Three Commonwealth Games Australia alumni members have been honoured with Australia Day awards.
Five-time Commonwealth Games representative in lawn bowls and Melbourne 2006 gold medallist Karen Murphy AM has been honoured with a Member (AM) of the Order of Australia in the 2021 Australia Day awards.
Murphy is joined by two other members of the Commonwealth Games Australia alumni in receiving Australia Day honours, with former Diamonds netball coach Lisa Alexander AM and Manchester 2002 Para-table tennis bronze medallist Joy Boyd OAM also receiving nods for services to netball and table tennis respectively.
Several lifelong servants to Commonwealth Games sports and the Games movement were also honoured, along with grassroots club volunteers, including Athletics Australia’s oldest life member, 102-year-old Amy Burow AM, long-serving Swimming Australia staff member Lizzie Avery OAM and former Commonwealth Games Federation Medical Commission member and long serving Australian Olympic team medico, Dr Ken Fitch AO.
Murphy bowled over with national honour
Karen Murphy AM retired after amassing 668 tests for Australia following the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games, where she read the Athlete Oath at the opening ceremony. She continues to give back to the sport through her role on Commonwealth Games Australia’s Athlete Advisory Group where she is co-chair.
In her 22-year international career, Murphy first competed at the Kuala Lumpur Games in 1998, before going on to win gold alongside Lynsey Clarke (nee Armitage) in the women’s pairs in Melbourne. The gold medal added to Murphy’s three silver medals she won in KL, Manchester and on the Gold Coast.
Winner of five world titles, Murphy served as vice-captain of the Jackaroos for seven years.
Murphy says she is proud of her contribution to the sport she loves and how she helped change the perception of the sport.
“Years gone by the stereotype for bowls has been skewed as an older person’s sport, but that’s certainly not the case now,” she told AAP.
“It’s one of the most inclusive sports in terms of disability or age.
“If you look at the average age of the Australian team, and this has been the case for the last seven or eight years, it’s around 25 to 28.
“It’s a stereotype that has loosened up a bit and people are starting to see it as a sport that anyone can play.
“That really used to bug me, that even ads on TV always showed older people playing it and it was always associated with older people, but that has certainly changed and keeps changing.”
Taking up lawn bowls as a child to spend more time with her father, receiving the Australia Day honour led to an emotional moment when Murphy told her mum Lorraine and father Frank.
“They had tears in their eyes when I told them, they were so happy” she said.
“It’s a lovely thing for them.
“My dad coached me and encouraged me and it was something that father and daughter could do together.
“Mum and Dad have been along with me for the ride for all these years, they’ve seen the highs and the lows, but this is definitely one of the highs.”
“It’s a long journey over year career, filled with love and passion, and you don’t do that alone. This AM honour is for everyone who has been on this ride with me and supported me through the ups and downs.”
Murphy said the AM honour ranks among her three greatest career highlights.
“Winning Commonwealth gold in the pairs with my good mate Lynsey in 2006 and the singles world championships in 2012 and 2016 are up there as far as career highlights go,” she said.
“But this AM is so great, not just for me but for our sport. Bowls is not a high-profile sport and any achievements that bowls can gain further improves the profile of our sport, which is wonderful for everyone in the bowls community.”
Alexander says AM is recognition for everyone in her sport
Lisa Alexander AM coached the Australian Diamonds to netball gold at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games in 2014 and to silver on the Gold Coast in 2018 as part of her nine-year reign as national team coach.
Beginning her career as a Victoria state representative, Alexander progressed through the coaching ranks with the Melbourne Phoenix and Australian Under 21s before being anointed Australia coach in 2011.
Alexander led the Diamonds for 102 tests, becoming Australia’s most-capped netball national head coach.
Alongside the 2014 Commonwealth Games gold, Australia won the 2015 Netball World Cup under Alexander’s leadership.
