11 January 1961 – 19 September 2020
By World Lacrosse Competition Director, and Friend, Fiona Clark
The lacrosse world pays tribute to the legendary Australian, Sue Sofarnos, (Melli), who passed away suddenly this past week at just 59 years of age. The outpouring of grief from the lacrosse world was immediate; heartbreaking tributes from Sue’s former teammates, opponents, and friends from Australia, and around the world, have flooded in since her untimely tragic and sad passing, and this is reflective of the overwhelming love and respect of our united global lacrosse family.
Sue epitomised the six core values of World Lacrosse ~ Teamwork, Integrity, Passion, Friendship, Respect, and Inclusiveness ~ unwavering principles that will never be sacrificed, and which reflect our World Lacrosse culture and priorities. She was an outstanding role model for the sport, and a great example of what could be achieved through hard work, passion, and dedication. She was a game-changer in all aspects of her life, and never more so than when she was on the field of play, or on the sidelines coaching her beloved players. Sue brought that winning attitude with her every day and made everyone around her better. Sue was the rarest of champions, an unbelievable talent, tiny ego, and huge heart. Truly a brilliant lacrosse player and coach, and an even better human being.
With an intense, often ruthless insistence on attention to detail, and fundamental soundness, Sue’s mastery of the game made her one of the most admired players of all times, and her sporting prowess was evident from an early age. She was one of those rare superstars, who transcended our sport, and her contribution has been instrumental in raising the sport’s global profile. Fiercely loyal, as evidenced by her life-long membership of Newport Ladies Lacrosse Club (NLLC), where she first started playing at the age of 10 and went on to win eight State League Premierships. During a stellar domestic career Sue was a member of the Victorian Women’s Team for 19 consecutive years from 1971 – 1999, Captaining the team for 13 of these years, and helping Victoria take home the title of National Champions on eight occasions.
Over the years Sue has shown us what is possible when remarkable talent blends with an absolute devotion to success. After first representing Australia in 1978 in a Test Series against Great Britain, Sue went on to compete in 5 World Cups from 1982 – 1997, winning a medal in each of these, including Gold in 1986, and then following with an Assistant Coach role in 2005, again winning Gold, before taking on the Head Coach role in 2009. It was here, in Prague, Czech Republic, at the 8th World Cup, that Sue was recognized by the IFWLA, as a Legend of the Sport, alongside ten other Greats, who had competed in at least 5 World Cups.
The growth and development of our athletes has always been an integral part of World Lacrosse, and In 1999 the Western Australian Host Organizing Committee, for the 2nd IFWLA U19 World Championship, selected three players from North America, UK and Australia, Dee Cross, Vivien Jones and Sue Sofarnos, to attend the event as ‘Living Legends,’ whose purpose it was to inspire a generation of youth lacrosse players to continue to pursue their dreams. Sue has lived this all her life, both nationally and internationally, by encouraging girls to pick up a lacrosse stick and compete to the very best of their ability. Her contribution to the sport, on and off the field, was immense, and women’s lacrosse will forever be indebted to a true champion, who touched the hearts of lacrosse enthusiasts wherever she went. Sue was also an active member of the FIL Women’s Competitions Committee from 2013-14.
Amongst her many accomplishments, and awards, Sue was honoured in 2021 with an Order of Australian Medal (OAM), and in 2000 with an Australian Sports Medal.
Sue shall always be remembered as an inspirational leader who, through her actions, her values, and her vision, influenced so many lacrosse players, and just as importantly, those on the sidelines, who were fortunate to work with her, and learn from her. She was generous with the wisdom she acquired, and she saw it as her mission to share it with future generations of players, taking special delight in passing down her love of the game to those who followed her.
Her final position was General Manager of the Australian Women’s Team to compete in Towson in 2021 at the World Lacrosse Women’s World Championship, and whilst she will not be there in person, her spirit and her legacy shall live on in every Australian player who takes the field in competition. This past week the Sofarnos family were pleased to announce the establishment of the Sue Sofarnos Foundation, in support of Australian Women’s Lacrosse. As her passion and life’s purpose was to help support Australian players who have to self-fund their costs when being selected to wear the Green and Gold, this is a fitting way to establish her legacy, and one that Sue would be extremely proud of. Within the first 48 hours the goal of $50,000 was surpassed, and now stands at $78,000 ~ such is the testimony to Australia’s greatest female player. The happiness Sue brought to people’s lives was immeasurable.
Sue’s success is a result of her passion for the sport of lacrosse, demonstrated by her uncompromising commitment, hard work and the time she has devoted to ensuring that Australia has been well represented in world events. Her qualities are those that have achieved consensus and victory, which have made Sue an icon amongst not only the lacrosse fraternity in Australia, but throughout the world. Sue’s vibrancy and sense of fun, great generosity of spirit and sharing, and her unwavering love for our sport, made her a very special person who always gave so much throughout her life.
Those of us who have had the privilege of working with Sue and experiencing her friendship have indeed been fortunate. Hers was a life for celebration.
In Australia hearts are broken, and the pain is immense, but the lacrosse fraternity must move forward, cherishing every wonderful moment we had the privilege of sharing with Sue, for there were very few people she didn’t touch in some way. There will never be another Sue Sofarnos ~ the sport of lacrosse is richer for having had Sue as a participant, and whilst she may be gone, she will never be forgotten. She now joins her great friend, and fellow Legend, Vivien Jones, on a lacrosse field in the sky.
Sue was all about family, and at such sad times like these the World Lacrosse family joins together in sharing Australia’s grief. Sincere and heartfelt sympathies are extended on behalf of World Lacrosse to Sue’s husband of 34 years, John, daughter Hayley and son-in-law Chris, and younger daughter Jessica.
In life we must remind ourselves to accept events, to understand that they do not last forever, and to allow them to run their course. We are told that “suffering is a part of the human condition which gives us strength” – may it give the lacrosse community strength at this difficult time, particularly in Victoria and Australia.
Sue will forever be remembered as a caring, bright, and loving soul who always put others before herself. She has lived the World Lacrosse Mission – “to develop lacrosse throughout the world to positively impact the lives of its participants and their communities.” Take your place among the greats Sue as you rest in eternal peace ~ you have earned it, and your influence will live forever.
“For every disciplined effort there is a multiple reward”