Rod Laver has been selected as Queensland's greatest sportsstar.
Rod Laver has been selected as Queensland's greatest sportsstar.

Queensland's greatest 100 sporting heroes: 10-1

QUEENSLAND is a passionate state which bleeds maroon and proudly punches well above our weight in international sporting achievement, producing some of the greatest international sportsmen and sportswomen in history.

The Courier-Mail, The Sunday Mail and News Regional have compiled the definitive and provocative list ranking Queensland's greatest 100 athletes - including those born and raised in the state as well as imports whose magnificent careers were synonymous with Queensland.

Our 100 Greatest has ignited plenty of debate about our sporting stars who really is that No.1 maroon sporting legend of all time and how the achievements of our champions compare across a diverse range of sports.

Here we reveal the top 10, including the No.1 maroon sporting legend of all time - choices sure to spark controversy with sports fans across the state.

 

Susie O'Neill on her way to gold at the Sydney Olympics.
Susie O'Neill on her way to gold at the Sydney Olympics. COSTELLO BRETT

10. SUSIE O'NEILL

Swimming

2 Olympic gold, 4 silver, 2 bronze; 4 world championships; 11 Commonwealth Games gold

'Madame Butterfly' was born in Mackay and educated at Lourdes Hill College in Hawthorne where she excelled at swimming and athletics. During her career she won 35 Australian titles and eight Olympic medals, including gold in the 200m butterfly at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and the 200m freestyle at the 2000 Sydney Games. After winning gold and silver at the 1990 Auckland Commonwealth Games, O'Neill won a medal at every international meet she attended, right up until her final Olympics in front of her home crowd in Australia. In Atlanta she beat compatriot Petria Thomas for gold in the 200m butterfly and two years later at the 1998 Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur she won six gold medals and two silver. In her last Olympics she powered home in the 200m freestyle to leave international sport on top of the podium. In the 200m butterfly, she broke the 19-year-old world record of American Mary T. Meagher but, in a boil-over, was pipped for gold by another American, Misty Hyman. O'Neill was named the 1998 Australian Female Athlete of the Year and in 2000 was elected to the International Olympic Committee's Athletes' Commission.

 

John Eales was Australia's most successful captain. (Pic Mark Evans.)
John Eales was Australia's most successful captain. (Pic Mark Evans.) EVANS MARK

9. JOHN EALES

Rugby Union

86 Test matches, 173 points; 2 World Cup victories

A towering 2m-tall lock or No.8, he became the most successful captain in the history of Australian rugby, leading the Wallabies in 55 Tests and earning the nickname 'Nobody' as in 'Nobody's Perfect'. He is a graduate of Marist Brothers Ashgrove and Queensland University, where he also played first-grade cricket as an all-rounder. Eales began playing for the Brothers rugby club in 1989 and made his debut for the Queensland Reds a year later. In 1991 he played a major role in Australia's World Cup triumph against England at Twickenham. Eight years later he was captain of the side that belted France at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, becoming one of the few players in rugby history to have twice held the World Cup aloft. Against the All Blacks he was the Australian captain 11 times for a 6-5 record and he scored 173 points for Australia, mostly with his boot. He played 112 games for Queensland between 1990 and 2001. Eales played his last Test in 2001 and was named the 2002 Queenslander of the Year. Fittingly the John Eales Medal is awarded annually to the best Australian rugby union player.

 

Anna Meares acknowledges the crowd after winning the women's sprint at the Beijing Games.
Anna Meares acknowledges the crowd after winning the women's sprint at the Beijing Games. HEAD ADAM

8. ANNA MEARES

Cycling

2 Olympic gold, 1 silver, 3 bronze; 11 world championships

Winning two Olympic gold medals in separate Olympic Games is a great feat. To win them eight years apart (2004, 2012) is quite another. In between those golden victories, Meares broke her neck (January 2008) in a velodrome crash in Los Angeles, yet still took Olympic silver in Beijing seven months later. A coal miner's daughter, she was born in Blackwater and was inspired by the cycling feats of 1994 Commonwealth Games gold medallist Kathy Watt to take up the sport aged 11, even though her home at Middlemount was two hours from the nearest cycling track at Mackay. At Athens in 2004 she set a world record in the women's 500m time trial and won gold and bronze. At the World Cup in January 2008 she crashed at 65km/h and suffered a fractured C2 vertebra, a dislocated right shoulder, torn ligaments and tendons, a heavily bruised right hip and skin abrasions. But she was back on her bike 10 days later to qualify for Beijing. Meares was the Australian flag bearer at the opening ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games and the Anna Meares Velodrome at Chandler hosted the track cycling at the 2018 Commonwealth Games.

