Even after more than 40 years away, Pat Mickan knew in her heart that the time was right to return to the Riverland
Pat Mickan’s memories of the Riverland run deep. So deep, in fact, that she has returned to her home town of Renmark to buy a business and reconnect not only with her family but with everything she loves about the region.
“I always sort of felt the Riverland was home in my heart and soul, and I think it’s a very deep-seated connection.”
As a young girl growing up in a family with five siblings on a fruit block, there was always something sporting happening in their house, be it games of cricket, footy, or baseball with the neighbour kids on the front lawn or table tennis tournaments in their enormous lounge room. Pat learned very quickly to kick, bat and, especially, throw a ball as well as her brothers. In fact, she was so good, she threw the javelin for SA in the State Schools competition, and also held the Riverland Sports Day javelin record for 30 years!
But it was court sports where Pat excelled, and after leaving the Riverland to do her PE degree at the Adelaide College of Advanced Education, Pat was also playing state-level netball and basketball and was training up to 13 times a week!
Eventually Pat had to choose and basketball won out when Australia had the potential to go to Olympics. The move paid off and the 2013 Basketball Hall of Fame recipient went on to represent Australia internationally in the ’84 and ’88 games as well as three World Championships. Pat was also part of the first sports team to visit China when they opened their doors to the West.
Post basketball, Pat was coach of the successful Garville Netball Team during those heady rivalry days with Contax, before being approached by the Adelaide Crows as the AFL’s first specialist skills coach.
During and after her sporting career during which she would extol the virtues of the Riverland, Pat always had a hankering to get back and recalls one emotional instance on a return visit with her Mum.
“We drove out towards our old block and our old house. On the way, we stopped to pick some oranges. I peeled these beautiful oranges with my fingers and, of course, I got this stickiness from the juice on my hand. When we got to our (old) place, the under-vine sprinklers were going, and as I was washing my hands, tears started to roll down my face, and I realised that the connection with, and being so close to, the water, and the soil, and our home ground was very deep in me.”
That connection is so strong, Pat is now firmly settled back in Renmark running Happee Health, in Renmark. She has noticed a lot of physical changes, but the underlying soul of the Riverland and the warmth and friendliness of the people remains unchanged.
“It’s been very nourishing to come back and reconnect — with the big sky, the big space, the water, and the people.”
And, although she has a busy work schedule, any free time includes ‘going bush’ with friends and family and visiting the many Riverland National Parks, reconnecting with nature, and enjoying the isolation and serenity with taking long walks in the fresh Riverland air.
“The Riverland is warm and welcoming — it’s beautiful. The people embrace you. But for me, it’s got plenty of soul, it’s got spirit, and there’s always been a deep connection inside me.”
Pat Mickan’s memories of the Riverland run deep. So deep, in fact, that she has returned after 40 years to her home town of Renmark to buy a business and reconnect, not only with her family but with everything she loves about the region. Even during and after a stellar sporting career that included two Olympics, three World Championships and a basketball Hall of Fame nod, Pat had a hankering to be a part of the Riverland again. And, although she has noticed a lot of physical changes, the underlying soul of the Riverland and the warmth and friendliness of the people remains unchanged.
Pat Mickan, Dual Olympian, Basketball Hall of Fame recipient and Riverland Ambassador
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music career, but the Riverland will always be home.