Herald Sun: Michelle Payne takes out ‘The Don’ award for nation’s most inspiring sporting performance

TURF darling Michelle Payne’s history-making Melbourne Cup win of 2015 has been recognised as the nation’s most inspiring sporting performance of the past year when she won the prestigious “Don” award.

In a gathering of Australia’s sporting stars at Crown Palladium, Payne took out The Don, awarded by the Sport Australia Hall Of Fame, for her heroics aboard Prince of Penzance.

Payne become the first female jockey to win the famous race, which was first run in 1861.

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Payne said she felt overwhelmed after receiving her award in front of Australia’s sporting royalty.

“To be honest I could not even prepare a speech for tonight because I felt as though I didn’t deserve it among the company that I was in,’’ Payne said.

“I can’t believe it, I’m absolutely overwhelmed with winning the award and it’s just an honour to be here.

But Payne’s journey since has not been a smooth one, with a heavy race fall in Mildura in May providing the “toughest challenge” of her life.

“It’s definitely changed my views on life since winning the Melbourne Cup and then going through what I did with the fall,’’ Payne said.

“I’ve always been grateful for any luck I’ve had but I think now, more than ever, I am just happy to be healthy and doing what I love. Anything from now is a bonus.”

Payne said she didn’t have a confirmed ride for next month’s Melbourne Cup — “not at this stage but you never lose hope”.

At Thursday night’s awards gala, seven sporting greats were inducted as members into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame — Jack Newton (golf), Emma Carney (triathlon), Kristy Ellis (surf life saving), Sharelle McMahon (netball), Malcolm Page (sailing), Libby Trickett (swimming) and Harry Wells (rugby league). “Father” of the Australian Institute of Sport, Bob Ellicott, was also inducted.

Western Bulldogs premiership coach Luke Beveridge received the ‘Spirit of Sport’ award for his AFL Grand Final gesture when he presented injured captain Bob Murphy with his premiership medallion on stage after the match.

It was just the sixth time since its inception in 2005 that the ‘Spirit of Sport” award had been presented.

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