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McMahon statue unveiled

A bronze statue of Australian netball icon Sharelle McMahon has been unveiled today, standing tall outside Victoria’s home of elite netball and the Melbourne Vixens’ home court, John Cain Arena.

 McMahon is just the fifth sportswoman – and the first Victorian-born, hailing from Bamawm in the state’s north – to receive the honour in Victoria, joining Olympians Betty Cuthbert, Shirley Strickland and Nova Peris and AFLW star Tayla Harris.

On International Women’s Day in 2021, Netball Victoria launched a campaign advocating for greater recognition of female sporting icons in our community. Two years later to the day, today’s unveiling represents a step forward in addressing this imbalance.

Produced by renowned sculpture artists Gillie and Marc, the statue’s creation was supported by the Victorian Government’s Celebrating Female Sporting Icons initiative and the Statues for Equality project, a global movement working to balance gender and racial representation in public statues.

McMahon’s highly decorated career spanned close to 15 years, featuring over 200 games and six premierships for the Melbourne Phoenix and Vixens and 118 games for the Australian Diamonds following her international debut in 1998.

The two-time Commonwealth Games gold medallist and two-time World Cup champion captained her country on 12 occasions, and was the first athlete from a team sport to carry the Australian flag at a Commonwealth Games opening ceremony in Delhi, 2010.

McMahon was an integral member of the Vixens and its predecessor Melbourne Phoenix from 1997 to 2013 and was inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame in 2016.

Following her 2013 retirement McMahon moved into coaching, taking on a specialist coach role for the Melbourne Vixens in 2014 and elevated to assistant coach in 2019. McMahon has since joined Cricket Victoria as Head of Female Cricket.

In 2022 Netball Victoria announced that Victorian netball legend Anne Henderson will be the second netballer to be immortalised in bronze, her statue – set to be unveiled later in 2023 – to stand outside the newly redeveloped State Netball Centre in Parkville. Home to Victorian netball for over 80 years, the $64.6 million facility in Royal Park also boasts a function space dedicated to Henderson.

One of our state’s most prominent netball identities, Henderson’s contribution to the sport spanned many decades and roles. She qualified as an All-Australian umpire in 1933, represented Victoria as a player in 1933 and 1934, coached the Victorian state team on various occasions between 1939 and 1958, and coached the Australian team on their inaugural tour of New Zealand in 1948.

Quotes attributable to Netball Victoria President Carol Cathcart

“Sharelle McMahon is an icon of our great game and an inspirational advocate for women’s sport – it’s wonderful to see her legacy immortalised with this well-deserved honour, standing proudly outside Melbourne’s home of elite netball.”

“This statue will encourage our community to celebrate the often under-recognised contribution of women to our state’s proud sporting history, and offers an important opportunity to ensure that Australia’s cultural landscape reflects the impact of female participation and excellence in sport for future generations.”

Quotes attributable to Sharelle McMahon

“I have spent many times out on court here, amazing memories of playing netball and representing not only our state but Australia too. John Cain Arena will always be a venue that’s really close to my heart.”

“Two years ago this idea was brought to life by Rosie [King OAM] and her team at Netball Victoria, and with passion and absolute drive here we are two years later, standing here with the statue behind us.”

Image: Netball Victoria

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