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Sports stars rally behind Australian bushfire relief and rescue efforts

Sports stars rally behind Australian bushfire relief and rescue efforts

WORLD: Leading stars in the world of sport are lending their support to help victims of the devastating bushfires that have been ravaging large parts of the country for weeks.

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By Ben Tirebuck

Thursday 9 January 2020, 11:22AM


The bushfires have been some of the worst Australia has ever experienced and have devastated massive areas of the country. At time of press, 28 people have been killed, more than 5,900 buildings, including 2,200 homes, have been destroyed and it's estimated than some 1 billion animals have died.

Sports stars from Australia and abroad have united and leveraged their positions of popularity and influence to raise money in aid of relief and rescue efforts.

Nick Kyrgios is widely perceived as the bad boy of tennis, largely due to his own controversial behaviour and on-court demeanour. However, it was he at the forefront of the efforts after he called upon Australian tennis authorities to act and help.

“C'mon @TennisAustralia surely we can do a pre @AustralianOpen exho to raise funds for those affected by the fires?” tweeted the 24-year-old.

Tennis Australia subsequently announced a “Rally for Relief” exhibition match to be held at Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne on January 15 ahead of the Australian Open, with “the world's top players” taking part.

Players confirmed to take part so far include Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Serena Williams, Naomi Osaka, Caroline Wozniacki, Nick Kyrgios and Stefanos Tsitsipas.

“It is heartbreaking to see the devastation the bushfires are wreaking across the country and to see so many people and communities suffering,” Tennis Australia CEO and Australian Open Tournament Director Craig Tiley said in a statement.

“I know fans will turn out in force to the AO Rally for Relief to support this great cause, as well as get involved in all our other fundraising activities,” Tiley added.

Tennis Australia also made a AUS$1 million donation to help communities repair and rebuild tennis facilities damaged or lost in the bushfires.

Kyrgios himself confirmed that he will be donating $200 for every ace he successfully serves at any tournament he plays in during the Australian summer, starting at the 24-team ATP Cup which began Jan 3 and is being held in Brisbane, Perth and Sydney.

His Australian teammate at the inaugural ATP Cup Alex de Minaur went one better by stating “I like this, I will go $250 per ace, just because I don't think I'll be hitting as many aces as you mate.”

Australian veteran Samantha Stosur ($200), Priscilla Hon ($50) and Storm Sanders ($10) pledged to donate for every ace they send down in competition.

The promises came after Ellen Perez, a rising Australian who made her Australian Open debut last year, said she would send $10 per ace.

"Wish I was a big dog and able to give more but everything counts," Perez wrote on Twitter.

Fellow Aussie, and current women’s world number one, Ashleigh Barty revealed on Jan 5 that she had already donated $30,000 to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) to help with injured wildlife, after seeing the effects of the fires back in November.

She also confirmed she would be donating all of her winnings from this week’s Brisbane International tournament to the Red Cross. This could potentially reach $360,000.

Support has also come from non-Aussies as household names Maria Sharapova and Novak Djokovic each contributed $25,000 to the cause.

“The month of January in Australia has been my home for the past 15 years,” Sharapova wrote on Twitter.

“Watching the fires destroy the lands, its beautiful families and communities of animals is deeply heartbreaking.”

The Russian, who has been granted a wild card entry to the upcoming Australian Open, also donated 10 pairs of her tennis shoes that she autographed for fans to bid for.

“I've signed ten pairs of my tennis shoes, left them at the Brisbane Tennis Desk at the Westin Hotel, alongside a donation envelope for fire rescue efforts,” Sharapova said on Twitter.

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“They're yours to keep, we just ask you to donate $300 a pair.

“All money going directly to the Red Cross.”

Cricket world pitches in

Stars from the cricket world have also been quick to step forward and lend support.

Former spin bowling legend Shane Warne declared he was auctioning his beloved “baggy green” cap with proceeds going to the Red Cross.

The “baggy green” is awarded to Australian players when they make their debut and is worn as a badge of pride when they are on the field. Warne wore the cap throughout his 145-match Test career for Australia in which he took 708 wickets.

Within two hours of the auction opening on Tuesday (Jan 7) the top bid was $315,500. At time of press it stood at $520,000. Bidding will close at 10am AEDT tomorrow (Jan 10).

Legendary Australian pace bowler Jeff Thomson has also donated his “baggy green” cap and his cricket vest in an effort to raise funds.

"I don’t have much of my memorabilia left, so these two items are quite rare and special,” he said.

Australia’s fast bowlers pledged $1000 for every wicket they took in this week’s Sydney Test against New Zealand while Big Bash Stars including Chris Lynn, Glenn Maxwell and D’Arcy Short are donating $250 per six they hit this season.

Ricciardo Raffle

Australian Formula One star Daniel Ricciardo is also hoping to raise some much-needed funds to assist multiple charities involved in combating the bushfires.

The Renault Formula 1 driver confirmed he will raffle off the race suit he will wear at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix in March.

“As pretty much the whole world is aware of now, Australia is suffering with some severe devastating bushfires,” the 30-year-old communicated via Instagram.

“Anyone who is kind enough to donate, please do. There’s the Australian Red Cross and there’s WIRES wildlife rescue. I’m sure there’s a bunch more but these are two I’ve donated to and please do the same if you can.

“My race suit I’ll race with at this year’s Australian Grand Prix. I’ll sign that and we’ll raffle that and all proceeds will go to those two charities as well.”

Ricciardo confirmed that further details on the raffle would be communicated in due course.

NBA Stars dig deep

Nine Australian basketball stars playing in the NBA including Ben Simmons, Jonah Bolden and Patty Mills have partnered with the NBA and NBA Players Association Foundation to contribute $1.1 million towards relief and recovery efforts.

American basketballer LaMelo Ball, currently playing for the Illawarra Hawks but soon heading to the NBA, has pledged to donate one month of his NBL salary.

Fellow stars and clubs from Australian Rules Football, National Rugby League, Football Federation Australia, Netball Australia, Australian golfers including Cameron Smith, Marc Leishman, Nelly Korda and Jessica Korda and and two-time Dakar Rally winner Toby Price have also lent support.

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