Given the unique and diverse sporting opportunities currently available through NSW public schools, it's hard to imagine a time when there were no school sporting carnivals, no inter-school sporting competitions and limited access to playing fields and sporting facilities. In a country where sport is so much a part of everyday life, it's no surprise that some of Australia's finest sportsmen and women developed their skills in the nursery of NSW public schools.
This timeline reflects the place of school sport in the history of NSW and Australia and how public school sport graduates have progressed to represent their state and country in some of the major sporting events held globally over the past 130 years. The often untold story is a remarkable tale of hard work, dedication and struggle - of extraordinary and at times mundane events set against a backdrop of significant social change as the state of NSW developed from an infant colony to a sophisticated thriving community. In many ways the growth of competitive sport in NSW mirrors the great changes that have taken place in our society and in education during this period.
Cricket - Crown Street Public School
Selected in the 1899 Australian team that toured England. Considered one of the most naturally talented cricketers to have played the game. At the 1895 NSWPSAAA Annual Sports Carnival, Trumper won the fielding / throwing of a cricket ball competition.
Herbert (Dally) Messenger
Rugby Union/ Rugby League - Double Bay Public School
Considered one of the greatest ever players in either Rugby Union or Rugby League. Messenger played two Rugby Union tests and seven Rugby League tests. Transferred from Rugby Union to Rugby League to become a professional player.
Swimming - Fort Street Model School
All Schools Swimming Championships gold medallist 1905.
Stockholm Olympic Games (1912) - gold medallist 4 x 200m freestyle relay.
Department of Education - Director of Physical Education (ret 1953).
Swimming - Crown Street Public School
From 1910 – 1918, Fanny was considered the world’s greatest female swimmer over all distances. Won a gold medal at the Stockholm Olympic Games for the 100m freestyle.
Andrew 'Boy' Charlton
Swimming - Manly Village Public School
Attended three Olympic Games – 1924, 1928 and 1932, winning a total of five medals including one gold.
Albert (Tibby) Cotter
Cricket - Forest Lodge Public School
He was a fast bowler who toured England in 1905. Tragically, Albert Cotter was killed at the Battle of Beersheba in 1917. The pedestrian bridge across Anzac Parade leading to the SCG is named in his honour.
Sir Donald Bradman AC
Cricket - Bowral Public School
Acknowledged as the greatest cricketer of all time. His extraordinary achievements lifted the nation during the Great Depression. After World War II, at 37 years of age Bradman returned to Test Match cricket in the 1945-46 series against England and again for the 1947-48 "Invincibles" Tour of England. Bradman’s presence in these matches again raised the spirits of Australia.
Ken Rosewall AM, MBE
Tennis - Rockdale Public School
Won his first Australian Open Tennis Championship in 1953, repeating this effort in 1955, 1971 and 1972. He also won the French Open in 1953 and 1968, US Open winner 1956 and 1970. In all he won 23 Tennis majors including eight grand slam singles titles.
Rugby - Sydney Technical High School
Selected for the 1946 Wallabies. Played ten Rugby tests for Australia. Also became Deputy Director General, NSW Department of Education.
Marjorie Jackson-Nelson AC, CVO, MBE
Athletics (Track) - Coffs Harbour and Cooerwull Public Schools, Lithgow High
1952 Helsinki Olympic Games, won two sprinting gold medals.
Became Governor of South Australia.
Betty Cuthbert AC, MBE
Athletics (Track) - Ermington Public School, Parramatta Domestic Home Science School
Triple Athletics gold medallist at the Melbourne Olympics (100m, 200m, and 4 x 100m relay).
Gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics (1964) in the 400m.
Dawn Fraser AC, MBE
Swimming - Birchgrove Public School, Leichhardt High
Won her first 100m gold medal at the Melbourne Olympics. Subsequently won gold medals in Rome 1960 and Tokyo 1964 (one of only three swimmers to win the same event at three Olympic Games).
Photo by Ern McQuillan
Tennis - Glebe Public School
Won the Australian Open Tennis Championship in 1956.
Won four major Tennis titles and was a part of three Davis Cup victories.
Arthur Summons and Norm Provan
Rugby Union/ Rugby League - Homebush Boys High School and Willoughby Public School/ Crows Nest Technical High School
Arthur Summons along with Norm Provan are immortalised on the trophy presented to the winners of the NRL Grand Final annually. The trophy was modelled off the photo taken by John O’Grady after the 1963 Grand Final.
Sir John (Jack) Brabham AO, OBE
Motor Racing - Hurstville Boys High School
In 1959 won his first of three Formula 1 World Motor Racing Championships. The first Australian ever to win the world title.
Daphne Hilton (nee Ceeney) and Gary Hooper MBE
Paralympic Games - Harden/ Murrumburrah, Toronto Public School
Australia sent a team of 12 athletes to the Rome Paralympics, including former public school students Daphne Ceeney (Harden/Murrumburrah) and Gary Hooper (Toronto PS). Daphne Ceeney went on to win 14 medals in a variety of sports over three Paralympic games. Gary Hooper won seven medals in the same three Paralympics.
Bernard (Midget) Farrelly AM
Surfing - Manly Village Public School
Won the 1964 inaugural World Surfing Championships. Considered a pioneer of surfing in Australia.
Heather McKay AO, MBE
Squash - Queanbeyan West Public School, Queanbeyan High School
In 1962 won her first British Open (at that time considered the World Championship) and then held this title for 15 consecutive years.
Richie Benaud OBE
Cricket - Jugiong Public School, Parramatta High School
Appointed as Australian Men’s Cricket Team Captain in 1958 - 1964. He became the first cricketer to attain 200 test wickets and 2000 test runs. On retirement he became the pre-eminent cricket commentator and respected sports journalist.
Evonne Goolagong Cawley AC, MBE
Tennis - Barellan Central School, Willoughby Girls High School
Won her first Wimbledon title in 1971. In total Evonne won seven grand slam singles titles.
Swimming - Revesby Public School, East Hills Boys High School
At the 1971 NSWCHSSA Swimming Championships Graham broke the World 800m freestyle record. He went onto represent Australia at the 1972 Munich Olympic Games where he won a silver medal in the 1500m.
Shane Gould AM, MBE
Swimming - Miranda Public School, Epping North Public School, Turramurra High School
Shane competed at the Munich Olympic Games while a student at Turramurra High School winning three gold medals, one silver and one bronze. Gail Neall also from Turramurra High won a gold medal in the 200m butterfly. What an extraordinary double.
Water Polo - Birchgrove Public School, Drummoyne Boys High School
David represented at the 1972 Munich Olympic Games and the 1976 Montreal Olympic Games. He also represented at two World Championships and coached the Australian Women’s team which included his daughter Taryn, whilst son Gavin has represented Australia in Water Polo at four Olympic Games. David was President of the NSWCHSSA from 1984 until 1991.
Michelle Ford, MBE
Swimming - St George Girls High School
At the 1980 Moscow Olympics Michelle won the gold medal in the 800m freestyle and a bronze medal in the 200m butterfly.
Inaugural Rugby League Immortals
In 1991 both Bob Fulton AM (Unanderra Public School and Dapto High School) and Reg Gasnier AM (Sydney Technical High School) were inducted as Rugby League Immortals.
Kevin Nichols OAM
Cycling - Grafton/ South Grafton High School
Captain of the 1984 cycling team that competed at the Los Angeles Olympic Games. Was a member of the gold medal winning Pursuit team.
Mark (AM), Gary, Glen and Macia Ella
Rugby and Netball - La Perouse Public School, Matraville High School
The Ella family came to prominence when Mark, Gary and Glen Ella represented Australia in Rugby Union and were part of the 1984 Grand Slam winning team. In 1986 Marcia Ella represented Australia in Netball against New Zealand.
Football - Lake Macquarie (Booragul) High School
Scored a goal for Liverpool in their 3-1 victory over Everton in the 1986 FA Cup Final. A pioneer for Australian players securing contracts to play Football overseas.
Anne Sargeant OAM
Netball - Forestville Public School, Killarney Heights High School
Australian Netball player. Represented from 1978 until 1988, captaining the team for six years.
Stephen (AO) and Mark Waugh (AM)
Cricket - Panania Public School, East Hills Boys High School
Steve and Mark were both awarded CHS cricket Blues in 1984. In 1983 Steve won a CHS Soccer Blue and the President’s Award. The twins represented the Australian Cricket team with distinction with Steven captaining the team in 57 test matches and 106 One Day Internationals.
Kerry Saxby-Junna AM
Athletics - Ballina High School
Elite race walker whose career spanned 1980 and 1990’s. Kerry won two Commonwealth Games gold medals and set 32 world records during her career.
Layne Beachley AO
Surfing - Balgowlah Heights Public School, Mackellar Girls High School
In 1990 Layne won the first of her seven World Surfing titles. Layne was inducted into the Australian Sports Hall of Fame in 2011.
Alyson Annan OAM
Hockey - Macquarie Fields Public School and Macquarie Fields High School
In 1996, Alyson won her first of two Olympic gold medals in Atlanta. She also won two World Cup Golds and four Champions Trophy gold medals. Alyson represented Australia in 228 international matches.
Amy Winters OAM
Paralympic Athlete - Kempsey West Public School, Kempsey High School
Three time gold medallist at the Paralympics 1996, 2000 and 2004.
