21 November, 2014, Copland Theatre, University of Melbourne
Distinguished guests, parents of Blues and most importantly all of you here today who are about to be awarded a full blue or half blue in recognition of your achievements in sport during the recent Australian University Games in Sydney in October.
It is my pleasure to be here as the president of the Melbourne University Sports Association and as a law and arts graduate of this university. It is the role of MUSA, one of the oldest university sports associations in the country, founded in 1904, to represent the clubs and their members, the athletes, to ensure their best interests are looked after when it comes to resources, facilities and of course training, coaching and support for athletes, teams and crews. This is done in conjunction with the university’s sports administration department Melbourne University Sport.
University Blues are awarded to athletes for “outstanding sporting performance representing the university” at an Australian University Games or Championships. Blues have been awarded by the University of Melbourne since 1870 and follow in the long established tradition established by Oxford and Cambridge universities who each have their blues: the navy blue for Oxford and the light blue for Cambridge. Their rivalry is highlighted most publicly in the annual Boat Race on the Thames. That race, so long for men only is, I am pleased to say now complemented by a women’s race over the same gruelling distance of 6.8km rowed in the dead of winter.
You are here because you have been nominated by your club, your coach or by MUS. Those nominations are then deliberated on by the Blues Advisory Board a group formally constituted under the auspices of the Melbourne University Sports Association. It comprises a number of experienced people from across sport at the university who consider and take very seriously their responsibility to maintain the standard of blues from year to year and between and amongst the different sports recommending the awarding of blues and half blues, the highest sporting acknowledgement the university can bestow. The Melbourne University Sports Association council then approves those recommendations. I am pleased to note thata Distinguished Service Award will also be awarded tonight to a very worthy recipient.
Thank you so much to the members of the MUSA Blues Advisory Board who were available to meet at short notice between the Sydney AUG and this occasion to make these important decisions. Whilst all are not here I’d like to acknowledge Cheryl McKinna (athletics and basketball), Bob Girdwood (AFL and MUSA DSA) - Lisa Lovell (tennis DSA) Iain Scott (football), Tony Steele (cricket and squash), Ben Yeo (Water Polo DSA) Megan Lane (touch) and the MUS nominee Rod Warnecke who assisted me in this task.
The University of Melbourne has produced many fine athletes over the years who were awarded Blues prior to becoming well known performers on the international stage bringing acclaim to themselves, their country and of course the university. Many were household names of their eras: John Landy, 1500m Olympic bronze medallist at the Melbourne 1956 Games and a former governor of Victoria; Ralph Doubell the 800 m winner at the 1968 Mexico Olympics in world record time; the late Dr Phil Law (boxing), after whom one part of the Lazer Law Medal is named, himself a pioneer in Antarctic exploration; Sir Roderick Carnegie, a captain of industry and Sir James Gobbo, former governor and Supreme Court judge were both rowers in the late 40s and 50s, Geoff Rees, the Chairman of the Board of Sport and Australia’s first lightweight rowing world champion, Dr Donald Cordner who played for the Demons and won a Brownlow, Kathy Watt former science student turned photographer who won gold on the bike in the road race Barcelona in 1992; Peter Antonie current president of Melb Uni Boat Club who represented Australia on more occasions than you could imagine winning lightweight and heavyweight gold medals in rowing which is no mean feat. And whilst there are many more I could mention, as but a selection of the illustrious company you are joining and will no doubt happily keep, I will conclude with Alice McNamara who loves her rowing so much (and as part of her training, and just for fun, she won the Eureka stair climb for the third time last weekend) she keeps on keeping on representing both Australia and the university winning her ninth blue last year.
I am particularly pleased to be here and to welcome you tonight as I too am a Blue in rowing. I was fortunate to grow up well knowing what a blue was all about: my father, a dual water polo Olympian, was awarded full blues in each of water polo, swimming and tennis, one of a handful of triple blues in different sports, and it was something to which I aspired though never thought I would achieve. I would not be standing here but for the fact that when I was at Trinity College I was made to go rowing. I resisted and resisted but eventually relented, went for a row one early morning, was hooked and the rest is history. I rowed for Trinity and for Melbourne Uni and was then fortunate to be selected in Olympic, Commonwealth Games and World Championship crews winning medals along the way. I was able to combine elite sport whilst running my legal practice and I am grateful always that I was able to do both simultaneously though I am not sure it is possible in these times. I have much to thank university sport for and have no doubt that all of you enjoy the opportunities that participating in sport at uni has provided as much as I did. I encourage you to stay connected to university sport via your club or MUSA – in either a playing capacity or as a volunteer in sports administration. There can be no finer example of this commitment than that of Alf Lazer, the other half of the Lazer-Law medal, whose contribution to university sport, and to athletics particularly, spanned some 60 years before his retirement last year.
It is with disappointment that I am unable to remain with you for the balance of these celebrations but I have an annual commitment to the Olympians Club of Victoria dinner which is on tonight this night being the closest Friday to the opening day of the Melbourne Olympic Games which was on 22nd November 1956. Unfortunately this clash was unavoidable. It has been my delight to be with you however for this short time and it is my pleasure to invite the Patron of Melbourne University Sports Association Dr Geoff Vaughan AO, a blue and a former Wallaby to present your certificates recognising your wonderful achievements.
In conclusion I hope to hear of your continued engagement with university sportand wish you well for your studies and your careers and your sporting endeavours. I also hope that as I did, and others in this room have, that you might be able to do combine and meet the myriad challenges of study and career and sport, to the very best of your abilities, and participate and enjoy and succeed in each area of endeavour at the same time for a long time.