Australia finished runner-up in the 2019 World Cup, in Alexander’s final tournament as head coach, which ended with an enviable 83 wins from the 102 tests.
Alexander was made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for her ‘significant service to netball at the elite level’.
She said she regarded her award as a recognition for everyone in her sport.
“We all share in it and I think it’s a great thing for our sport and for me personally,” she said.
“It has been quite a journey and I’m just really grateful for that time that I had.
“When those coaches appointments come, it’s just the right person at the right time, it’s not always that the planets align for things. To do it for that long and have that level of success, it’s quite unbelievable when you look back on it.”
Joy Boyd shares OAM with husband Tom
Joy Boyd OAM won a bronze medal in the women’s singles wheelchair table tennis at the Manchester 2002 Commonwealth Games.
The Australia Day honour is just part of her life-long love affair and service to the sport of table tennis, something she has shared with husband Tom who was also awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for service to table tennis.
For Joy and Tom table tennis is more than just a sport, it’s how they met, what they do to keep social and healthy, and a lifelong passion which has taken them to tournaments all over the world.
Now 91 and 82, Tom and Joy are still playing twice a week at the club they founded 15 years ago – Kiama Table Tennis Club.
What started with just six members has grown to more than 70, promoting both health and social interaction for people of all ages.
“We started the club 15 years ago and we love it,” Joy said. “We have so many people who come not just to play, but to be social, that’s very important.”
Joy was introduced to the sport at 17, at 21 she represented NSW and in 1969 was selected to represent Australia at a worldwide tournament across Europe.
After a leg operation, Joy was confined to a wheelchair in 1998, but that didn’t keep her away from the table, representing Australia at the Commonwealth Games in Manchester in 2002 when Para-table tennis made its debut on the sport program.
“That was pretty special,” she said. “I went to do my best and came away with a bronze medal.”
Husband Tom has collected numerous gold medals over the years at the Australian Veterans Championships and in 2015, was ranked the number one player in the over-80s category.
The pair said they were “overwhelmed” by their Australia Day honours, and the fact they were able to share in the celebrations together.
“It’s very special, who would have thought doing something you love would result in this happening,” Joy said.
“Especially being awarded this together, we are just completely overwhelmed.”
Lifelong servants to Commonwealth sport recognised
A number of lifelong servants to Commonwealth sports in Australia were recognised in the 2021 Australia Day honours including:
- Dr Ken Fitch AO for ‘distinguished service to sports medicine at the national and international level’. Fitch served on the Commonwealth Games Federation Medical Commission from 2006-2013 and a member of the Australian Olympic team medical team from 1972 to 1984 and oversaw all sports medicine services for the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. He is also a member of the Sport Australia Hall of Fame.
- 102-year-old Amy Burow AM for ‘significant service to athletics through the support for women and junior sportspersons’. Burow is a life member of Athletics Victoria and Athletics Australia and was a long serving official who played a significant role in the development of women’s athletics in Victoria.
- Elizabeth (Lizzie) Avery OAM for ‘service to swimming’. Lizzie is a long serving staff member at Swimming Australia and for more than 20 years has been the organisations entries, records and results specialist. She was UniSport’s swimming event manager from 2006-2019 and the National Women’s Perpetual Swimming Trophy is named the ‘Liz Avery’ Trophy.
- Grassroots volunteers include Kenneth Broughton OAM (NSW), Barbara Forrest OAM (QLD) and Stanley Woodley OAM (WA) for ‘ service to lawn bowls; Thomas Spark OAM (VIC) for ‘service to squash as a coach and player’; Margaret Burke OAM (NSW) for ‘services to netball; Ross Burridge AM (TAS) for ‘services to little athletics; and b (ACT) for ‘services to basketball as a player and coach’ – Cal is the father of CJ Bruton who won gold with the Boomers in Melbourne and was part of the coaching staff on the Gold Coast.
Commonwealth Games Australia congratulations and thanks all awardees for their significant contribution to sport in Australia.