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Opinion

Which Aussie sportswomen should be immortalised with statues?

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5th January, 2023
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The unveiling of Australian cricket star Belinda Clark’s statue at the Sydney Cricket Ground is a moment that deserves to be celebrated but it also highlights a lack of representation for other sportswomen.

Clark becomes the first female cricketer around the world to be immortalised with a bronze statue, and just the seventh female athlete to receive the honour in Australia. While some have plaques like Dawn Fraser, a bust like Beryl Penrose Collier and Evonne Goolagong (who also has 13.8m replica racquet in her honour), Clark joins the prestigious group of Olympians Betty Cuthbert, Marjorie Jackson, Shirley Strickland and Nova Peris, netballer Sharelle McMahon and AFLW star Tayla Harris to have a full-size statue.

Retiring in 2005, the former Aussie cricket captain of 12 years more than deserves the accolade. She holds the women’s record for Test and ODI runs as well as ODI appearances for Australia, as well as scoring the highest number of runs in a game with 229, becoming the first player, male or female, to score an ODI double-century.

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Clark received the Order of Australia medal in 2002, has served on both the International Cricket Council women’s and cricket committees, and the Australian women’s player of the year award is named after her.

“I‘m excited to have the sculpture in place and for people to now look at it and perhaps wonder what that is, who that is and to be able to tell a bit of a story is really important,” said Clark.

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“The sculpture encapsulates being able to have a go–to be courageous, to take on those challenges and break convention.

“I want people to take away that you can do anything you want if you put your mind to it and you have good people around you, and I think I‘ve been very fortunate to have had great support and have a bit of an imagination to take my game where I wanted to take it, and hopefully the sport is in a better place for it.

“It’s fulfilling to be able to do something reasonable to help other people. Hopefully, young girls and young boys will enjoy their sport and this will be a way for them to see that sport is forever.”

Clark is an undeniably worthy recipient, whose acknowledgement will hopefully spark more women to be recognised in the same way, with the number of monuments for Aussie male athletes heavily outweighing their female counterparts.

Clark had a few ideas of her own for cricket stars to receive the same honour.

“I know there’s talk about statues in Perth of Zoe Goss, who I think would be a very worthy recipient,” said Clark.

“Betty Wilson was a pioneer of the game back in 1934/35, and she was the first female to score 100 and take 10 wickets in a match. She would have some good credentials at the MCG and hopefully they can honour her in some way.”

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Sydney 2000 Olympic hero Cathy Freeman has a plaque in her honour outside of Olympic Park, and according to the Daily Telegraph is in line for a statue in the not-too-distant future.

So which other amazing women could be added to the list?

Lauren Jackson

Undoubtedly Australia’s greatest and most famous women’s basketballer, Jackson spent 20 years at the top. She represented the green and gold four times at the Olympics, was crowned the WNBA’s most valuable player three times, took out two titles with the Seattle Storm and was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

There is also the Lauren Jackson Sports Centre named in her honour in her hometown of Albury.

After a string of injuries saw her retire in 2016, Jackson began working with Basketball Australia and made a gallant return last year at the 2022 FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup at Qudos Bank Arena.

Now, wouldn’t that be a perfect place for a statue – where she represented Australia at Sydney 2000 Olympics and went on to play her last match ever?

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SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 29: Lauren Jackson of Australia in action during the 2022 FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup Quarterfinal match between Australia and Belgium at Sydney Superdome, on September 29, 2022, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

(Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

Dawn Fraser

Deserving more than just a plaque and pool named after her, Fraser represented her country at three Olympics, won eight Olympic medals, four gold, and claimed 39 world records. She also claimed six British Empire and Commonwealth Games gold medals.

She became the first woman to swim the 100m freestyle under one minute – a record she held on to for 15 years – and in 1964 became the first person ever to claim gold in the 100m freestyle at three consecutive Olympics.

Despite being banned from swimming for ten years (then reduced to four years) for stealing the Olympic flag at the Tokyo Games, Fraser was inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame in 1985, was awarded an Order of Australia medal in 1998, was named swimmer of the century in 1999, and received the Life Membership of Swimming Australia award in 2019.

She was honoured as one of the torch bearers at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games – the exact same location where she should have a statue.

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Ruan Sims

This woman has done it all.

As the first woman to receive a player contract in the NRLW, Sims has played for the Sydney Roosters, NSW State of Origin side as well as the NRLW All-Stars.

A dual international, she has represented Australia in both rugby league and union. Sims won World cups for the green and gold in the 2009 Rugby Sevens and was part of the 2013 winning Jillaroos campaign at the Rugby League World Cup. She then led them as captain to back-to-back titles in 2017.

Sims is an advocate for women both on and off the field, and an ambassador for the NRL in the areas of mental health and domestic violence. She is currently a league commentator with ABC grandstand radio and Channel Nine and received an Order of Australian Medal in 2021 for her work in rugby league. She has recently been named on the coaching staff for the Cronulla Sharks inaugural NRLW 2023 team.

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A statue out the front of Allianz Stadium is more than deserved.

Ash Barty

While only recently retired, there is no denying the golden girl of Aussie tennis deserves to be immortalised in bronze.

Barty has 15 singles and 12 doubles titles including of course three Grand Slams. After taking out Roland Garros in 2019, she went on to claim the Wimbledon title in 2021. Barty honed in on Australian Open glory and in 2022 she broke 44-year drought for Australian women by winning the singles championship while also holding the title of being the world number one.

Maybe these two legendary ladies can have statues together outside of Albert Park?

 (Photo by Daniel Pockett/Getty Images)

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Evonne Goolagong’s achievements as an Indigenous icon on the tennis court are certainly worthy of any plaudits that come her way.

Layne Beachley

Another Aussie star who made waves early, Beachley became a professional surfer at just 16, and was ranked sixth in the world by age 20. She has claimed seven world titles, 29 elite tour victories, and in 2004 was given a unique opportunity to compete against the men in the Energy Australia Open by being granted with a wild card.

Beachley was honoured in 2006 when she was inducted into both the Australian and USA Surfing Hall of Fame, the Sport Australia Hall of Fame in 2011 and received an Order of Australia medal in 2015.

After 15 years on the Board of the Association of Surfing Professionals, Beachley is currently a board member of Surfing Australia. She has also been an ambassador for the National Breast Cancer Foundation and Planet Ark.

Born in Manly in 1972, I’m sure the locals of the Northern Beaches would be more than happy to have a statue of their local legend at the wharf.

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And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There are so many amazing women sports stars still excelling in their field, who will no doubt one day be worthy of receiving the same honour. Aussie football queen Sam Kerr, golf golden girl Karrie Webb, Melbourne Cup jockey winner Michelle Payne, rowing royalty Jess Fox, super surfer Stephanie Gilmore and of course the current title holder as the most decorated Australian Olympian of all time, Emma McKeon.

Who would you have as the next Australian female athlete to be recognised?

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