Inspirational South Australian reinswoman Danielle Hill has been recognised with the Tanya Denver Award for courage and sportsmanship at the Sports SA awards at the Adelaide Convention Centre on Wednesday night.
The Tanya Denver award was presented at a black tie night recognition of South Australia’s sport stars of 2015.
Hill’s honour was richly deserved as she has come back from an horrific race fall in 2010 in which she lost the sight of right eye among a list of serious injuries.
Hill said she was honoured to be given the award.
“To be in the company of such wonderful South Australian athletes was an amazing experience,” Hill said.
“It’s funny, I don’t consider myself an athlete because it is the horses who do all the work but I thought it was fantastic that harness racing received some excellent exposure.
“I read up as much as I could about Tanya and she was obviously a wonderful journalist who loved sport and was a strong supporter of recognising women in sport and this award is one I will always treasure.
“I also would like to thank The Advertiser who nominated me for the award.”
Such has been the impact of her comeback from adversity that Hill had a career-best season in 2014/2015 with 135 winners topping her previous best of 122 in 2008/09 and already in the current 2015/2016 season, she leads the state tally with 45 – 27 in front of the next best, her brother Wayne.
Those figures meant Dani was also South Australia’s leading reinswoman for the season as well as the state’s top female trainer.
To add to those figures, at Launceston on Sunday, November 15 the 31-year-old reinswoman finished runner-up to Grant Dixon in the 2015 Australian Drivers Championship with a win, second and fourth
But hark back to January 1, 2010, Danielle Hill was thinking life couldn’t get much better.
She was the reigning Australasian Young Drivers champion having won the series at the Gold Coast in 2009 beating current star drivers such as Dexter Dunn, Nathan Williamson and Amanda Turnbull and had just come off a career-best season of 122 winners.
Monday, May 17 changed Danielle Hill’s life.
Hill was driving Puaxtacy at Globe Derby Park which crashed to the track which resulted in the loss of her right eye plus facial fractures to her cheek, jaw and nose. She also suffered bleeding to the brain.
Her injuries eventually healed but despite a lot of hard work, surgeons couldn’t repair the break of the optic nerve to the brain.
According to Danni, out of adversity came a treasure.
During her recovery time, Danni and partner, champion reinsman David Harding, celebrated the arrival of a daughter Brooke.
“Before the accident I had no plans of being a mum, now I can’t understand how I could’ve wanted anything else.”
Brooke is now four and the apple of her mother’s eye and naturally already a regular at harness meetings.
“I actually love training more than driving,” Danni said. “But financially I have to keep driving to supplement the training.
“I get a real buzz from starting from scratch and trying to get a horse to race to its potential.
“After the injuries, all I wanted to do was get back to training and was happy to adjust to only having the one eye when driving trackwork.
“After a while, the next step was to driving with other horses around and fortunately my peripheral vision is extremely good.
“Like every driver, I hear horses on my outside coming up, the only difference is I have to turn my head a bit more than previously. Once that was mastered it was into trials and then making the decision to drive in races.
“I was a bit ring rusty early but quickly everything came together.”
Danni admits she is still inconvenienced by the loss an eye.
“I still bump into things from time to time,” she said. “And I really do have a lot of trouble with escalators when they reach the top and turn into steps, but that’s life.”
“But I have had a wonderful team behind me that helped me reach the milestone.
“That goes back to the surgeons, rehab people and more recently the trainers who have been prepared to let me drive their horses.”
NOTE: Tanya Denver (née Lewis, died 2001) was a journalist and deputy sports editor of The Advertiser who raised the profile of sport, particularly women’s sport, in South Australia before her tragic sudden passing during childbirth in 2001. Denver’s extensive work in covering a wide variety of sport at state, national and international level was widely acknowledged and has been memorialized through the naming of The Tanya Denver Award, which has been presented annually since 2002. This award is presented to the athlete who best demonstrates outstanding sportsmanship and endeavour annually as part of The Advertiser-Channel 7 Sports Star of the Year Awards which has been awarded to high performance sports men and women including Natalie von Bertouch, Stuart O’Grady and Jason Gillespie
Images- Peter Argent - Copyright - Our Sporting Life SA