The most admired Australian ever, Bradman played cricket better than anyone in history. Bradman's dominance of bowlers was such that a whole style of bowling - known as 'Bodyline' - was invented to try and get him out. It halved his effectiveness but that meant he'd only half-dominate, scoring 50s instead of 100s, 200s and famously, 339, his highest Test score.
Bradman used to practice against a corrugated iron water tank with a stump and a golf ball, and so honed his skills that he ended with the unbelievable batting average of 99.94. This would be equivalent to David Beckham scoring a hat-trick every match, Michael Jordan scoring 75 points per game or Muhammid Ali knocking out 15 years worth of opponents in round one. In his final innings in 1948 he was cheered to the wicket by players and spectators alike, requiring just 6 runs to secure a career batting average of 100. But Bradman was bowled for a first ball duck. He was cheered all the way back and has been cheered for every year since.
Bradman died in 2001 aged 92, a legend.
It may seem strange that a horse could be a legendary national sporting identity but for a nation of sports-loving people who are not entirely opposed to gambling, Phar Lap was a god. 'Big Red' won pretty much everything and captured the nation's attention so much that the large red gelding achieved movie star status, old films showing what he ate, how he exercised and his preference in horse shampoos.
Phar Lap (French for 'lightning') began slowly, having been shipped over from New Zealand a warty, wobbly three-year-old, but soon began winning and winning and winning. He won the Melbourne Cup in 1929 and 1930 but was handicapped so much the following year that he carried the equivalent of a Volkswagen over the 2-mile journey. Such was Phar Lap’s dominance that bookmakers who stood to lose lots of money took a pot-shot at it in a thirties-style drive-by shooting. The horse survived, was taken to America where it won a few races but died of a mystery illness.
Dawn Fraser is a legend of Australian swimming, winning gold medals in the 100m freestyle at three consecutive Olympics. She is also famous for being suspended from swimming after stealing the Olympic flag during the Tokyo Games in 1964.
Dawn Fraser was the first woman to swim the 100m in under a minute and remains loved to this day for her larrikin ways and swimming ability.
Sir Douglas is Australia's most famous Antarctic explorer. In 1911, aged 30 he led Australia's first expedition to the great frozen southern continent, setting up a hut and naming it 'Home of the Blizzard' after the 300km winds that regularly tried to blow him and his crew back to Australia.
With huskies, Swiss scientists and film-makers in tow, he set off to explore and map the place. They travelled thousands of kilometres, lived in igloos and ate their huskies when food became scarce. They all got sick and the entire party, bar Douglas, died. When he got home and told people, they knighted him for what was known at the time, as the greatest story of lone survival in polar exploration.
Mawson went to Antarctica a few more times and died aged 76 in his Adelaide home.
Pretty amazing story. Nancy Wake spent her childhood in Sydney but ran away to Paris aged 21 to work as a journalist, a completely unheard of way for women to behave back in the day. Living life in the fast lane, she partied hard and got on famously with Frenchmen, marrying one called Henri. But in Vienna in 1933 she witnessed the cruelty of World War II in Europe.
When German troops came across Europe in 1939, Nancy took many of the refugees into her home. Then she joined the French Resistance and helped lots of people escape. The Gestapo called her “The White Mouse” because they couldn't catch her. They killed her husband and she fled France, becoming an undercover agent and resistance leader in London.
Nancy Wake was parachuted back into France where she distributed weapons among resistance fighters hiding in the mountains. She was instrumental in the D-Day preparations and was honoured with medals from Britain, France and the US.
On 22 February 2004 Nancy Wake was appointed a Companion of the Order of Australia in recognition of her "significant contribution and commitment" during the war.
An Australian folk hero, Ned was a bushranger who wore a suit of home-made armour during his gang's last stand at Glenrowan, Victoria. Aged 16 he spent three years in jail for horse theft before his mum attacked a police officer and Ned shot him in the wrist. Ned's mum went to jail and Ned went on to a life of crime, shooting several other policemen, robbing coaches and joining brother Dan, Steve Hart and Joe Byrne to become The Kelly Gang.
The reward for the boys rose to eight thousand pounds and public sentiment favoured the boys. In 1880 they were surrounded by thousands of police at the Glenrowan Hotel. Fashioning suits of armour they were showered in bullets, Ned somehow survived despite 28 bullet wounds to his arms, legs, feet, groin and hands and was captured and put in Melbourne Gaol.
Despite protests from thousands of supporters Ned was hanged aged 25, uttering the final eulogy 'Such is life'. Due to Australia's convict heritage, many Australians admire those who stand up against authority. Ned Kelly is the most famous example of it.
Charles Kingsford Smith (1897-1935) was Australia's most famous aviator and in 1931 became the first man to fly solo from London to Australia, and back again. His epic and dangerous solo missions were followed with the same interest as people followed the moon mission.
Smith was a superstar of his day, he died in the Pacific trying to get to Australia in under 48 hours, unprecedented for that time. No-one ever found his remains but they did find his plane's left tyre. Not a good sign and he was universally mourned.Hero Image of Sir Charles Kingsford-Smith Plane credit Flickr: SDASM