Sharelle McMahon still can’t believe it, but some time in the next year or so there will be a statue of her standing in the north-west corner of John Cain Arena.
The two-time Commonwealth Games gold medallist and two-time world championship winner played at the highest level for the Diamonds and the Melbourne Vixens for 15 years. Her presence will be immortalised at her home stadium and placed right where fans turn the corner and walk to the city entrance of the venue.
More importantly, McMahon’s statue will celebrate the contribution of netball to the state’s sporting landscape and begin to close the gender imbalance of Victoria’s sporting statues which Netball Victoria chief executive Rosie King listed at 29 men, four women and three race horses.
McMahon joins Betty Cuthbert, Shirley Strickland and Nova Peris and AFLW star Tayla Harris in statue form, although both Harris and Peris’ likenesses are either still being created or are being moved to new locations.
McMahon admits she was overwhelmed when told of the statue, and she hopes more female athlete statues will follow from netball and other sports.
“It’s hugely important for female athletes to recognised in many different ways and this is a great way to do it,” McMahon said on Friday.
“I was really shocked when I heard the numbers and the lack of balance between the genders.
“Having a statue that is a permanent visualisation of that and I hope it is something many people can look up to and love for many years to come.”
Netball Victoria revealed the news to McMahon in an elaborate way, inviting her to a meeting at headquarters.
“It wasn’t a phone call,” McMahon said.
“There was a bit of a ruse. I was invited to a meeting and when I got there my family, friends and a huge group of my past teammates and NV staff were there.
“They sprung it on me. It was very emotional when I was first told as it’s something I never imagined would happen.”
McMahon said she was yet to sit down with sculpture artists Gillie and Marc to decide on the pose and detail of the statue.
“We haven't gone into any detail yet, we are still looking at what the pose will be, what condition I will be in, how it will look at what uniform I will be in,” McMahon said.
“Lots of detail to work through but maybe adding a few extra inches [in height] would be good.”
Many sporting fans will remember McMahon for her winning goal in the 1999 world championships final, but McMahon is concerned such moments may not work on a statue.
“There were some interesting celebrations when we won major events as we often ended up sprawled on the ground in excitement,” McMahon said.
“The classic shooting pose would be at the top of the list, although that doesn’t necessarily show off any athleticism, but it’s the one most people will remember me doing.”
McMahon’s statue has been supported by the Victorian government’s celebrating female sporting icons program and Sports Minister Martin Pakula said he expected more statues would be commissioned, including a potential second netball statue.
“I believe Netball Victoria has plans for another one, maybe at the State Netball and Hockey Centre, but I don’t want to bell the cat on that yet,” Pakula said.
“It’s an important program, we do recognise that there has been a lack of representation of great female athletes and Sharelle getting a statue at John Cain Arena, let’s see that as a start, not a finish.”
Netball Victoria hopes that by the start of the 2023 season McMahon’s statue will be in place and fans can pay their respects as they turn the corner and head towards the entrance.
“That is one really cool thing about this as this stadium holds so many amazing memories and that will continue to happen,” McMahon said.
“For fans to be walking past a statue of me is still pretty unbelievable.”