Ray Warren statue in Junee.
Ray Warren statue in Junee.

The five strangest sporting statues

IT was great to see John Eales join the growing list of sporting greats immortalised in bronze when his statue was unveiled at Suncorp Stadium on Monday.

Happily, unlike the statue of Ronaldo unveiled at Madeira Airport in 2017 (and replaced less than year later), this one actually looks like him.

But will it one day take its place among the most memorable sporting statues of all time?

Such as:

1. Rocky Balboa

OK, so Rocky Balboa didn't really exist, but the statue does.

In the movie Rocky III the statue stood at the top of the 72 steps leading up to the Philadelphia Museum of Art (now known as the "Rocky Steps").

Sylvester Stallone poses in front of the bronze statue of Rocky Balboa.
Sylvester Stallone poses in front of the bronze statue of Rocky Balboa.

When filming ended Rocky's alter ego Sylvester Stallone donated the statue to the city.

It now stands at the bottom of the stairs and, like the Wally Lewis statue at Suncorp Stadium, is one of the most popular "selfie" sites in the country.

2. Colonel Sanders

How many Tests did the Colonel play you ask? Well, not many, but that hasn't stopped his statue becoming part of Japanese sporting folklore.

In 1985 the Hanshin Tigers baseball team won their first national title.

During the riotous celebrations that followed, two fans grabbed a plastic statue of Colonel Sanders from outside a nearby KFC outlet and threw it off Osaka's Ebusi Bridge into the Dotonbori River.

The Tigers then went on an 18-year losing streak in which they finished last or second last, creating the legend of the "Curse of the Colonel".

Fans believed they would never win again until the statue was found and returned.

In 2009 the statue was finally discovered broken in half and covered in mud, missing one arm and its glasses. It was put back together and returned to KFC but the losing streak continues. Fans are still searching for the arm and glasses.

The golden Buddha that people think looks like Ayumu Goromaru.
The golden Buddha that people think looks like Ayumu Goromaru.

3. Ayumu Goromaru

Speaking of Japan, who can remember the great season Japanese fullback Ayumu Goromaru had with the Queensland Reds in 2016? Anyone? Anyone at all?

OK, forget the Reds, but no Japanese rugby supporter will ever forget Goromaru's 24-point contribution to the Brave Blossoms' 34-32 win over South Africa at the 2015 World Cup, arguably the biggest upset in rugby history.

Which is why they built a statue to him. Well, actually, it's not really a statue of Goromaru. It's a 500-year-old statue of Buddha at Seki Zenkoji temple in Gifu prefecture, but some eagle-eyed rugby fan noticed that it has its two forefingers pressed together in prayer, just like Goromaru does in his pre-goal-kicking routine.

Now every week about 1000 rugby players from all over the country flock into town to pray in front of the statue in the hope that they will be able to kick goals like Goromaru.

A group of stonemasons remove the statue of Michael Jackson from Fulham’s home ground.
A group of stonemasons remove the statue of Michael Jackson from Fulham’s home ground.

4. Michael Jackson

In 2011 Mohamed Al Fayed, the eccentric owner of Fulham football club, commissioned a 2.3m statue of his friend Michael Jackson and had it placed at the entrance of the club's Craven Cottage stadium.

Two years later the club was bought by fellow billionaire Shahid Khan who told Al Fayed to keep his statue.

When Fulham was relegated at the end of the 2014 Al Fayed was quick to blame it on the removal of the statue. He claimed Khan had tried to buy it back but he had refused.

Fulham regained promotion to the Premier League this season but looks certain - without Michael Jackson in place at the Cottage - to go straight back down.

5. Ray Warren

We've had The Curse of the Colonel, The Curse of the Jacko and now, The Curse of the Rabbit.

Ray Warren’s statue in Junee.
Ray Warren’s statue in Junee.

In 2011 when Ray Hadley convinced his employers 2GB and Channel 9 to get behind a statue of rugby league commentator Ray Warren in his home town of Junee, who could have foreseen the ruckus it would create?

Certainly not Warren's colleague at Nine ,Andrew Voss, who made the mistake of saying on air that the statue didn't really look a lot like "Rabbits".

Hadley blew up the next day on his radio show, Voss launched legal action (later settled out of court) that would have seen Nine bosses David Gyngell and Steve Crawley dragged into the dock, and when it came time to renew Voss' contract he was told his services were no longer required.

Voss is now back on top with Fox Sports but there are unconfirmed reports he was later seen looking for a pair of glasses and a plastic arm in the Dotonbori River while listening to Michael Jackson's 'Thriller' on his iPod.