Living legend coming to Grafton
A YOUNG Evonne Goolagong was peering through the fence at her local tennis courts at Barellan when a player named Bill Kurtzman saw her and asked if she would like to join in.
That one small act of kindness set off a chain of events that dramatically changed Goolagong's life, and the shape of Australian sport, forever.
In an outstanding playing career that included two Wimbledon titles, four Australian Opens and a French Open, Goolagong became a household name and was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame and honoured as Australian of the Year.
Now she is coming to Grafton to hold a tennis clinic for local indigenous students.
"I was very lucky to have been given those early opportunities and have the local people rally around me to help me start my career," Goolagong-Cawley said.
"I still remember the local tennis club holding fundraisers and farmers driving me to and from neighbouring towns so I could play competitions.
"There's no doubt that those small things made a huge difference to my life and I am forever thankful to those who were so kind to me as a young girl."
With her first dream of a Wimbledon title under her belt, Goolagong-Cawley has become a tireless worker in chasing her new dream.
"I want to see as many indigenous kids as possible play tennis, finish school and become great role models," she said.
"It is something I am very passionate about. I truly believe that tennis, and sport in general, can make a huge difference to young Aboriginal people's lives."
It was only natural then, that the Evonne Goolagong Foundation would team with the Learn, Earn, Legend initiative to give indigenous children an incentive to stay in school.
Goolagong-Cawley will be in Grafton on Thursday to conduct a tennis Come and Try Day for local indigenous students aged between five and 15 years old.
"It's all about getting out and having some fun on the tennis court, but the program is also about using tennis as a vehicle for education," she said.
"The reason I chose to come back to Grafton was the great reception I had at the Clarence Ahead dinner in January and the contacts I made there during the visit.
"I have to say a huge thanks to Beris Duroux, the local Aboriginal Education co-ordinator, for her terrific help in organising the event.
"We are expecting up to 100 kids to turn up on Thursday and it should be a great, fun afternoon of tennis."
Goolagong-Cawley is also keen to meet local Aboriginal elders and parents of the kids and has invited all to come to the courts for a sausage-sizzle lunch.
"Everyone is welcome. I look forward to talking with some of the senior members of the community, as well as the kids," she said.
"The Learn, Earn, Legend program is all about getting kids to stay at school, get that job and be a legend for their community."
WHAT: Come and Try Tennis clinic for indigenous students aged 5-15.
WHERE: Grafton City Tennis Courts
WHEN: Thursday from 10.30am-3pm.
WHO: Tennis champions Evonne Goolagong and Roger Cawley
WHY: Learn, Earn, Legend campaign for Aboriginal education