One of Australia’s greatest ever sporting teams was reunited on Saturday when Liz Irving was inducted into the Squash Australia Hall of Fame.
Irving was part of the Australian women’s team who won four consecutive World Championships from 1992 to 1998, alongside Michelle Martin and Sarah Fitz-Gerald. They were joined in the team by Robyn Lambourne in 1992 and Carol Owens in 1994 and 1998.
Martin and Fitz-Gerald have previously been inducted into the Hall of Fame and now Irving has joined her former teammates.
Irving, born in Brisbane on February 7, 1965, won nine titles on the women’s professional tour during a distinguished career, claiming her first tournament at the Irish Open in 1991 and her last in Malaysia in 1997.
That figure would have been far greater if she hadn’t had the “misfortune” of playing in the same era as Martin, whom she always seemed to come up against in major finals.
Irving finished runner-up to Martin at the 1993 World Open, the 1994 and 1995 British Opens and the Australian Opens of 1991, 1993 and 1994.
But when she and Martin played alongside each other in the Australian team they were almost unbeatable.
“We were just a really good group of players coming through,” Irving said.
“We pushed each other along. We had tremendous help, the Institute of Sport had just started up and Heather McKay had a great influence on all of us, as did Geoff Hunt. When you’re around such great people with a well organised training set up and you’re all pushing each other along—something was right. I think out of five or six of us that were all coming through, we all got to number one or two in the world.”
Irving also won the mixed doubles titles at the inaugural World Doubles Squash Championships in 1997 with Dan Jenson.
Since retiring as a player, Irving has settled in Amsterdam, where she coaches a number of top international women players, including world number one Nicol David of Malaysia.
Martin was also elevated to “Legend” status on Saturday, joining Heather McKay, Geoff Hunt and Ken Hiscoe as recipients of the highest honour in Australian squash.
Martin was one of the greatest players ever to have graced a squash court.
She won three consecutive World Opens from 1993-95, and clinched six straight British Opens titles from 1993-98 along with seven Australian Opens—in 1991, ’93, ’94, ’95, ’96, ’98 and ’99.
Martin also competed for Australia at the 1998 Kuala Lumpur Commonwealth Games, winning two gold medals in the women’s singles and the mixed doubles.
Taree’s Kasey Brown was named Senior Athlete of the Year while Tamika Saxby of Coffs Harbour won her second consecutive Junior Athlete of the Year award.
Brown had a spectacular 2010, entering the top 10 for the first time in a year that also included a Commonwealth Games gold medal, a world teams championship win and her 10th professional title.
Brown was Australia’s most decorated squash player in Delhi, winning gold in the mixed doubles with Cameron Pilley, bronze in women’s singles and bronze in women’s doubles with Donna Urquhart.
Following the Commonwealth Games, she joined Rachael Grinham, Sarah Fitz-Gerald and Donna Urquhart to win the Women’s World Teams Championship in New Zealand in December.
Saxby has had yet another outstanding year both in Australia and overseas, winning some prestigious junior tournaments and beginning to make her mark in the senior ranks.
During the year she improved her world senior ranking from 119 to 94, won the Scottish Junior Open, finished fourth in the British Junior Open, finished 10th in the World Junior Championships, and won the Girls 17 Years age group at the Australian Junior Championships.
Interview with Liz Irving and Kasey Brown here: