Australian softball has lost a valued and much-loved member of the community with the death of Wendy Braybon.
Regarded as one of the leading sports physiotherapists in Australia in a career spanning more than three decades, Wendy was inducted into the Australian Softball Hall of Fame in 2013.
She died of cancer over the past weekend, aged 65.
Some of the legends of Australian softball have paid tribute to Wendy, who was widely acknowledged as an expert in her field and was admired as much for her human qualities as for her physiotherapy work.
Former Australian Women’s Softball Head Coach Bob Crudgington was deeply saddened by Wendy’s death.
Crudgington was Head Coach of the Australian Olympic softball team in 1996 and 2000, when Wendy was the team physiotherapist.
“I didn’t really know Wendy at the time, because she was from Melbourne and I’m from Queensland,” Crudgington recalls. “But all the players I talked to spoke very highly of her as a physiotherapist and a person, so I was very happy to have her on our team.
“Being made Australian Head Coach was quite a daunting experience for me, but having Wendy there made my job easier. It was a great feeling for me to know that any injuries to players would be taken care of by such an outstanding physio.
“For softball to have such a high-quality physio, we were very fortunate. Wendy was a very hard worker and spent a lot of time with the players in recovery sessions. She was the ultimate pro and a fantastic person off the diamond as well.
“She was very good at her trade and a great person to have around the team, particularly on long tours.
“She would do anything she could to help the team.”
Wendy Braybon gained her physiotherapy qualification in her birthplace of Britain and worked at a leading rehabilitation centre that treated sports injuries and orthopaedic conditions. Later, she was in charge of the outpatients’ gymnasium at Kings College Hospital.
After moving to Australia in 1980, Wendy worked in hospitals and private practice before joining the Windsor Physiotherapy Centre as a partner in 1984.
Wendy’s credentials in physiotherapy were impressive on a range of levels. She obtained a post-graduate Diploma in Physiotherapy (Sport) and a post-graduate Diploma in Manipulative Therapy. She was chairman of the Victorian Sports Physiotherapy Group and an organiser of symposiums conducted by the group and the Australian Sports Medicine Federation. She was also treasurer of the National Sports Physiotherapy Group.
While she is best known for her work with softball, Wendy also worked with the Australian swimming team at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics and was involved in other sports including gymnastics and fencing.
She looked after the Australian Women’s Softball team as far back as 1982 including at five World Championships, plus the 1996 and 2000 Olympic Games, among the 36 tours she did to various softball events at Open Women’s and Under-19 levels.
There was no softball at the 2012 London Olympics, but Wendy was an integral part of the Australian Olympic team as Head Physiotherapist, a testament to her reputation in the wider sports community.
Softball Australia extends its condolences to Mike, Tom and Charlie and their families.
Peta Edebone’s tribute to Wendy Braybon
Peta Edebone was inducted into the Australian Softball Hall of Fame alongside Wendy in 2013. She credits Wendy with extending her career and helping her recover from injury to be part of the bronze medal-winning Australian team at the 1996 Olympics.
“An example of her dedication to her work and our wonderful sport was in 1996 when I broke my foot at a training camp in Cairns, four weeks prior to the 1996 Atlanta Olympics,” Edebone recalls.
“Wendy took control of the situation, arranged for me to return to Melbourne ASAP and straight in to see David Young (orthopaedic surgeon) who operated the next day and inserted pins in my foot.
“The recovery process was extremely slow, frustrating and there were no guarantees of me being able to play, but Wendy was there with me every step of the way. She saw me through all the doctors’ appointments, physio, massage, and even inflicting her own pain on me with all the treatments I required. But I knew it was what I had to do if I wanted to be fit to play.
“She saw me at my absolute lowest struggling through all the pain, the slow recovery, the doubt and the tears, but she got me through it.
“In short, yes I did make it onto the diamond, day three of the softball competition, and when we walked away with that Olympic Bronze Medal she was there to enjoy the celebrations.
“That Olympic medal was achieved because of you, Wen. Your support, your dedication and your belief in me was unwavering.
“We shared many fun times together and I cannot thank you enough for supporting and believing in me the way that you did, but most of all you were a great friend to me and to many other people whose lives you touched.
“A beautiful person taken way too soon, thank you for everything my friend xx.”
Other former players paid also tribute to Wendy on social media.
Jenny Holliday: “Wendy was one of nature’s true shining lights who brightened all of our days on tour as well as our visits to the physio table.”
Tanya Harding: “She was always the true professional and also so much fun.”