Who is Australia’s greatest all-time sportsperson?
This question spurs debate every time it is posed.
Is it cricketer Don Bradman, swimmer Dawn Fraser, tennis player Rod Laver, swimmer Shane Gould, runner Herb Elliott or tennis player Margaret Court?
Strong cases can be made for each and more.
It is a timely debate given it is the week the Sport Australia Hall of Fame welcomed its latest group of inductees, including Ballarat’s own AFL champion full forward Tony Lockett.
Induction into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame is one of the highest honours any Australian sportsperson can achieve.
It transcends all sporting boundaries.
Lockett’s induction beckons another question on the home front.
Who is Ballarat’s greatest all-time sportsperson?
Ballarat has produced many sporting greats who have either started their life or sporting career in the city.
There have been numerous wear Australian colours at Olympic Games, the pinnacle of world sport – with the likes of shooter Russell Mark, swimmer Shayne Reese and Jared Tallent being gold medallists.
There are others who are legends in their own sporting fields.
However, Lockett’s Sport Australia Hall of Fame induction undisputably puts “Plugger” at the top.
Lockett, 51, grew up in Ballarat as part of a well known football family, first having a kick at under-12 level for North Ballarat.
He played 120 junior games and then after just five senior appearances journeyed to St Kilda as a 16-year-old – making his VFL senior debut the next year in 1983. Lockett switched to Sydney in 1995 after 183 games and staggering 898 goals with the Saints.
He retired in 1999 before making a short comeback in 2002 at the age of 36, finishing with a VFL/AFL goalkicking record of 1360 goals in 281 games – a record unlikely to ever be bettered.
Lockett was inducted into the AFL Hall of Fame in 2006 and elevated to legendary status two years ago.
With Lockett’s latest accolade, it is time to again raise the question as to whether the City of Ballarat should commission a statue of the football great.
Mars Stadium would be the obvious location.
While that was the precinct where the Lockett story began, it is even more appropriate now that it is an AFL venue.
Ballarat has many statues acknowledging the deeds of residents, but these days few are commissioned.
Tony Lockett is an exception and his achievements should be recognised in a special way for time immemorial.