Four Gippsland sporting legends were immortalised as members of the Latrobe Sporting Hall of Fame in an Australia Day ceremony held at Kernot Hall, Morwell.
Murray French has been a force in tennis since the 1950s claiming the Latrobe Valley Singles Championships 25 times until 1988, a record that still stands.
Moving into the veteran’s age group, he represented Australia nine times including wins at the World Team Championships and World Doubles Championships in 1997.
He was the Australian captain in 1999, 2002 and 2004.
Mr French was a torch carrier for the Sydney 2000 Olympics and was ranked number five in the world in 1999, 2002 and 2003.
He has competed in many national events including winning the Australian Singles Championships, the Australian Doubles Championships seven times and the Victorian and Queensland Singles Championships four times each.
In 1994 Mr French was awarded life membership of the Morwell Tennis Club, where he now coaches juniors on Thursday nights.
“I really enjoy doing that, a lot of them are only 10 or 12 but it’s a bit of fun and they seem to like it… they’re good kids and I like to see them playing tennis,” he said.
One of Mr French’s personal career highlights came while representing the Latrobe Valley at Country Week, where his team of four won seven titles from 1964 to 1970 at Kooyong.
“We never lost a match for those seven years and that’s a record that still stands,” he said.
French said he was honoured to be inducted.
“It means a lot of course to be recognised and inducted into the Latrobe Valley Sporting Hall of Fame. It is a privilege and something I’m really excited about,” he said.
Lorraine Steel is a member of the Yallourn Bowling Club and represented Australia in 2000/2001 as an emerging players squad member.
She played 224 games for Victoria in interstate Test Series between 1976 until now and has won the National Round Robin Singles in South Australia in 2000/2001.
Ms Steel has won national gold and silver medals in fours and singles.
She has won nine state titles and has been club champion 34 times for Newborough, Moe and Yallourn Bowling Clubs over a 45 year period – one of her proudest accomplishments.
Despite all her personal achievements, one of her career highlights is her current role as coach of the West Gippsland under 18 development squad.
“I get a lot of pleasure out of passing on to the kids what I’ve done and what other coaches probably can’t give them because they’ve not been involved at the elite level,” she said.
Ms Steel said she never anticipated being considered for the hall of fame.
“It’s a great honour. I never thought it would happen to me, the years have just rolled on and all of a sudden I’ve been playing this sport for 45 years,” she said.
“All of those things (mentioned above are standouts) but I’ve met so many people (as well).”
Valma Dukes-Lebathy has been involved in basketball for 36 years as coach, club member and official.
At the elite level, she was the score table official at both the 2000 Sydney Olympic and the Paralympic Games.
She had the honour of scoring the Gold Medal match at the Paralympics.
During the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games Ms Dukes was the team liaison officer.
During the tournament basketball venues were located in Melbourne, Bendigo and Traralgon.
She worked with two teams to ensure they had everything they needed in their rooms and courtside.
Her experience extends also to other international tournaments, including score table official at the Basketball World Wheelchair Championships in 2000, the men’s under 23 World Championships and scorer at many national and regional tournaments held across Australia.
John White accumulated 50 years as player, umpire and administrator with Central Gippsland Cricket Association.
He was league president for 27 years and was awarded life membership in 1999.
He stepped down as CGCA president this season, and recalls fondly his first year in charge when the league won the Gippsland Cricket League titles in all three grades.
“As president of the league to see a test cricketer (Peter Siddle) come from our ranks was certainly a highlight,” he said.
He received life membership of the Morwell Cricket Club in 1993.
As a player, John notched up more than 500 senior games, won 11 premierships including five in A grade, hit 10 centuries, 51 half centuries and was the only Morwell player to make over 10,000 club runs.
He has played in every decade since the 1960s and continues to umpire in the CGCA.
In 2012 John received a 50 years’ service medal from Cricket Australia and Cricket Victoria and was awarded an Australian Sports Medal in 2000.
John has written two cricket books: A History of Morwell Cricket Club in 1991 and last year’s Coal Dust and Cricket.
Among his favourites from a long list of cricketing memories was playing a match for Morwell with his son and two grandsons, as well as sneaking in a couple of matches with his daughter, Angela.
“When you’re put up alongside some of the great sportsmen from Latrobe City Council, it’s certainly an honour for me and my family for me to be nominated as a member,” Mr White said.