Layne Beachley and Mark Ella named Legends of Sport Australia

They’ve been elevated to legend status in Australia’s sporting hall of fame, but now the mission for Layne Beachley and Mark Ella is to elevate the next generation.

Seven-time world surfing champion Beachley, and former Wallabies rugby captain Ella, hope to see more equality for women and greater Indigenous participation in their respective sports.

The pair were officially became Legends in the Sport Australia Hall of Fame on Monday, joining elite company including Sir Donald Bradman, Cathy Freeman and Rod Laver.

Beachley, who is now chair of Surfing Australia, is determined to make some changes.

“Equality within surfing, because it was notoriously sexist, chauvinistic, misogynistic,” Beachley said.

“And unfortunately, we’ve still got a lot of people, still a lot of pale, stale white males in positions of influence and power and in decision making.

“And we’re not equal enough in our elevation of leadership opportunities. I know at Surfing Australia, we’re really focusing on getting more women into the sport and that it’s probably one of the fastest growing sports in female participation in this country.

“So I know we’re on the right track, but I’d love to make it a more safe, equal environment for women, and that starts with the attitude in the water this morning – we outnumbered the guys [at Freshwater beach] and that to me is progress.

“We need women who want to keep giving back, raising their voices, but then men being our greatest allies, we just need to find more allies in the boardroom and at the beach.

“Just that level of respect and acceptance that, ‘Hey, you are what gender you are, where you come from really doesn’t matter’.

“We all just have the desire to belong. And we just want to feel accepted and respected irrespective of our talents, gender and skillset.

“None of that needs to matter because at the end of the day, the ocean is non-discriminatory.”

Ella, who played 25 Tests for Australia and has been described as one of the greatest players to wear the gold jersey, has been saddened to see union lag behind rugby league in nurturing Indigenous talent.

“We’ve got a very specific base and they do a wonderful job, but like the AFL and NRL and football and soccer, we’ve got to actually start getting out in regional areas and support them,” Ella said.

“It’s got to start from the bottom and it’ll take a few years – maybe longer than we can probably wait for.

“But we need to bring Indigenous players back into rugby union. It’s a hard struggle [with competition] from rugby league, they do it so well with the Indigenous players, so why can’t we do the same? There’s any reason we can’t do the same.”

Originally published as Layne Beachley and Mark Ella named Legends of Sport Australia

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