Ten Indigenous Burnett athletes who achieved greatness
The Burnett region has a proud history with Indigenous culture, from Olympic gold medallists to renowned artists and respected elders, the region is rich with Indigenous stories, talent and history.
For NAIDOC week, the South Burnett Times will be shining a light on the Indigenous people, culture and traditions that make this region special.
The South Burnett Times respect and honour Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander Elders past, present and future.
We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander peoples on this land, the traditional land of the Wakka Wakka people.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples should be aware that this story contains images and names of people who have passed away.
FROM gold medals on the world stage to bowling Sir Donald Bradman for a duck, this list recognises some of the regions highest achieving Indigenous sports stars.
1. Taliqua Clancy – Beach Volleyball
KINGAROY’S very own Taliqua Clancy has shown she can mix with the worlds best, making the quarterfinals at the 2016 Rio Olympics and claiming silver at the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.
Alongside Mariafe Artacho del Solar, Clancy broke a 16-year Australian women’s medal drought when they took home a bronze medal at the 2019 Beach Volleyball World Championships in Hamburg.
As a youngster, Clancy used to go for walks with her mum to the Kingaroy State School oval and the Kingaroy netball courts to practice.
Clancy got her 2019/2020 campaign off to a flying start finishing in first place at the 4-star Chetumal Open in Mexico.
After sport was cancelled throughout the world, Clancy said it’s important to find little ways to keep moving, creating drills and changing it up from time to time.
“Whether it’s hitting a ball against a wall in your house or going down to the local oval, doing a few drills will help with your mental and physical heath.”
2. Jeffrey Dynevor – Boxing
CHERBOURG has produced several talented boxers over the years, however none more deadly then Jeffrey Dynevor.
Jeffrey Mitta Dynevor was born in Thargomindah in Far West Queensland, where his father was a stockman before his family was forcibly relocated to Cherbourg.
Dynevor took up boxing and quickly rose through the ranks, claiming back to back Australian Flyweight titles in 1957 and 1958.
By 1962 three Cherbourg boxers were heading to Perth to represent Australia for boxing in the Commonwealth Games.
Dynevor, Adrian Blair and Eddie Barney were all part of a 10-man team at those Perth Games.
Dynevor went on to defeat Ghana‘s Samuel Abbey in the final of the bantamweight division, becoming the first Indigenous Australian to win a gold medal at a Commonwealth Games.
Dynevor has since been inducted into the Queensland Boxing Hall of Fame, carried the Olympic torch during its time in the South Burnett in 2000, and also carried the Queen‘s Baton in 2006 before the Melbourne Commonwealth Games.
3. Steve Renouf – Rugby League
STEVE Renouf burst on to the scene as a junior in the South Burnett Rugby League competition, where he played for the Murgon Mustangs.
He played for Murgon until U17s before signing a contract with the Brisbane Broncos for the 1988 season.
Renouf stared for the Broncos, scoring four tries on multiple occasions, leading the season tries for the club, winning premiership, as well as representing both his sate and country.
After an illustrious rugby league career, Renouf said he still remembers his junior days at the Mustangs.
“Rugby league was strong across the South Burnett and I was fortunate enough as a young kid to play both junior and senior footy for Murgon,” Renouf said.
“You just have to look at the calibre of blokes who came out of the comp, Byran Niebling before me, Chris Sandow, Gavin Cooper and so many more.”
Renouf made his first grade debut for the Broncos in 1989, played 183 games, scoring 142 tries.
He was a part of the inaugural Broncos premiership side in 1992, where Renouf scored a 98-metre try.
Renouf also helped the Broncos to another grand final win in 1998, where he stared at centre.
He was named in the centres in the Indigenous rugby league team of the century.
4. Eddie Gilbert – Cricket
1931 was the year and Eddie Gilbert was the man.
On November 6, in a Sheffield Shield match against Queensland, Sir Donald Bradman recalled facing five of the fastest balls he had ever faced.
Three years after making his test debut and breaking records on the 1930 Ashes tour, Bradman was dismissed for a duck at the hand of Gilbert.
Eddie Gilbert was an Indigenous fast bowler who was taken from his home near Woodford at the age of three as part of a government policy on aboriginal people.
He grew up on farms while living in the Barambah Aboriginal reserve, now known as Cherbourg.
Gilbert was selected to represent Queensland after rising through the ranks as a colt, quickly making his mark on the competition.
He is most well known for his seven deliveries against New South Wales in 1931, bowling both the openers for ducks, which included Bradman.
Bradman faced five deliveries with one edging the top of his cap, another hitting his bat, knocking it and him to the floor, and a final one edging his bat, flying through to the keeper.
Despite strong advocacy for Gilbert to represent Australia, he was overlooked due to his unorthodox bowling method.
He possessed exceptionally long arms and could bowl at extreme pace off a very short run up.
This combined with his jolt forearm action led to suspicion that his arm bent on occasion.
Gilbert went on to play 19 Shield matches, bowling 73 wickets for an average of 29.75.
