David Leggat: Time to honour our best sporting greats, together

While there's a statue of Ed Hillary in Orewa, he should be pride of place in a more visitor-friendly location.
While there's a statue of Ed Hillary in Orewa, he should be pride of place in a more visitor-friendly location.

As a nation, New Zealanders tend to veer towards the understated as opposed to the jingoistic, other than the rabid end of All Black Fandom.

Blow your own trumpet and you'll get the surly sideways glance and mutterings about pulling your head in; have someone blow it for you and you'll find naysayers to match.

Time that was set aside for the sake of honouring sporting heroes.

There is a proposal to have a Walk of Fame for cricket, should the idea of shifting New Zealand Cricket's premier Auckland venue to Western Springs become a reality.

There is a veritable torrent to flow on this Regional Facilities Auckland idea yet, but, for argument's sake, let's say it happens. Cricket would have a perfect opportunity to acknowledge it's finest, but rugby should have done it by now too. Eden Park has badly missed the bus on this.

Not to forget the pile of outstanding Olympians whose deeds have not yet been appropriately recognised; and while there's a statue of Ed Hillary in Orewa, he should be pride of place in a more visitor-friendly location.

A bronze of Colin Meads is due to be unveiled in Te Kuiti to mark the Lions tour this year; Michael Jones' World Cup-opening try from 1987, and Originals captain Dave Gallaher are situated behind the north stand at Eden Park.

Opunake has a statue of three-time Olympic champion Peter Snell, who was born in the Taranaki town - and then there's Timaru, where Jack Lovelock's Victory Oak from his 1936 Olympic Games 1500m victory was planted next to his statue at his school, Timaru Boys' High School.

Heavyweight boxer from the turn of the 20th century Bob Fitzsimmons is commemorated in Timaru while a statue of legendary racehorse Phar Lap is situated at the Timaru raceway in Washdyke.

There's a rugby museum in Palmerston North which is fine, and other bits and pieces such as the C.S. Dempster and J.R. Reid gates at the Basin Reserve.

These are all worthy, but why hasn't thought been given to gathering New Zealand's finest achievers in one place? Maybe it has, and has fallen into the too hard basket.

Maybe small town New Zealand does it better than the bigger cities. After all, that's saluting one of their own, sportspeople whom they may personally know/have known well, who lived down the street, or were schoolmates.

Contrast this with Australia, who don't need a second invitation to whip up a form of honour for their sporting legends.

Sydney Cricket Ground has its statues behind the members stand; the Melbourne Cricket Ground has two cracking museums - one to cricket, the other for all Australian sporting codes, and statues of greats of various codes; the Dennis Lillee statue, frozen in the leap a moment before delivery, wrist cocked, attracts a flood of visitors; even Perth's ancient, rundown Waca ground has its wall of honour for West Australia's test cricketers, spearheaded by the legendary Lillee.

Americans salute more than just their military heroes. A glance around the outfields at baseball stadiums tells its own story about their reverence for the greats of that team.

So why doesn't New Zealand do it better?

Perhaps it's something to do with the "everyman" argument in this country; that is, we're all created equal, it's just that some perform sporting deeds with greater facility than others, just don't get ahead of yourself.

Perhaps it's the modesty gene coming out. Whatever, it's time this situation was rectified.

If the Walk of Fame idea doesn't pan out, it's high time to settle on a suitable location and get on with it. This is about cricket, but doesn't need to end there. At the least, this should get important minds whirring.

- NZ Herald

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