George Smith will train with the Brumbies on Friday.George Smith is returning to Canberra Stadium to make a Super Rugby comeback but the proposed statue of the Brumbies legend is on hold until the ACT government decides whether it will build a new stadium.
While no statues are being commissioned, there are plans to pay tribute to Canberra’s sporting history with a ”walk of fame” for Brumbies and Raiders greats.
Smith has arrived in the capital after signing a short-term deal with the Brumbies and will train with his old club for the first time on Friday.
He retired from Australian rugby at the end of the 2010 season and his departure prompted then chief minister Jon Stanhope to back the idea of a bronzed statue of Smith which would stand next to Mal Meninga and Laurie Daley at Canberra Stadium.
However, the choice between building a new stadium with a roof at West Basin in the next decade or redeveloping the existing site at Bruce have put statue plans on ice.
ACT sport minister Andrew Barr toured AAMI Park in Melbourne last week and flew to New Zealand last year to inspect the enclosed Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin.
Redeveloping Manuka Oval and adding lights to the ground was the government’s priority.
But with night-time AFL and cricket now capable of being played in Canberra, the focus will switch to either upgrading the capital’s rectangular facility or building a $280 million venue in Civic with a clear roof.
Smith is near the top of the list of Brumbies to be recognised after playing 110 games for the Wallabies, 122 games for the ACT and winning two Super Rugby titles.
The east stand at Canberra Stadium is named after George Gregan and Stephen Larkham while Joe Roff is also a candidate to be honoured.
Raiders legends Meninga and Daley have their statues but Ricky Stuart, Alan Tongue and Brad Clyde are just a few of the Green Machine’s greats.
The walk of fame is one idea with also the possibility of new stands and entrance gates bearing players’ names.
Territory Venues general manager Neale Guthrie wants to remember Canberra’s sporting history.
”I think they’re all good ideas and I’d love to see something like [a walk of fame] so there’s a bit of interest and history for the teams in the town,” Guthrie said.
”All of the issues will be coming into the mix when [the stadium decisions are made] and it will be great to have history reflected in a new stadium.
”If we had to knock down the Meninga Stand [at Canberra Stadium], part of the design would look at getting things in there to honour players so we don’t forget the past.”
Smith is in line to play his first game for the Brumbies in three years when they take on the NSW Waratahs in the capital on March 9.
The match will also be part of Canberra’s centenary celebrations.
”George is one of a number of Brumbies we’ve had talks with the stadium about recognising in an appropriate way,” Brumbies chief executive Andrew Fagan said.
”But I think it will wait until there is clarity about what’s happening with the stadium before investing the money in statues or tributes.”
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