IN the sport of lawn bowls, Shoalhaven Heads product Karen Murphy achieved things people can only dream of.
From becoming the most capped Jackaroo in history (646) to a Commonwealth Games gold medal (at one of her five Games appearances) and four world championship gold medals, Murphy achieved it all on the greens, before she decided to hang up the boots at the end of the 2019 season.
Despite this, the accolades have kept coming for the Bomaderry High School alumna, who last year spearheaded a South Coast bushfire relief tour, while also becoming one of the 22 Australian Institute of Sport as Lifeline community custodians for 2020-21.
The 46-year-old, born in Kiama, last week was presented with a Member of the Order of Australia for her significant service to lawn bowls as an elite player at the international level.
"I first received an email from the honorary Governor-General around Melbourne Cup time last year and was in complete shock," Murphy said.
"It took a while to sink in and then once I received a letter that it was confirmed just before Christmas, it all became very real.
"I obviously told my nearest and dearest, but it was tough not being able to share the fantastic news with everyone straight away.
"As Australia Day loomed, it became more special and I was really excited to share the news with everyone last week."
The Bowls Australia Hall of Fame member's favourite reaction came from her parents, who sacrificed endlessly during her playing career.
"My parents were over the moon when I told them," she said.
"Seeing their reactions, like everyone else who has contributed to my journey, was really special and brought a tear to my eye because they all played a role in helping me get to where I got.
"At the time, you don't appreciate all the time and effort people put in but this has given me a chance to reflect and thank everyone for their commitment.
"This award isn't just for me, it's for everyone, including all those that play bowls, to share."
This generosity exemplifies Murphy's approach to both her life and sport, which she hopes will continue to grow on the back of this award.
"This [award] is massive for bowls - the recognition helps put the sport on the map and grows its profile as a whole," she said.
"Quite a few people from our sport have now been recognised over the years and it's massive to help increase participation numbers across the country, especially with so many clubs, unfortunately, closing down last year - community awareness is massive for us.
"During your career, you never expect things like this will happen, you just play the sport because you love it.
"I was one of the fortunate ones who have been able to make a career out of it and now it's time for me to start giving back to the game that's given me so much.
"While I'm still playing and enjoying it without the pressure to succeed (including winning the Lansdowne District singles last month), I'm transitioning into coaching and embracing the new challenge of that.
"I really enjoy helping dedicated individuals improve themselves as bowlers.
"I'm also easing into the workforce and looking forward to learning new skills in this next phase of my life."
Murphy will also continue her work with the Commonwealth Games Australia's Athlete Advisory Group ahead of the 2022 Birmingham Games.
We depend on subscription revenue to support our journalism. If you are able, please subscribe here. If you are already a subscriber, thank you for your support.