 

Allan Border hits out during a one-day international.  (Pic: Marc Fallander)
Allan Border hits out during a one-day international. (Pic: Marc Fallander) Advertiser Library

7. ALLAN BORDER

Cricket

156 Test matches, 11,174 runs at average of 50.56

A stoic, stubborn, left-handed batsman, Border was born in Sydney but played most of his career while in the Queensland side (1980-1996). He took over as Australian captain at a difficult time following the retirements of Dennis Lillee, Rod Marsh and Greg Chappell and the resignation of Kim Hughes. He went on to lead Australia in 93 consecutive Tests. He has two ovals (in Brisbane and Sydney) named after him, while the Allan Border Medal is cricket's highest individual prize. Border set many world records in his career. He had the record for most Test matches until surpassed by Steve Waugh, the most consecutive Tests (153) until it was surpassed by Alastair Cook and the most Test runs until surpassed by Brian Lara. A tough, take-no-prisoners captain, he led Australia to the 1987 World Cup and victories in the 1989 and 1993 Ashes series. Against the mighty West Indians in 1988/89, Border celebrated becoming the first Australian to play 100 Tests by hitting 75 with the bat and taking 7/46 and 4/50 with his left arm spinners as Australia scored their only victory in the series - in the Fourth Test at Sydney.

 

Roy Emerson held the record for most Grand Slam singles titles.
Roy Emerson held the record for most Grand Slam singles titles.

6. ROY EMERSON

Tennis

6 Australian singles championships, 2 French, 2 Wimbledon, 2 US titles

Until his record of 12 Grand Slam singles titles was surpassed by Pete Sampras three decades later, no-one had won more of the big four major tennis events than this dairy farmer's son. Emerson started playing tennis in the early 1940s at the two-room Nukku school 10km outside Blackbutt. His success was beyond the wildest imaginings of a boyhood spent tiptoeing barefoot over the frosty ground chasing cows on cold winter mornings before milking. As a bush boy competing in the biggest events in the world, he would tell people that in Queensland pet kangaroos were used to carry home the shopping and that before taking up tennis he had worked as a "banana bender'' in country Queensland, in big work crews tasked with twisting the fruit into its distinctive shape. Schooled at Brisbane Grammar and Ipswich Grammar, Emerson won his first Grand Slam tournament doubles title in 1959 at Wimbledon, partnering Neale Fraser and two years later captured his first Grand Slam tournament singles title at the Australian Championships, beating Rod Laver. As well as his 12 Grand Slam singles titles, he won 16 in the Doubles. His name is engraved on the Brisbane International men's trophy.

 

Kieren Perkins after winning the 1500m at the Atlanta Olympics.
Kieren Perkins after winning the 1500m at the Atlanta Olympics. PORTEOUS GREGG

5. KIEREN PERKINS

Swimming

2 Olympic gold medals, 2 silver; 2 world championships

He began swim training in earnest at age eight as part of his rehabilitation from a serious leg injury caused by running through a plate glass window. A graduate of Indooroopilly State Primary School and Brisbane Boys' College, he became world record-holder in the 400m, 800m and 1500m freestyle events. Winning the 1500m gold in 1992 in Barcelona he lowered his own world record by five seconds. Defending an Olympic gold medal is hard enough but defending swimming's most gruelling event - the 1500m - from Lane 8, which is reserved for the slowest qualifying time in a final, is unheard of. Still, Perkins went for it in Atlanta in 1996. He almost failed to make the Australian team, such was his poor form going into the Games. He was the slowest of the top eight qualifiers, and it was later revealed that he felt sick before the race and considered not swimming. But when the going got tough he got going, dominating the race and relegating the favourite Daniel Kowalski to silver. Grant Hackett denied Perkins a golden Olympic hat-trick in the same event at Sydney four years later.

