In continuing our series on Centennial Park we move from the rarest monument, the statue of Charles Dickens, to possibly the most well-recognised. This is the “We Won” statue situated at the northern end of the park.
Thank you again to the Centennial Parklands blog and Paul Ashton’s book titled “The People’s Park: Centennial Park – A History” which I’ve used to pull these details together.
Sitting between two Russian cannons from the Crimean War stands the statue of a footballer, ball in hand and dressed in traditional footballing clothes. It stands on a circular pedestal of which the scenes of a match played by “cupid like creatures” are depicted. Around the statue are a series of bronze lions sitting at attention.
The statue was commissioned in 1891 (installed 1893) by Sir Henry Parkes, the then Premier of NSW and “Father of Federation”. He played not only an important role in the founding of the park but also the founding of the Commonwealth of Australia.
It was sculptured by Tommaso Sani, a well-known artist in Sydney at the time whose works include the Pitt Street façade of the GPO in Martin Place. Strangely Parkes was not known as a football fan, so it is a bit of a mystery as to why a football player was chosen.
There are several theories on the symbolism of the sculpture. Some say it depicts Parkes’ personal struggles in life as he rose from a relatively modest background to his influential position as NSW Premier. I like to think it has more to do with the journey to Federation that Parkes played such an important role. Although that wasn’t confirmed until 1901 so perhaps it’s unlikely.
Do you have any theories on what it means?
Note: I try to be as accurate as possible but make no guarantees. Please use this information at your own risk.
“The People’s Park: Centennial Park – A History” book by Paul Ashton, Kate Blackmore and Armanda Scorrano