The Sport Australia Hall of Fame has recognised the achievements of current Queensland Rugby League director Naomi McCarthy following her inspirational success with the Australian water polo team.
McCarthy was a member of the 2000 Sydney Olympics team that lifted the nation with their will to win and never-say-die ethos on their way to a stunning gold medal.
Now more than two decades on, the Sport Australia Hall of Fame has presented the trailblazing Australian team with the prestigious Dawn Award.
The Dawn Award, named after swimming great Dawn Fraser and introduced in 2021, honours an individual or team who are courageous and have changed sport for the better.
McCarthy said she was thrilled to stand side by side with her Olympic teammates once more.
“It was a huge honour to accept this award from Dawn herself and the recognition of what we achieved together as a team was humbling,” McCarthy said.
“It was fantastic to get together in Melbourne with the majority of the team to accept the award and then to catch up as a team after.”
As a former Olympian who works closely with aspiring Australian athletes, McCarthy’s vast experiences make her a valuable contributor in her role as an independent director with QRL.
“The QRL Board continues to be a role that I enjoy because the impact that rugby league has across the entire state of Queensland places us in a unique position to connect across community league and inspire with our State of Origin teams,” McCarthy said.
QRL chief executive officer Ben Ikin congratulated McCarthy on the award.
“Naomi’s journey with the Australian Olympic team is an incredible story,” Ikin said.
“As a nation that admires and respects our sporting heroes, we’re immensely proud of Naomi’s achievements. Her background and standing in Australian sport is a tremendous asset for rugby league in Queensland.”
The Hall of Fame recognition salutes the culmination of a 20-year struggle to have women’s water polo included in the Olympics, and the team’s unwavering fight for acceptance and equality, which was as significant as the inaugural gold medal they won.
In October 1997, it was confirmed women’s water polo would be included in the Sydney 2000 Olympics.
After just one loss in the preliminary rounds, Australia fought an epic battle with the USA in the final.
With the scores tied and 1.3 seconds left on the clock, Yvette Higgins, who had just entered the pool, was awarded a free throw nine metres out and blasted the ball into the net to secure the historic 4-3 victory.