sporting landscape gather for the Sport Australia Hall Of Fame Awards.
While eight new names were inducted into the Hall Of Fame itself, Payne picked up the prestigious Don Award, named in honour of legendary Aussie cricket star Don Bradman, which acknowledges the sporting achievement that most inspired Australians in the past 12 months.
Such recognition is not to be sniffed at, as Payne is only the second jockey ever to scoop the prize, Damien Oliver having been honoured for his Melbourne Cup triumph in 2003 which came just days after the death of his brother.
Others to grace the roll of honour include Olympic legends Ian Thorpe and Cathy Freeman, Cricket heroes Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath and Golf superstars Jason Day and Adam Scott.
On Friday, Payne was all over the morning news shows and her red carpet shots featured on the front page of the Herald Sun newspaper beneath the headline ‘Queen Of Sport’. The paper carried three articles featuring Payne’s gong inside, as well as giving away a free, double-page commemorative poster honouring the ‘Queen of Hearts’.
Payne’s broad-spectrum appeal is the stuff of dreams for racing’s marketers in Australia, with a film of her life even said to be in the pipeline. As it stands, she does not have a ride in this year’s renewal but she is looking and it feels like an entire nation is willing her to find one.
An idea to steal?
Looking at the Sport Australia Hall Of Fame Awards, one wonders why we do not have something similar in the UK to provide a more definitive and centralised record of great sporting achievement.
I can hear you all shouting about BBC Sports Personality of the Year already, but please stop. That is a telephone popularity contest, an end-of-year TV spectacular that is simply not the same.
What happened last night in Melbourne was a celebration of all sport, a culmination of the hard work and dedication of the most gifted sports stars past and present and and something that provides a living monument to outstanding performance.
It is fantastic to see racing up in those lights with sports that could easily overshadow it here in Australia, like rugby, cricket and that game they call football that I am yet to get my head around.
It would be better still to see racing take its place alongside the biggest sports at home.
Are you up for the #MelbourneCup?
It was announced on Thursday that the Melbourne Cup has gone the way of America’s National Football League in agreeing a deal for the race to be broadcast live on Twitter.
The deal with the Victoria Racing Club (VRC) is the first of its kind agreed by the social media giant outside the United States and will see an hour-long broadcast made available to racing fans anywhere in the world.
As a huge fan of the NFL and someone who has enjoyed matches live on Twitter, I can only applaud the VRC for its forward-thinking outlook in a sport that all too often has to be dragged, kicking and screaming, into the modern world.
There is a generation of racing fans worldwide, from America, through Europe and into Hong Kong and Australia, whose love of our sport is fuelled by their interactions with each other across this platform.
The chance for them to immerse themselves in the race with what Twitter Australia’s Jonathan Harley calls a “one-screen experience” will surely be welcomed by them with open arms and one hopes the powers that be back at home will be keeping a close eye on the results.