Graham Croker

View Photos from the night here – Blue Awards dinner 2008  

Trent Franklin, a Sydney University water polo Blue and dual Olympian was invited to propose the toast to the 2008 Blues at the annual dinner in the Great Hall on Saturday night. Franklin began playing water polo in 1994 at St. Patrick’s College in Sydney. Since 1998 he has held a Sydney University Sport scholarship and competed for the Sydney University Lions. In 2003 Franklin was awarded a Sydney University Blue and also earned a bronze medal at the World University Games. He has won National League titles with the Lions in 2002, 2003 and 2005 and led the league scoring in 2004.
Franklin first represented Australia when he joined the national squad at the end of 1998, touring with the Sharks in 1999 and 2000. In 2001, he became a full-time member of the team and joined the starting line-up. Since 2005, Franklin has been vice-captain of the squad, filling in as captain for Sydney University Lions team-mate Thomas Whalan when he is injured or competing in Europe. Some of the highlights of Franklin’s long career have been competing at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games and the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the 1999 World Junior Championships in Kuwait, where Australia won a silver medal, the 2002 Commonwealth Championship in Manchester, where he won another silver medal, and winning a gold medal at the 2006 Commonwealth Championship.
This is an edited version of his Toast to the Blues:
“Most would be familiar with the Olympic Creed: ‘The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.’
Yeah? This something every Olympian in the room would have heard numerous times, I’m sure.
That was something we -the Australian water polo team – said to ourselves quite a lot after getting a tremendous eighth place in Beijing, or, as many of my very supportive mates like to put it, fifth last! A great bunch of blokes, my mates.
But in all seriousness, it really couldn’t be more accurate – the Olympic Creed that is, not our final position in Beijing. Sport, when you think about it, is really the definitive universal language.
There are so many cultures, so many traditions, countries from all corners of the globe, coming together and setting aside national differences.
It was only recently at the Beijing Olympics we saw Russia’s Natalia Paderina and Georgia’s Nino Salukvadze warmly hugging each other after winning silver and bronze medals respectively in the women’s 10m air pistol competition.
What was so special about this, you may ask?
Well, days prior, Russia and Georgia started attacking each other in South Ossetia. The Georgian competitor reportedly said afterwards: ‘If the world were to draw any lessons from what we did here today there would be no more wars.’
How special it was to see two such high profile representatives of warring countries embracing each other, tears streaming down their faces, in a show of sportsmanship, friendship and respect for one another.
I can’t imagine this happening anywhere but in the sporting arena.
For me, the Olympics have always been about the last line of that Creed I mentioned before: ‘. . . not to have conquered but to have fought well.’
Many of the younger members of the team went to their first Olympics in Beijing with dreams of coming home an Olympic champion, a medallist, a hero.
However, after getting knocked out in one of the early rounds or failing to qualify for the final, they were shattered. In their minds, years of training had resulted in failure – how far they were from the truth . . .
The Olympics, for me, has been one of the greatest expressions of many admirable qualities that extend far beyond the sporting arena. Teamwork, dedication, determination, efficiency, mateship, the list could go on and on . . .
We hear so often that sport embodies many noble ideals. It’s unfortunate that the frequency with which this phrase gets thrown means we don’t really stop to appreciate its significance. Sport embodies noble ideals:
It was a friendly game of football between British and German soldiers that led to a brief ceasefire on the Western Front at Christmas, 1914;
Jesse Owens won four gold medals at the Berlin Olympics in 1936, making a definitive statement about racial equality;
Donald Bradman inspired a nation at a time when we Aussies needed it most;
Abibe Bakila, the Ethiopian superstar who won the 1960 Rome Olympic marathon without wearing any shoes! When asked why, he said: ‘I wanted the world to know that my country, Ethiopia, has always won with determination and heroism’;
Who could forget Francois Pienaar accepting the Webb Ellis Cup from Nelson Mandela at the conclusion of the 1995 Rugby World Cup?
Mohammad Ali lighting the Olympic flame at the Atlanta Olympics – one of the greatest moments in sporting history;
Cathy Freeman instilling hope and success in a generation of younger indigenous Australians.
Right around the world, sport has transcended national differences and racial tensions and brought people together. This is something many people sitting here are a part of, something they still have the opportunity to contribute to.
As someone how has a deep fondness for sport and its continuing development in Australia and around the world, it’s fantastic to see so many young, up and coming athletes here tonight being rewarded for their efforts.