 

Wally Lewis after captaining the Broncos to victory in the 1989 Panasonic Cup.
Wally Lewis after captaining the Broncos to victory in the 1989 Panasonic Cup. SUPPLIED

4. WALLY LEWIS

Rugby League

34 Test matches, 31 State of Origin matches, 286 first-grade games

His nickname 'The King' summed up his standing in rugby league. A creative, super-tough playmaker he was chosen as five-eighth and captain of Queensland's rugby league Team of the Century and named in the halves for Australia's Team of the Century. Born in Hawthorne, Brisbane, he was heavily influenced by his father Jimmy, a star player for Brisbane clubs Wests and Souths and later a top club coach. Lewis attended Brisbane State High and toured Europe and Japan with the Australian schoolboys rugby union side. In 1979 he helped Valleys to the Brisbane grand final win against the Wayne Bennett-coached Souths Magpies and made his debut for Queensland the same year. He played in the first State of Origin Game in 1980 and had a hand in Queensland's first Origin try. By 1981 he was Queensland's Origin captain aged just 21 and he went on to play 31 Origin matches. He made his Test debut against France in 1981 and was soon captain of Australia and captain coach of Wynnum-Manly, the Brisbane premiers before becoming a cornerstone of the new Brisbane Broncos. A bronze statue of Lewis stands at the entrance to Suncorp Stadium and the dedication describes him as 'The Emperor of Lang Park'.

 

Cathy Freeman with her gold medal after winning the 400m at he Sydney Olympics.
Cathy Freeman with her gold medal after winning the 400m at he Sydney Olympics. PETCH COLLEEN

3. CATHY FREEMAN

Athletics

Olympic gold and silver, 2 world championships; 4 Commonwealth Games gold

Born in Mackay, Freeman was the first Australian indigenous person to become a Commonwealth Games gold medallist in 1990 aged just 16. A decade later she lit up the world with her astonishing run to win the Olympic 400m at the Sydney Olympics. Her great-grandfather Frank Fisher served with the Australian Light Horse in the Middle East during World War 1 but her grandfather Frank Fisher Jr was prevented from joining the Australian Army during World War II or accepting a rugby league contract in England because of his skin colour. Initially coached in athletics by her stepfather Bruce Barber, Freeman attended the Kooralbyn International School on the Gold Coast and Fairholme College in Toowoomba. In 1990 she won gold as part of the Australian women's 4x 100m relay team at the Auckland Commonwealth Games. Four years later she won the 200m and 400m at the Victoria Commonwealth Games in Canada and in 1996 took silver in the Atlanta Olympics 400m behind French star Marie-José Pérec. With the eyes of the world on her at her home Olympics in 2000, she lit the Olympic flame but then blazed home to triumph in the 400m.

 

Greg Norman is a two-time winner of the British Open.
Greg Norman is a two-time winner of the British Open. RUSSELL JAYNE

2. GREG NORMAN

Golf

Won 2 British Opens, 91 international tournaments

Born in Mount Isa and educated at Townsville Grammar and at Aspley High on Brisbane's northside, ``The Shark'' was the world's No.1 ranked player for an astonishing 331 weeks. He was taught to play golf by his mother Toini at Brisbane's Virginia Golf Club and his game prospered under the coaching of Charlie Earp at Royal Queensland. In 1981 he finished in 4th place on his debut at the Masters in Augusta, just three strokes behind the winner Tom Watson. The following year he was the leading money winner on the European Tour. In 1986 he led into the final round for all four majors but the only lead he could hold was the British Open Championship at Turnberry. He won his second major after rebuilding his swing, taking the 1993 British Open at Royal St George's, where his final round 64 was then the lowest score by a winner in Open history.

 

Rod Laver at Wimbledon, the site of some of his most memorable successes.
Rod Laver at Wimbledon, the site of some of his most memorable successes. SUPPLIED / FILE PHOTO

1.ROD LAVER

Tennis

Won 200 singles titles; only player to twice win the 'Grand Slam'

Born to Rockhampton cattle farmers, Laver is the only player to twice achieve a Grand Slam, in 1962 and 1969, winning the Australian, French, Wimbledon and US titles all in the same year. Regarded as one of the greatest players of all time despite being smaller than most of his opponents at 173cm 'The Rocket' was the world's dominant player throughout the 1960s. Mastering all surfaces, he won three Australian titles, two French, four Wimbledon and two US titles and had a hand in five Davis Cup victories for Australia. His 200 singles titles are the most in tennis history. He would undoubtedly have won more major tournaments if he had not been banned from playing Grand Slam events for five years after turning professional following the Davis Cup in December 1962. He was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1981, and declared a Legend of Australian Sport in 2002. In 2000, Centre Court at the National Tennis Centre in Melbourne was renamed Rod Laver Arena.

News Corp Australia


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