PickStar's top indigenous athletes
For the next seven days NAIDOC Week celebrations will be held across Australia in recognition of the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
For decades Indigenous athletes have excelled in the sporting arena in disproportionately high numbers relative to their population, and, generation after generation, Indigenous players are among the biggest stars in each of Australia's most popular sporting codes.
Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander athletes have also used their sporting platform to take a stance on social issues and ask tough questions of society as a whole.
In recognition of all that Indigenous athletes have contributed to sport in Australia here is PickStar's list of four Indigenous athletes at the top of their games.
Eddie Betts - AFL star
In recent years, Eddie Betts has cemented himself as one as the most formidable small forwards in AFL history. The 32-year-old was drafted in 2004 at pick number three by Carlton, where he spent nine years before moving to the Adelaide Crows.
Betts has faced a number of racial attacks throughout his career, both while playing and via social media. He has been a loud voice for the fight against racism in the sport, often using his platform to raise awareness about the issue. His list of awards is long, having won the AFL Goal of the Year in 2006, 2015 and 2016. He was named in the All Australian team three years in a row between 2015 and 2017, and has been the leading goal kicker for his club a total of six times in his AFL career. Betts’ outstanding form in 2016 saw him come second in the Crows’ best and fairest.
Having played more than 300 games, the prolific play-maker is best known for his amazing goal kicking ability from incredibly tight angles, a skill that has lead to one pocket at Adelaide Oval becoming known as ‘Eddie’s Pocket’.
Sit back and enjoy the best of Eddie’s miraculous goals.
Kyah Simon - Professional Soccer Player
From a young age, Kyah Simon was destined to become an elite soccer player. Dominating in every competition she played from the age of eight, Simon was due to commence a scholarship with the New South Wales Institute is Sport when she broke her leg at the age of 15. Just one year later, having recovered from her injury, the talented forward made her debut for Australia to become one of the Matilda’s youngest debutants.
Since 2007, Simon has played 87 games for her country and scored 24 goals. She also played for a number of clubs in the W-League before moving abroad to play in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) in the United States.
Today, she is one of the most respected female footballers to have ever played for Australia.
Sam Thaiday - NRL Legend
Sam Thaiday is without doubt one of the greatest Indigenous rugby players of all time.
The bustling second-rower made his debut for the Brisbane Broncos in 2003, but took until 2006 to become a regular member of the team. He spent his whole career at the Broncos and played 308 games, also captaining the club in 2012 and 2013.
Thaiday has represented Queensland in rugby’s State of Origin in 29 games, as well as playing 32 Tests for Australia.
Thaiday’s highlights reel consists of hard tackles, huge hits and terrific tries, with the big man having an equally impressive trophy cabinet. He was most recognised for his 2010 and 2011 seasons, winning a number of awards, including the Dally M Second Rower of the Year, Rugby League International Federation Second Rower of the Year and the State of Origin Queensland player of the series. Arguably one of his greatest achievements is being named as part of the Indigenous Australian rugby league team of the century.
Joel Thompson - NRL Star
As one of the most respected players in the NRL, Joel Thompson has carved out a successful career playing for the Canberra Raiders, St George Illawarra Dragons and the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles since his debut in 2008.
Thompson's successes in rugby have led him to be selected in the Indigenous All Stars team on multiple occasions, an annual match played against the NRL All Stars.
Off the field, Thompson has created The Mindset Project, an organisation based on helping others by offering workshops, speaking engagements and programs to communities, corporates, sporting clubs and youth groups.
Thompson was inspired to start The Mindset Project by his own life experiences, growing up in remote New South Wales and around family violence, unstable housing and drug and alcohol abuse.
Thompson has spoken out about mental health issues within the NRL and encourages those suffering to seek help. In recognition of these roles Thompson has been awarded NRL’s Ken Stephan Medal for outstanding work in the community.
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