Six-time premiership coach and Melbourne Football Club icon, the late Norm Smith, joined an illustrious group of sporting legends today with a statue unveiled in his honour at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG).
Norm’s son, Peter, and VFL/AFL legend Ron Barassi were watched on by Norm’s family, former teammates and football identities as he revealed the one-and-a-half-times life size bronzed sculpture of him in classic coaching pose.
The statue by sculptor Lis Johnson is the second commissioned by the Melbourne Cricket Club (MCC) in the Australia Post Avenue of Legends project.
The first statue, created by Louis Laumen, featured cricketer Shane Warne and was unveiled in the lead up to last year’s Boxing Day Test.
The joint initiative between the MCC and Australia Post will see a minimum of five statues placed in Yarra Park, extending from the MCC members entrance up an avenue towards Wellington Parade.
“It is fitting that in football’s grand final week that we place Norm Smith among the pantheon of greats who have a permanent place at the MCG,” said MCC president Paul Sheahan.
“In a time when the coach was considered to be an evangelist, he was an innovative and inventive strategist, manager, mentor and marketer, a forerunner of today’s multi-faceted coach.”
“We are most grateful to Australia Post for supporting the sporting and cultural heritage of the MCG and surrounding precinct.”
Australia Post General Manager Enterprise Sales and Marketing Nic Nuske said Norm Smith is a worthy addition to the Australia Post Avenue of Legends series.
"Norm Smith’s skill as a player and coach made him a true Australian sporting icon, someone whose reputation extends beyond their own code,” Mr Nuske said.
Selection criteria for the Australia Post Avenue of Legends dictates candidates must be Australian, renowned for their sportsmanship and that they or their sport played is connected with the MCG.
The next three statues in the Australia Post Avenue of Legends series will be announced shortly.
Smith and Warne bring to 12 the number of sporting greats with statues outside the MCG, joining cricketers Sir Donald Bradman, Keith Miller, Bill Ponsford and Dennis Lillee, footballers Ron Barassi, Leigh Matthews, Dick Reynolds and Haydn Bunton and athletes Shirley Strickland and Betty Cuthbert.
ABOUT NORM SMITH
Norm Smith was a very talented player and the Melbourne Football Club’s greatest coach.
But more than that, he represents an era of football that did much to form the modern game.
He was a canny yet brilliant full forward during a 227-game career with Melbourne (210 games) and Fitzroy (17) between 1935 and 1950 that included 572 goals.
He played in four premierships at Melbourne (1939, 1940, 1941 and 1948), winning two best and fairest awards and was leading goal kicker on four occasions.
He captained Melbourne (1945-47) and Fitzroy (1949-50) and twice represented Victoria.
He took that talent from the field into the coaches box. He expected no less from his players than what he had expected from himself – integrity and purpose, drive and putting the team ahead of the individual.
He led Melbourne through its most successful era, winning six premierships (1955, 1956, 1957, 1959, 1960 and 1964) before he was sacked – and reinstated – in 1965.
After leaving Melbourne in 1967 he coached South Melbourne from 1969 to 1972.
He was named full forward and coach in Melbourne’s Team of the Century and was given the ultimate honour of coach of the AFL Team of the Century.
Since 1979, the best player in the grand final receives the Norm Smith Medal.