Despite being born in Victoria and living in Western Australia, Donna MacFarlane still refers to visiting her parents in Hobart as “going home”.
“You never stop being Tasmanian,” said the 41-year-old mother-of-three as she joined Richmond premiership player Michael Roach as the latest inductees into the Tasmanian Sport Hall of Fame.
Reflecting on an international athletics career which took off post-motherhood, the 2006 Commonwealth Games bronze medallist, 2008 Olympian, two-time world championship representative and former Australian record holder said she was proud of her achievements and thankful for the support and recognition.
“I look back at it all fondly,” she said. “I feel proud and still a bit surprised by what I was able to achieve from not having run for so long to competing at an Olympics.
“The highest and lowest parts of my life were wrapped up in athletics so I have mixed emotions.”
Melbourne-born Donna Tiberek’s family moved to Launceston when she was two and she attended Larmenier Primary School up to year six and Mount Carmel in Hobart to year 12.
After a promising junior record, MacFarlane retired from athletics in her 20s to focus on a journalism career.
Returning as a 3000-metre steeplechase specialist, she made an immediate impact at the Melbourne Commonwealth Games but suffered misfortune when losing a shoe at the 2007 world titles in Japan and heartbreak when her long-term coach Max Cherry died shortly before the Beijing Olympics.
“No-one really expected me to win a bronze medal in Melbourne but it was a different prospect in Beijing where I was ranked fifth in the world and under more pressure to perform.
“The journey with Max and my improvement was a real high as well as travelling overseas and enjoying a life I did not ever think I would be good enough to do.
“But the lowest points were failing to live up to the weight of expectation on me at the Olympics, losing my shoe at worlds and Max dying three months before Beijing.”
MacFarlane’s personal best steeplechase time of 9:18.35 set at the 2008 Golden League meeting in Oslo remained an Australian record until broken by Genevieve LaCaze in 2016. She remains a multiple Tasmanian middle distance record holder.
After retiring in 2009, MacFarlane moved with her husband Marty’s work to Perth where daughter Elodie, 7, was born after Marcella, 16, and Gabriel, 14, had been born in Hobart.
Now a freelance writer, MacFarlane still enjoys running and passing on Cherry’s words of wisdom.
“At the end of my career there are so many positive things to look back on, so many things Max taught me, life skills that I still use to teach my children.
“Marcella’s getting a bit faster than me now. I tell her run tall and lightly, you don't want to hear your footsteps on the ground otherwise all your energy is going into that. Max used to tell me I sounded like an elephant.”
Roach proud to see Tassie kicking goals
Among the proudest achievements of Michael Roach’s footy career has been the Tasmanian stranglehold over the Richmond leading goal-kicker award that bears his name.
“It’s a pretty amazing Tasmanian feat when you think about it,” said the 60-year-old father-of-two as he reflected on joining his home state’s sport hall of fame.
Roach won the award seven times (1979-81, ’83, ’85-87) since when Matthew Richardson claimed 13 (1994-99, 2001-08) and Jack Riewoldt the last nine. Add a couple from Royce Hart (1967, ’71) and Graeme Wilkinson in 1960 and it does suggest a Tassie dynasty in the Punt Road forward line.
Roach left Tasmania in 1977, still lives in Richmond and, as a life member, is a regular at club events, but remains proud of his island heritage.
“This is a real honour. I knew about the Tasmanian hall of fame but did not expect to be in it. But I’m very proud because I’m still Tasmanian through and through.”
Born in Longford, he went to Westbury Primary and Deloraine High schools and played NTFA footy with Longford, idolising Barry Lawrence who he followed into the VFL.
Joining Richmond as a teenager, he was a premiership player in 1980, runner-up in 1982 and twice won the Coleman Medal (1980-81) in a 13-year, 200-game, 607-goal career cut short by injury.
“I’m pleased with what I achieved. I’ve got no regrets although it would have been nice to have been able to have operations so I could have kept playing a bit longer. But I was lucky for 10 years until injuries started to knock me around.
“The 1980 grand final is obviously the highlight. I don’t remember much about the game but do remember what a buzz it was running out. It was amazing to share that day with family and everyone that barracks for Richmond.
“I was only 21 and thought I’d play in a lot more but only played in two finals series in 13 years.”
Since retiring in 1989, Roach has run a financial planning business. His son Thomas also played 11 games for Richmond and his parents Terry and Betty still live in Westbury
MacFarlane and Roach join 131 other members of the Tasmanian Sporting Hall of Fame.
Previous inductees in the last decade have been hockey players Matthew Wells (2010) and David Guest (2013), cyclist Belinda Goss (2013), basketballer Hollie Grima (2014) and rowers Dana Faletic, Anthony Edwards (both 2013), Kate Hornsey, Scott Brennan (2015) and Sam Beltz (2016).