While water polo is obviously my sport of choice these days, it wasn’t always the case. I actually started off as a baseball player, believe it or not, when I was seven years of age, and ended up playing at a pretty competitive level for the Under 14 Auburn Oriels.
I wasn’t the one who was going to hit the glorious home run with loaded bases to win the game, but for my age I was always told I had a pretty good arm. My problem, however, was that I didn’t have the wheels to get around the bases quick enough, obviously a requirement in baseball.
At 12 years of age I took up swimming. My mother was a swimming coach, we had a pool in the backyard, and I was constantly juggling baseball and swimming training.
I became good enough to make it to the nationals for swimming, which really meant I was good enough to know I wasn’t good enough.
With a burning desire to become an Olympian, and having already crossed two sports off the Olympic program, I thought I would have a crack at water polo.
Combining swimming, throwing, tactics, aggressions, speed, precision . . . it was the ideal mix of the skills I’d already developed . . . and better than that, I actually loved it.
The level of fitness you need to swim up and down a pool non-stop, and continually battle other players above and below the water is unbelievable.
Every elite sportsperson will stand up here and tell you that their sport is the hardest, most challenging or most difficult to master, and rightly so.
After years and years of endless training sessions and (what basically turns out to be) a complete dedication to a sport, I don’t think you could really imagine anything being any tougher.
At least with my sport, unlike synchronised swimming, I don’t have to smile and pretend it doesn’t hurt like hell!
I take my hat off to all of the athletes being awarded their Blues tonight and those who have been awarded them in the past. I know from first-hand experience what it’s taken for you to be sitting here, and the fact that you’ve all made so many sacrifices along the way all in the name of sport is, in my opinion, very commendable. The fact that this great institution, Sydney University, provides the sort of assistance it does to help athletes along the way makes such a difference at the end of the day.
Sydney University is always mentioned as a breeding ground for the nation’s best. We’ve had several prime ministers, chief justices, Nobel Prize winners, leading international public servants, some of the greatest writers of their generations, the best thinkers, Governors-General, and many other people who have rightfully earned their place in history, helping to shape the world we live in today.
Probably more pertinent to the people sitting in this room is the fact that we’ve produced, among many other sports, 118 Olympians and 103 Australian rugby union representatives.
Sydney University is truly an institution that develops some of the greatest athletes this country has seen and will hopefully continue to see in the future. There is amazing support in place here to help athletes maintain their training schedules, yet still come out of here with a university degree.
As a young water polo player, I came to the University 11 years ago to do a Bachelor of Science degree and later on a Master of Commerce. The sort of assistance I received in terms of tutoring and financial help while going through university were absolutely invaluable.
What’s been of more significance, however, is the way the organisation was always geared to helping you with your career post-sport.
I started my own business, Enrizen Insurance, three years ago, and a lot of the staff and alumni from Sydney University said they would be more than willing to help. Enrizen now has a fairly substantial client base, thanks in large part to the contacts through water polo and their ongoing support. The business is starting to tap into our existing clients’ networks and is continuing to grow from the inside, but it all started with the support received from many people connected with water polo and Sydney University Sport.
There a many complementary areas between how you act on the sporting field and the way you do you run your business. With Enrizen, we’ve tried to create a culture of ‘work hard to achieve your goals, but play hard and be rewarded for your efforts’. This was precisely the same philosophy we adhered to in the water polo team.
Sport teaches you so many qualities and you don’t quite realise that it’s happening at the time.
I think a lot of the businessmen and women in the room would say that being able to work effectively and cohesively in a team is probably the most important characteristic in the workplace.’ Things such as appreciation and respect for one another, the mentality of ‘we’re all in this together so let’s give it a good crack’. Being able to function within a group environment, pulling your weight, and so many other areas, are all things you learn through sport that are so valuable in your post-sport lives.
This brings me to my final point.
The athletes in this room really do have an amazing opportunity. You are part of a tradition that extends back over 100 years, you have the opportunity, literally, to make a contribution on the world stage through your sporting abilities.
Once the competition is over on the field, there’s a fantastic network of people here who are more than willing to help you, whether it be finding a job or starting a business or simply seeking some sort of advice. Trust me, they’re here to help.
Congratulations to the University of Sydney and Sydney University Sport on the way you support and assist athletes – for one, you have without a shadow of a doubt changed my life for the better. Thanks to the people who have come along tonight and continue to encourage the athletes. And, finally, to the athletes themselves – congratulation on your outstanding achievements.
To the Blues!