Mike Hussey, the undisputed holder of Nicest Guy in Sport mantle, exited the international arena on Sunday.
Hussey was the epitome of sport’s good guys, revered by teammates, opposition and even people who don’t like cricket. We hear a lot about the bad boys (and girls) of sport, but I reckon it’s time to focus on some of the nice ones. So, I came up with 10 athletes everyone loves to love.
1. Petero Civoniceva
The 300-game Broncos veteran won the hearts of everyone with even a passing interest in rugby league throughout his career. Despite a short stint in Penrith, the Redcliffe-raised prop was one of Brisbane’s favourite sons.
He obviously loves the city as much as it loves him, as the 36-year-old prepares to return to his old club side, Redcliffe, for the 2013 season.
2. Dan Carter
Plenty of Aussies have cursed the All Black flyhalf’s name during a game, but his genuineness makes him impossible to hate away from a rugby field.
Carter always makes time for fans, on Twitter or in real life. Just yesterday, Carter offered fans the chance to help him in a kicking session in Taupo, New Zealand.
3. Libby Trickett
Trickett is a woman with one of the biggest smiles in sport, and a personality to match. After making a comeback for London, Trickett got to swim only in the 4x100m heats.
But that didn’t bother her and was genuinely grateful for the experience to go to a third Olympics, an attitude that plenty of others could learn from.
4. Roger Federer
In Australia, there are few athletes who are able to retain the public’s affection after years of success.
We get bored when our cricket team wins too much (which, unfortunately, is not as big a problem as it used to be) and tend towards the underdog when picking a side.
However, the Fed Express has managed to remain one of the most loved sportspeople. His willingness to laugh at himself, speckled with moments of healthy ego, and appreciation of every new title has endeared him to so many tennis fans.
It’s this reverence that will see him being barracked for, almost as one of our own, in Melbourne next week.
5. Simon Black
The Brisbane Lions midfielder has always been a favourite of supporters, not just because he is one of the modern era’s most awarded players. Blacky does the business on the field, among the Lions’ best almost every year in more than a decade of professional football. He doesn’t set the airwaves alight, but ‘Simon the likeable’ has earned the respect of many in football circles by walking the walk.
6. Chris Paul
The Clippers point guard is one of the best players in the NBA, but he is also one of the most down-to-earth guys off the court.
Early in his career, CP3 held a laminated copy of his grandfather’s obituary on his chest when the national anthem was played, and he has always spoken incredibly warmly of his loved ones.
7. Matt Cowdrey
Cowdrey provided some of the greatest highlights of the London Paralympics, picking up eight medals to become the most decorated Australian Paralympian ever.
You wouldn’t know it, though. Cowdrey was always humble and friendly in interviews, and has done plenty to raise the profile of the Paralympics with both his performances and personality.
8. Hazem El Masri
It’s been a while since Hazem donned the Canterbury blue and white, but he still proves that sport and role models can mix.
Even when the Bulldogs’ reputation was arguably at its lowest, in the early 2000s, El Masri provided a bright spot, working with local communities and using his influence in a positive way.
9. Brad Johnson
He was dubbed the ‘Smiling Assassin’ for a reason – and not just because you have to have a sense of humour when you play at a club that hasn’t won a flag since 1954.
As a commentator with Fox Footy, you can still see him smiling most of the time, and there are few moments where he’s not having a laugh at his own, or someone else’s, expense.
10. John Eales
Australia’s last Rugby World Cup winning captain epitomised the tradditional image of rugby union.
Eales’ commitment to the team went unquestioned, and he acted with poise dealing with fans and the media. Definitely some of today’s players could learn a thing or two from Mr. Nobody.
There are plenty of other sportspeople who could easily have made this list. Who do you think are sport’s good guys?
Follow Beth on Twitter: @bethknewman