John Coleman to join sporting legends at the MCG

27 March 2013

Champion Essendon full-forward John Coleman will be the 13th sporting legend to be immortalised with a bronze statue outside the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) in September as the next addition to the Australia Post Avenue of Legends.

Melbourne Cricket Club (MCC) president Paul Sheahan made the announcement at the MCG Footy Season Launch Luncheon in the MCC's Members Dining Room today. Sculptor Lis Johnson has been commissioned to create the Coleman statue.

Coleman, who played 99 Victorian Football League (VFL) games for Essendon between 1949 and 1954, is the third sportsperson after cricketer Shane Warne and six-time Melbourne Football Club premiership coach Norm Smith to feature in the Australia Post Avenue of Legends.

Last December, the MCC also announced that Australian cricket great Neil Harvey will join the trio. His statue will be unveiled prior to this year's Boxing Day Test between Australia and England.

During an amazing career, Coleman kicked 537 goals (including 12 on debut), was his club's leading goalkicker each of the six years he played and led the VFL goals tally on four occasions.

Before his career was cut short by a knee injury, the high-flying Coleman had played in two VFL premierships (1949 and 1950) and his achievements subsequently earned him selection in the AFL Team of the Century and induction into the Australian Football Hall of Fame.

He later coached Essendon for seven seasons, including premierships in 1962 and 1965, before passing away aged 44 in 1973. Since 1955, the year after Coleman retired, the John Coleman Medal has been presented to the VFL/AFL's leading goalkicker.

"It is fitting that on the eve of the MCG's opening match of the 2013 AFL season, we announce John Coleman's induction into the Australia Post Avenue of Legends series," said MCC president Paul Sheahan. "His playing record in a relatively short career is remarkable, while his contribution as a coach cannot be overlooked."

Australia Post Managing Director and CEO, Ahmed Fahour said: "We're delighted to be adding John Coleman's statue to the high calibre of sportspeople already immortalised in the Australia Post Avenue of Legends. He was an extremely impressive goalkicker during his time as a VFL player and led Essendon to multiple premierships when he was coach."

About Australia Post Avenue of Legends

The Australia Post Avenue of Legends will see a minimum of five statues placed in Yarra Park, extending from the MCC members entrance up an avenue towards Wellington Parade. 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.

John Coleman and Neil Harvey will be the 13th and 14th sporting greats respectively with statues outside the MCG, each represented at 1.5 times life-size. The duo join cricketers Sir Donald Bradman, Keith Miller, Bill Ponsford, Dennis Lillee and Shane Warne, footballers Ron Barassi, Leigh Matthews, Dick Reynolds, Haydn Bunton and Norm Smith, and athletes Shirley Strickland and Betty Cuthbert.

About the sculptor

Lis Johnson has been a full-time professional sculptor since 1992. Primarily a modeler and carver, Lis works with a wide range of contemporary and traditional media. Bronze memorials, especially figurative statues have become her specialty. She has exhibited in numerous group, solo and selected exhibitions, and has been awarded many public and private sculpture commissions.

In 2012, Lis sculpted the statue of Norm Smith - the second to feature in the Australia Post Avenue of Legends. Other commissions include: The Illawarra Memorial Coalmining Sculpture (Wollongong, 1995), The Vietnam Memorial in Victoria (Dandenong, 2004), Portrait Bust of John Gorton (Armadale Library Garden, 2005), a reconstruction of 'The Great Mark' (Alex Jesaulenko and Graeme Jenkins), and The Illawarra Centenary Rugby League Sculpture (Win Stadium, Wollongong, 2011). Lis' studio is at Fundere Fine Art Foundry and Studios in West Footscray.