Larger than Life: MCG Sporting Statues

By Melbourne Cricket Ground

Lining the walkways to the Melbourne Cricket Ground and in nearby Yarra Park, these statues of champions and legends tell the story of some of Australia’s most significant elite sports people and their achievements at the ground. 

Bill Ponsford statueMelbourne Cricket Ground

Bill Ponsford

Bill Ponsford was a prolific runscorer and superb opening batsman for Australia in the 1920s and 1930s, who scored centuries in both his first and final Test matches. In his 14-year career in first-class cricket he scored 47 centuries. In 1934 he set a record-breaking second-wicket partnership of 451 with Sir Don Bradman at The Oval in London. Ponsford was the first person to twice score 400 in first-class cricket. The MCG’s 1967 Western Stand was renamed the W.H. Ponsford Stand in his honour in 1986.

Ron Barassi statueMelbourne Cricket Ground

Ron Barassi

A champion Australian Rules footballer and coach, Ron Barassi revolutionised the modern game. Barassi’s playing career spanned more than 250 games, including six Premierships with the Melbourne Football Club and one with the Carlton Football Club, as captain-coach. Following his playing retirement, Barassi continued to coach, and led Carlton to another Premiership in 1970, when they overcame a 44 point half-time deficit to beat Collingwood in front of the all-time record MCG football crowd of 121,696 people. He went on to coach North Melbourne to its first and second Premierships in 1975 and 1977.

Don Bradman statueMelbourne Cricket Ground

Donald Bradman

One of the most well-known cricketers of all time, Don Bradman showed his extraordinary ability when playing at the MCG, scoring his first Test century in 1928-29, the youngest player to achieve the feat. Bradman went on to score 29 Test centuries in only 52 Tests. Such prolific run scoring and match-winning ability came at a time when the Australian public were profoundly dispirited by the great economic depression of the 1930s. The sight of Bradman, wielding his bat at the crease, was one of surety and certainty, when such where in short supply. Bradman later captained the Australian team known as 'The Invincibles' on their record breaking 1948 tour of England, a fitting end to an outstanding playing career. 

Dennis Lillee statueMelbourne Cricket Ground

Dennis Lillee

Considered by many to be the greatest Australian pace bowler of any era, at his peak there was no one faster, more menacing or resourceful. Throughout his playing career, Lillee claimed a then world record 355 Test wickets. The MCG played host to some of Lillee's finest performances, including the 1977 Centenary Test, when he took 6 for 26 and 5 for 139 in Australia's 45-run victory. His achievements are all the more meaningful, for overcoming a crippling back injury which threatened to cut short his career. Lillee's return to the game after 18 months of rehabilitation is one of the most courageous comebacks in cricket.

Betty Cuthbert statueMelbourne Cricket Ground

Betty Cuthbert

Betty Cuthbert’s emergence as a sporting icon is one of the enduring stories of the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games. Australia's "Golden Girl" became the country's first athlete to win three gold medals at a single Olympic Games, when she was just 18 years old, in the 100m, 200m and 4x100m. Previously an unknown athlete, her feats at the Games propelled her to national fame and adulation. After a brief retirement in the 1960s, she returned to the track to win the gold medal in the inaugural women’s 400m event at the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games. Between 1956 and 1964 Cuthbert set ten individual and four team World Records.

Haydn Bunton statueMelbourne Cricket Ground

Haydn Bunton

Haydn Bunton Snr was an Australian footballer who made an immediate impact on the game, winning the 1931 Brownlow Medal as the best and fairest player in the Victorian Football League in his debut season with the Fitzroy Football Club. He played 119 games for Fitzroy, won two more Brownlow Medals, and captained the Club for three seasons. In 1938 he moved to Subiaco Football Club in Perth where he also won the Sandover Medal three times, as the West Australian Football League best and fairest player. He later played for Port Adelaide Football Club, and coached North Adelaide Football Club. 

Dick Reynolds statueMelbourne Cricket Ground

Dick Reynolds

Dick Reynolds was an Australian footballer whose mastery of the game earned him the nickname "King Richard". Reynolds played 320 games and kicked 442 goals across his 19 year career with the Essendon Football Club, winning three Brownlow Medals in 1934, 1937 and 1938, and seven club best and fairest awards. Reynolds captain-coached Essendon to four Premierships in 1942, 1946, 1949 and 1950, and remained as coach of the team until 1960. Reynolds also played 19 games for Victoria in interstate competition and captained the side six times.

Shirley Strickland statueMelbourne Cricket Ground

Shirley Strickland

Shirley Strickland is a legend of Australian athletics. She won seven Olympics medals in her career, including three gold medals, marking her as the most successful Australian Olympic runner of all time. Two of her gold medals were won at the MCG during the 1956 Olympic Games, in the 80m Hurdles and the 4x100m Relay. Strickland set numerous world records across her career and was later involved with athletics administration and coaching.