He took a further 14 wickets in Queensland matches against touring West Indies and South African sides.
5. Frank Fisher – Rugby League
FRANK Fisher is up there with the greatest rugby league talent to come out of the South Burnett, earning himself a spot on the rugby league Indigenous team of the century alongside names like Johnathon Thurston, Greg Inglis and Cliff Lyons.
Frank Fisher or as he was more commonly known ‘Big Shot’, was born in Townsville in 1905 before moving to Cherbourg where he spent majority of his younger years.
He was an outstanding sportsman and role model, playing several invitational games in Brisbane and playing against a touring Great Britain team on two occasions, one in 1932 and the other in 1936.
Unfortunately for Fisher his career came to a holt as restrictions of the era did not allow him to leave the country.
The Cherbourg captain’s legacy of overcoming generational adversity and achieving greatness was recently honoured with a two-day rugby league carnival called the Frank Fisher Cup in Cherbourg.
6. Chris Sandow – Rugby League
CHRIS Sandow was arguably one of the most entertaining NRL players to ever come out of the South Burnett.
His flashy footwork and ability to play what was in front of him allowed Sandow to stand out, impressing selectors as he rose through the ranks.
He was eventually scouted to sign with the South Sydney Rabbitohs and his entry into the NRL couldn’t have gone any better.
On debut he kicked that match winning field goal in the dying seconds against the New Zealand Warriors to records the clubs second win for the season in 2008.
In the following game he scored his first A-grade try, helping the bunnies to a one point win over the Gold Coast Titans.
His fairy-tail run continued when the Rabbitohs were down 28-4 against the North Queensland Cowboys in round 16, before they came back to 28-28.
Sandow kicked the match winning field goal, winning the game by a point, becoming the biggest comeback victory in the history of the NRL.
Sandow finished his debut season in the NRL by wining the Dally M Rookie of the Year, being named in the Toyota Cup Team of the Year and receiving the Indigenous Rising Star of the year.
He went on to play 159 NRL games for both the South Sydney Rabbitohs and the Parramatta Eels.
7. Willie Tonga – Rugby League
In terms of reaching the top, it’s hard to go past Willie Tonga, who’s 12-year playing career had him star for both his state and country and several occasions.
The 2004 Dally M Centre of the year grew up in Cherbourg before kicking off his career with the Paramatta Eels.
Tonga was unable to cement himself as the starting centre for the Eels in his first two season and as a result made the switch to the Bulldogs in 2004.
It was at the Bulldogs where Tonga really came into his own, going on to top the clubs try scoring list for the 2004 season with 18 tries in 27 games.
His explosive strength and agile footwork landed him in the Queensland Maroons side for game two of the 2004 series where he scored on debut, helping Queensland to a 22-18 win at Suncorp Stadium.
After being an integral part in the Bulldogs 2004 premiership winning side, Tonga was selected in Australia’s Tri Nations Squad.
He stamped himself as the best centre in Australia when he played in all five tests in England, scoring two tries in Australia’s 44-4 thrashing of Great Britain in the final.
By the end of his playing career Tonga appeared for Australia on 12 occasions, Queensland on eight, the Indigenous all stars on one and played 181 games for the Eels, Bulldogs and North Queensland Cowboys.
8. Henry Collins – Boxing
THE YEAR was 2000 and Eidsvold had a boxer in the Olympic Games.
Light welterweight boxer Henry Collins from Eidsvold had the biggest fight of his life at the 2000 Olympic Games.
Collins started boxing in Eidsvold when he was about 12, was trained by Bruce Pope and managed by Bill Ireland.
While still in Eidsvold he won four state titles.
In 1995 he moved to Maryborough for two years before moving to Alice Springs where is was an apprentice cabinet maker.
9. Leo Dynevor – Rugby League
LEO DYNEVOR was a light-footed halfback who burst onto the scene when he was signed on a one-year deal with the Newcastle Knights in 1997.
The Cherbourg junior played a pivotal role in the club‘s maiden premiership after playing majority of the season with Andrew Johns sidelined due to an ankle injury.
He played 16 games that season and without him the Knights wouldn‘t have won the premiership.
Growing up playing rugby league in Cherbourg was all about continuing a legacy according to Dynevor who said the area was known for its footy.
“Growing up in the community there is a strong legacy left behind from all the older footballers,” Dynevor said.
“A lot of families have a footy bloodline and a lot of young people grow up around rugby league.
“Cherbourg has done very well over the years and growing up you are taught a lot of tradition and to play the game with pride and passion.”
31 years ago Dynevor was the school captain at St Joseph’s in Murgon.
10. Esikeli Tonga – Rugby League
LIKE HIS brother Willie, Esikeli Tonga was another incredibly talented footballer who grew up playing for the Cherbourg Hornets.
His playing career included stings with both the Gold Coast Titans, Parramatta Eels and the Manly Sea Eagles.
He appeared in 40 matches across his five year career scoring ten tries.