Australian netball legend Sharelle McMahon called out the disparity between men’s and women’s sporting recognition as “always a little bit shocking”.
But as she stood next to a statue of herself that will forever be a part of the Melbourne sporting precinct, unveiled on International Women’s Day, she was proud to be a part of the movement bridging the gap.
McMahon, an Australian sporting great, became just the fifth sportswoman to receive a statue in Victoria after her bronze likeness was unveiled on Wednesday.
The 2016 Sporting Australia Hall of Fame inductee joined Olympians Betty Cuthbert, Shirley Strickland and Nova Peris and AFLW star Tayla Harris as female athletes with statues in Victoria.
“I feel like I have been shaped immeasurably by the amazing women that I have been surrounded with, so thank you to everyone who has had that impact on me,” McMahon said.
“And for me, my family has always kept me grounded – I don’t know how that goes, as you’re standing in front of a statue I’m being awarded. It’s a bit of a surreal feeling.”
McMahon, who captained the Diamonds on 12 occasions among 118 appearances, was also the first woman from a team sport to be an Australian flag bearer at a Commonwealth Games when she was selected for the honour in Delhi in 2010.
She said the front of John Cain Arena was a fitting spot for the statue.
“I have spent many times out on court here, amazing memories of playing netball and representing not only our state but Australia too,” she said.
“John Cain Arena will always be a venue that’s really close to my heart.”
McMahon was sculpted by artists Gillie and Marc as part of the global Statues for Equality project, which seeks to balance gender and racial representation in public statues.
Victorian Minister for Women Natalie Hutchins said significantly more work had to be done to recognise the state’s most outstanding female athletes.
“Unfortunately in Victoria, we have only about nine statues of women and about 500-plus statues of men, dogs and horses, and it’s time we equalise that out,” Ms Hutchins said.
“Victorian women and girls know that you can’t be what you can’t see.
“I can’t think of anyone better than Sharelle McMahon to be honouring here today.”
McMahon remains an instrumental figure in women’s sport, leading Victoria’s women’s cricket program after finishing an eight-year coaching career with the Vixens in 2021.