CAITLIN BASSETT: Why the Matildas don’t deserve a statue ... yet

Caitlin Bassett
The Nightly
4 Min Read
A statue of our beloved national Matildas team is nothing but a giant participation award.
A statue of our beloved national Matildas team is nothing but a giant participation award. Credit: William Pearce

A statue of our beloved national Matildas team is nothing but a giant participation award.

It may be an unpopular opinion — in fact, when the idea was first mentioned in August I actually thought it was a prank. Someone making a joke to stir up the online trolls.

However last week it was confirmed that the Matildas would be immortalised in bronze with a 6m wide by 2.5 tall statue at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium before the end of 2024.

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Statues depicting women make up only 17 percent of the structures in Australian capital cities and, while I would love to see that number increase, I think patience needs to be shown as we attempt to break through the “brass ceiling.”

With two World Championship wins to my name as a netballer, you may think that I am bitter there isn’t a 6’4 bronze statue of me outside Qudos Bank Arena, but hear me out.

As a female athlete, I understand the importance of the moment, the incredible momentum they gained and the way they captured fans across the nation — it was a phenomenon well beyond anything I ever experienced in my own career.

Matildas celebrate quarter final result
The Matildas celebrate their win. Credit: AAP

Yes, we should celebrate the moment and inspiration the Matildas sparked for generations to come, but we are being a little bit too hasty with a statue. How silly is this going to look when our national side does win a World Cup or Olympic Gold medal in the future like we know they will?

Let’s take the Australian women’s basketball team, the Opals, as an example. In 1994, they finished in fourth place at the FIBA Women’s World Cup in Australia, losing in the bronze medal match to the United States 100-95.

This was the highest an Australian basketball team — men’s or women’s — had ever placed in a World Cup and was a huge moment for the sport.

The 1994 team featured the likes of Rachael Sporn, Trisha Fallon and Michelle Griffiths, who would go on to form the backbone of the Australian team over the next decade.

The following cycle, the team went one better, collecting bronze in 1998 and again in 2002, before finally breaking through to become world champions in 2006, with a monumental win over Russia.

The floodgates were open and the 2000’s saw the Opals breaking through to win silver at three consecutive Olympic Games.

History has a funny way of repeating itself and if the Matilda’s look to their Australian Olympic teammates, they will no doubt take inspiration from the path other elite female athletes have trodden before them.

The Matildas are on the brink of winning their own battle, yet we are trying to distract them with shiny accolades.

We need to take care and can’t just go around handing out statues willy-nilly. For one, those things are expensive and, secondly, the more statues we have, the less important they seem.

Statues are like diamonds, when you flood the market they lose value. And this one was certainly a step too far.

I agree there needs to be more females immortalised among the many male statues across the country, but don’t make it tokenism by doing it too soon.

When Queensland’s Premier Anastasia Palaszczuk promised the Matildas statue, I’m sure she did it with the best intentions in mind, however she has inadvertently taken the shine off a great achievement.

High performance sport is all about striving to be the best and while fourth place is an amazing accomplishment and the best result an Australian soccer team — again, male or female — has ever achieved, a statue of the moment is like admitting we don’t think they will ever do any better.

Will this statue be pulled down when they win a World Cup and replaced by an even more iconic image of the players celebrating the ultimate win?

I would love to know what the players themselves think about it — do they see it as premature? Do they think we think this is the best they can do?

PERTH, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 29: Australian Fans celebrate the win during the AFC Women's Asian Olympic Qualifier match between Philippines and Australia Matildas at Optus Stadium on October 29, 2023 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by James Worsfold/Getty Images)
Australians love an underdog story of a battler fighting through adversity to succeed.  Credit: James Worsfold/Getty Images

Australians love an underdog story of a battler fighting through adversity to succeed.

The Matildas are on the brink of winning their own battle, yet we are trying to distract them with shiny accolades.

If we just hold on a second and be patient, we can allow them to concentrate and deliver what we know they are capable of achieving.

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