A road trip of Australia’s fiberglass monuments
The Big Tennis Racquet
In the extended family of Big Things, this particular member is a mere toddler, having made its first appearance less than two short years ago in October 2009. It comes with its own Big Tennis Ball and, rather unexpectedly, can be found in the tiny grain-producing community of Barellan, population about 400, deep in the heart of the agriculturally rich Riverina.
So why a Big Tennis Racquet instead of a huge fiberglass wheat stalk?
Two years ago the town was searching for a special way of marking the occasion of its centenary. The townsfolk decided to combine a celebration of Barellan’s first 100 years with a celebration of its most famous resident – tennis great Evonne Goolagong Cawley, who conquered Wimbledon for the first time in 1971 at the age of just 19.
Goolagong Cawley’s tale is a true rags to riches story, but with much more sweat, hard work and fouls than Cinderella ever put in. As a young child, Evonne started her tennis career practicing barefoot, hitting a ball in a back lane wearing a frock made from an old sheet and using a tennis racquet carved from a fruit crate.
The Big Tennis Racquet, however, is made of much hardier stuff. Standing 11 metres high on a 45 degree angle, it’s 13.8 metres long and made of solid steel. The idea was the brainchild of local farmer and tennis aficionado David Irvin. As a youngster, Irwin had once been gifted with a brand new wooden Dunlop racquet autographed by Goolagong Cawley herself. The Big Tennis Racquet is a scale replica of this most cherished childhood possession.
The construction and instalment of the Big Tennis Racquet ended up costing Barellan over $40,000, but the townsfolk consider this to be money well spent. The town has always been immensely proud of its favourite daughter. As a child and teenager the entire community had thrown its support behind her, providing her with racquets, clothes, transport to tournaments and raising money for coaching. Her dazzling global career and triumphs at Wimbledon must have been the sweetest of rewards for the town.
Incidentally, Evonne Goolagong was officially ranked at #1 in the world for a fortnight back in 1976, but because of a computer error, this was never made public. The error was only discovered in December 2007, over 30 years later.