Liesl Tesch AM
Paralympic Athlete - Toronto High School
Three time gold medallist at the Paralympics 1996, 2000 and 2004 representing in both Basketball and Sailing
Triathlete - Greenacre Public School, Punchbowl Boys High School
A triathlete acknowledged as one of the greatest in history for having won the triathlete “grand slam” including the ITU Triathlon World Championship (1990), the Ironman World Championship (1994), the Duathlon Championship (1993) and the Long Course Triathlon World Championship.
Ian Thorpe AM
Swimming - Milperra Public School, East Hills Boys High School
At the 2000 Sydney Olympics Ian won three gold medals and set three world records in swimming. In total Ian won five gold medals and 11 World Championship medals.
Lauren Jackson AO
Basketball - Thurgoona Public School, Murray High School
The Sydney 2000 Olympic Games were her first Olympic Games. Lauren subsequently has played in three more Olympics; 2004, 2008 and 2012.
Debbie Watson OAM
Water Polo - Mackellar Girls High School
Captained gold medal winning Australian Women’s Water Polo team at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Other team members were Taryn Woods, Liz Weekes (Fort Street), Bronwyn Mayer (Hunters Hill), Yvette Higgins (Riverside Girls) and Simone Hankin (Picnic Point).
Kurt Fearnley AO
Paralympic Athlete - Blayney Public School, Blayney High School
At the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games he won two silver medals. In total Kurt competed at five Olympic games winning three Olympic gold medals.
Football - Bexley North/ Annandale North Public School, Tempe and Kingsgrove High School
Tim has represented Australia on 104 occasions, scoring 50 goals. He has had a stellar career playing for various overseas and Australian teams.
Snowsports - Cooma North Public School
Torah won an Olympic gold medal in the Half Pipe at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic Games.
Australian Rules - Corowa Public School, Corowa High School
After a successful playing career, John coached the Sydney Swans to the AFL Premiership flag in 2012.
Sailing - Pittwater High School
Youngest ever skipper to win the America's Cup in 2010. He defended this title in 2013. Was the helmsman of Comanche that won the Sydney to Hobart in 2017.
Cricket - Alfords Point Public School, Menai High School
Steven Smith is considered one of the most outstanding cricketers of any era. He was appointed as Australian Cricket Captain in 2015. Steven joins a number of Australian Cricket Captains to graduate from NSW Public Schools.
Others include Bill Brown OAM (Petersham PS), Sir Donald Bradman AC (Bowral PS), Arthur Morris MBE (Canterbury Boys HS), Ian Craig OAM (North Sydney Boys HS), Richie Benaud OBE (Jugiong PS and Parramatta HS), Bob Simpson AO (Earlwood PS and Tempe HS), Allan Border AO (North Sydney BHS), Mark Taylor AO (Chatswood HS), Steven Waugh AO (Panania South PS and East Hills Boys HS), Adam Gilchrist AM (Deniliquin PS and Kadina HS), Michael Clarke AO (Marsden Rd PS and Westfields Sports), Brad Haddin (Karabar HS) and David Warner (Matraville PS and Randwick BHS).
Canoeing - Blaxland East Public School, Blaxland High School
Multiple winner of World Championship gold medals and Olympic medallist.
Athletics - Merrylands Public School, Westfields Sports High School
Youngest ever female winner of Discus at the world championships.
Photo by Kirstin Scholtz (ASP)
Surfing - Kingscliff Public School, Kingscliff High School
Seven time ASP world surfing champion.
Dr Jana Pittman
Athletics (Track) - Matthew Pearce Public School, Girraween High School
Two time 400 metre hurdles world champion and four times Commonwealth Games gold medallist. Jana Pittman also competed in the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games in Bobsleigh event, thereby becoming the only female to represent Australia at both summer and winter Olympics.
Prue Watt OAM
Paralympic Swimming - Frank Partridge VC Public School, Newcastle High School
Paralympic Swimming gold medallist representing at four Paralympic Games.
Cricket/ Football - Beecroft Public School
Represented Australia in both Football and Cricket at the age of 16 and is now is considered to be one of the greatest female cricketers of all time.
Trampolining/ High Diving - Nords Wharf Public School, Belmont/ Concord High School
Rhiannan was a champion Trampolinist and Diver at school. In 2017 and 2019 she won the World High Diving Championships and joined the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series where she has had four championships consecutively.
Peter Leek OAM
Paralympic Swimmer - Oxley Park Public School, Colyton High School
In the 2008 Beijing Paralympics and World Championship events Peter Leek has won 20 medals including 11 gold.
Basketball - Homebush Boys High School
Australian Representative and has also played in the NBL for both the Philadelphia 76ers and the Phoenix Suns.
For one of the few times in history the Olympics were postponed due to the global outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic. All sporting codes from professional to community and school levels were also halted and resumed in various forms in accordance with government health regulations.
Please note: this timeline is a work in progress. Suggestions are welcomed and can be emailed to email@example.com.