The unveiling of the Nicky Winmar statue

Nicky standing proud in front of Nicky

 

The rain kept falling. And falling. And falling.

 

Falling as if there was a cascade of tears from above on the day that a statue honouring the moment indigenous footballer Nicky Winmar stood up to racist abuse was to be unveiled.

 

Tears from all the other Indigenous players who have been vilified on the field.

 

Tears from all those who have been ridiculed simply for the colour of their skin.

 

Tears from a culture that has been trampled on for far too long.

 

We were gathered on the banks of the Swan River, on Nyoongar land, looking towards the new Optus Stadium.

 

Over two hundred people were congregated around the five metres tall structured still veiled in its covering, the anticipation building as more and more people arrived.

 

The Western Saints marched across Matagarup bridge singing When the Saints go marching in, their passion filling the air.

 

With eucalyptus leaves burning, lit as they were by Nyoongar elders, the scene showcased a contrast between the ancient culture of our proud Indigenous and the brand new stadium sitting behind the ceremony.

 

Old together with new, united together as one.

 

The master of ceremonies was Ken Wyatt, Western Australia’s Federal Indigenous Affairs minister. His mixture of pathos and humour well suited the day.

 

A moving Welcome to Country was performed by Nyoongar elder Dr Richard Walley.

 

As the rain continued to fall, a succession of luminaries gave speeches. The premier of Western Australia Mark McGowan, the CEO of the AFL Gillon McLachlan, and Tanya Hosch the AFL’s General Manager of Inclusion and Social Policy.

 

And then the moment everyone had been waiting for.

 

Nicky.

 

As he stood up, the crowd began to cheer and clap.

 

As he stepped forward, the clouds parted.

 

As he climbed the dais, the sun began to shine.

 

The universe was saying, yes, this man who shone the light on the scourge of racism, needed to be bathed in the golden warmth of gratitude from all of those who have been persecuted for the colour of their skin.

 

It was a magical moment.

 

A moment that everyone in attendance will remember forever.

 

The Western Saints. The AFL. The Nyoongar. The past Indigenous players in attendance.

 

And, of course, the man himself.

 

His speech spoke of the diabolical nature of the slurs thrown at him and teammate Gilbert McAdam on that fateful day in 1993. Gilly was in attendance, and he shed as tear as Nicky recounted his story.

 

However, Nicky is a lot more than just “that” player in “that” stance.

 

He was the first Indigenous player to play two hundred VFL/AFL games.

 

He kicked more than three hundred goals.

 

He won St Kilda’s best and fairest twice.

 

He took a mark of the year winner.

 

He’s a member of both the St Kilda Team of the Century, and the Indigenous Team of the Century.

 

But destiny was thrust upon Nicky’s shoulders on that day twenty-six years ago.

 

And when he, Mark McGowan, and Gillon McLachlan pulled off the covering, they revealed the pose of a man who will stand up to racism for centuries to come.

 

Neil Elvis “Nicky” Winmar. 

 

 

Comments

  1. JASON ANDREW TOPPIN says

    NEIL WINMAR WAS ONE OF THE BEST PLAYERS I HAVE SEEN

  2. This is a really beautiful piece of writing that captures not just the event but, more importantly, the emotion of the moment and the significance of it all. The Almanac is enriched by pieces such as this one. Bloody brilliant!

  3. Thanks for the report. I have been supporting the Saints only for eight years, but I honour Winmar. He is the very legend of the mighty Saints.

  4. Yes folks, Winmar’s statue ids well deserved. However, in the future, I firmly believe a statue of SIR EDWARD BETTS should be erected. What a player for both Carlton and Adelaide and a fantastic role model.

  5. PS, After he retires, of course.

  6. “Tears from all the other Indigenous players who have been vilified on the field.

    Tears from all those who have been ridiculed simply for the colour of their skin.

    Tears from a culture that has been trampled on for far too long.”

    And, if I can add “Tears from me (from the race that carries out the racism) whenever I read about, come across, or see the way non-white people are often treated.”

    Great article. Thanks

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