Leigh Matthews statueMelbourne Cricket Ground

Leigh Matthews

Leigh Matthews was a brilliant and fierce competitor as both player and coach. One of Australian football’s most decorated, celebrated and feared players in his day, he earned the nickname "Lethal Leigh" for his hard and uncompromising playing style. Matthews played in four Premiership sides for the Hawthorn Football Club in a 17 year, 332 game career. In 1990 he coached the Collingwood Football Club to their first Premiership in 32 years. He coached the Brisbane Lions from 1999, taking a team that finished last in the league in 1998 to three consecutive Premierships, in 2001, 2002, and 2003.

Keith Miller statueMelbourne Cricket Ground

Keith Miller

One of Australia’s greatest all-rounders, Keith Miller was a popular and admired figure in Australian cricket. He played 55 Tests for Australia, scoring seven centuries, and took 170 Test wickets. However, the statistics do not capture the exuberance and flamboyance of his approach to the game, which turned matches and delighted crowds both in Australia and England, where he played while serving with the Royal Australian Air Force during World War II, and during the post-war Victory Tests between the two countries.

Norm Smith statueMelbourne Cricket Ground

Norm Smith

Norm Smith was a talented footballer and inspirational coach for the Melbourne Football Club. He played in four Premierships for the club between 1939 and 1948, before coaching Melbourne during its most successful era, winning six Premierships between 1955 and 1964. He later coached South Melbourne from 1969 to 1972.

Norm Smith was named full forward and coach in Melbourne’s Team of the Century, and named coach of the AFL Team of the Century. Since 1979, the best player in the VFL, now AFL, Grand Final is awarded the Norm Smith Medal.

John Coleman statueMelbourne Cricket Ground

John Coleman

John Coleman’s remarkable career for the Essendon Football Club was as spectacular as it was brief. Coleman kicked 537 goals in just 98 games from 1949 to 1954, including 12 goals on debut. Coleman’s career was cut short when he dislocated his knee in 1954. He later coached Essendon to two Premierships in 1962 and 1965. Since 1955, the year after Coleman retired, the John Coleman Medal has been presented to the VFL/AFL’s leading goal kicker.

Jim Stynes statueMelbourne Cricket Ground

Jim Stynes

Jim Stynes was an Irish-born Australian footballer who played 264 games for the Melbourne Football Club, and was the first non-Australian born player to win the Brownlow Medal. Stynes was recruited as part of the Melbourne Football Club's so-called "Irish Experiment", which targeted Gaelic footballers in Ireland for recruitment. He also served as President of the Melbourne Football Club from 2008, and was a driving force behind re-establishing the relationship between the Football Club and the Melbourne Cricket Club in 2009. While President he was diagnosed with cancer, continuing in the role until stepping down early in 2012, before passing away.

Shane Warne statueMelbourne Cricket Ground

Shane Warne

Known as 'The King of Spin', Shane Warne is rightly held as one of the greatest cricketers of all time. He took more than 1000 international wickets, and his 708 Test wickets was a record until broken by Muttiah Muralitharan. Warne's ball to Mike Gatting at Old Trafford in 1993 is referred to as the Ball of the Century, and marked his emergence as a bowler of significance, along with the revival of the then dying art of leg spin bowling. Some of Warne's greatest performances were on the MCG, including his 1994 hat-trick and his 700th career Test wicket, in 2006.

Neil Harvey statueMelbourne Cricket Ground

Neil Harvey

Cricketer Neil Harvey was one of the most prolific Test run-scorers and century-makers for Australia in the 1940s and 50s. In 79 Tests Harvey scored 6149 runs, including 21 centuries. His century during Bradman’s “Invincibles” tour of England in 1948, helped guide the team to victory in the Fourth Test. At the time of his retirement, Harvey was the second-highest Test run-scorer and century-maker for Australia. In 2000 he was inducted into the Australian Cricket Hall of Fame and was also selected in the Australian Cricket Board Team of the 20th Century.

Kevin Bartlett statueMelbourne Cricket Ground

Kevin Bartlett

Kevin Bartlett played 403 games for the Richmond Football Club, including
five Premierships, and was the club’s best and fairest player five times. He
won the Norm Smith medal for being the best player in the 1980 Grand Final,
kicking seven goals in Richmond’s defeat of Collingwood.

Bartlett was nicknamed ‘Hungry’ due to his
reluctance to handpass the ball and desire to kick for goal. He was Richmond’s
leading goal kicker four times and kicked 778 goals over his career. 

Tom Wills statueMelbourne Cricket Ground

Tom Wills

Commemorating one of the earliest games of Australian football, this statue features Tom Wills, an early sporting pioneer and foundation figure in football. One of the earliest recognised games of Australian football took place in Yarra Park, beside the MCG, on 7 August 1858, between two schools, Melbourne Grammar School and Scotch College. The game was umpired by Thomas Wills, who with William Hammersley, Thomas Smith and James Thompson are acknowledged as the founders of the game.

Credits: Story

The statues featured are located outside the MCG as part of the Australia Post Avenue of Legends and Tattersalls Parade of Champions.


Football by electric light, Argus, 06 August, 1879 https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/5952394

Only Yesterday: Don Bradman at the MCG, Alf Batchelder, Arcadia, 2007

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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