Another goal for greater gender representation and recognition in sport

John Henderson admiring a statue of his Aunt, netball icon Anne Henderson

A bronze statue of Australian netball icon Anne Henderson has been unveiled at the State Netball Hockey Centre in a fitting tribute.

It’s difficult to describe the history of Victorian netball without mentioning Anne Henderson.

One of the game’s pioneers, a statue of Anne now stands next to the entrance of the State Netball Hockey Centre in Royal Park – a venue of particular significance to Anne. It’s a fitting tribute to her lifetime commitment to the sport both on and off the court.

Born in 1904 in Benalla, Anne’s love of netball started while she was at primary school and continued while working as a teacher in regional Victoria.

Anne’s nephew John Henderson said her dedication to the teaching and development of children combined with her love of netball created a safe and welcoming space for young women to play sport.

‘Although Anne never had children, she had no shortage of children in her life through her role as a primary school teacher and her enduring interest and commitment to netball as a player, administrator and mentor, particularly in Melbourne,’ said John.

Anne had a knack for identifying and nurturing talent. She helped develop up and coming players, advocated for girls and women and governed the sport. She often provided the tram fare from her own pocket for many girls so they could travel and play at Royal Park.

Anne was a commanding figure and gained enormous respect from all who met her.

Old black and white photo of girls in uniform, with Anne Henderson highlighted

She qualified as an All-Australian umpire in 1933 and represented Victoria as a player in 1933 and 1934. She then went on to coach the Victorian state team on various occasions between 1939 and 1958, with the distinction of coaching the Australian team on their inaugural tour of New Zealand in 1948.

Anne had a long association with Royal Park and continued to play netball well into her 40s at her beloved venue.

She helped establish netball at Royal Park in the 1930s and 20 years later lobbied the Melbourne Council to improve the facilities. This resulted in Australia’s first indoor netball centre, opened at the venue in 1969.

The Royal Park State Netball Centre was re-named as the Anne Henderson Stadium in 1981.

Anne also held many administrative roles at Netball Victoria, including Treasurer and President between the 1930s and the 1960s.

In recognition of her outstanding contribution, she was inducted as a Netball Victoria Life Member in 1939, a Victorian Netball State Council region was named in her honour in 1990 and she was posthumously elevated to the Hall of Fame in 1998.

‘Anne Henderson was a trailblazing figure in Victorian netball, inspiring generations of netballers and demonstrating unwavering commitment to our sport,’ said Netball Victoria President Carol Cathcart.

‘We’re proud to see her legacy endure in this way, and it’s fitting that Anne’s contribution to our game is still playing a role as we move towards greater representation of women in our state’s celebration of sporting heroes.’

Globally there are 20 million people who play netball in more than 80 countries. Locally, Netball Victoria has over 100,000 members of all abilities who play, umpire, coach or support netball.

A recent $64.6 million investment from the Victorian Government to upgrade the State Netball and Hockey Centre has delivered one of the world’s best netball facilities for Victorian netballers of all ages.

The venue now has the capacity to welcome more than 500,000 players and spectators every year with 80% being women and girls.

Anne’s statue has been created by renowned Australian-based sculpture artists Gillie and Marc, co-founders of Statues for Equality, a global movement to balance gender and racial representation in public statues. The statue is co-funded by the Victorian Government's Celebrating Female Sporting Icons initiative.

This is the second statue created as part of this important initiative. On 8 March this year - International Women’s Day - a statue of netball great Sharelle McMahon was unveiled outside John Cain Arena at Melbourne Olympic Parks.

These statues are a standing reminder for greater representation and recognition of women and girls in sport and recreation.