On behalf of the people of Tasmania - not just the lovers of this great game cricket, we celebrate Ricky Ponting; a great Tasmanian and a great Tasmanian story. It’s a remarkable, almost unbelievable story.
From a very early age, his rare skills were apparent. His parents, Lorraine and Graeme, were of course instrumental in this story, not only in the passing on these freakish genes, but in the nurturing and guiding of their son.
First on the pitch at age eight, with a borrowed bat just about bigger than him. Batting at number 11; a ring-in for the Mowbray Under 13’s. In the first innings he tapped 11 runs, but presumably showed a bit of what he was capable of, because he was promoted to opener in his next dig.
Graeme apparently set him the target of making 18 runs in that match, with the promise of his own bat on the line. The pint-sized eight year old made 20 against his much bigger and older counterparts.
And so came the Gray-Nicolls Twin Scoop and the beginning of one of the greatest cricket players the world has ever seen.
His late cricket coach - the late, great Ian Young - was another pivotal character in this amazing story and also got Punter his first bat deal with a switch to Kookaburra at age 12, relieving Graeme of the burden of needing to buy anymore bats ever again.
Then in his teens Punter really came into his own, exploding as a cricket star.
Our national Chairman of Selectors, Rod Marsh, knew instantly there was something very special about him. But as Rod himself concedes – he was ‘hardly Nostradamus!’. It was obvious – a sure bet – that Punter was going to be one of Australia’s sporting greats. And he was.
On and off the field, Ricky has excelled, impressed and inspired. His record is virtually unrivalled.
From that child prodigy at the Mowbray Cricket Club to an outstanding leader who commands the respect of the cricket world, he is without doubt Australia’s greatest batsman after Bradman.
Australia’s leading run scorer in Tests and One Day internationals. One of only four batsmen in the world to have scored 13,000 test runs.
With the uncanny ability to turn a match around. He changed the way teams approached batting. His 140 not out in the 2003 World Cup final showed what was possible in the 50 over game.
But also as a great leader. He was appointed Captain during the “Golden era” of Australian cricket. At just 29 he had the likes of McGrath, Gilchrist and Warne in his starting 11. But rather than being intimidated by any of this, he thrived on it.
And the record books now show that Punter is one of the most successful captains of all time. He led Australia through two World Cup campaigns undefeated in 2003 and 2007. He won more tests than any other Australian captain and is second only to Graeme Smith in the number of all-time Test wins as captain.
Arguably his greatest triumph was leading Australia to the famous five-nil whitewash of England in 2006-07 including of course that remarkable win in Adelaide, one of Australia’s greatest ever test match wins.
Punter scored a magnificent hundred in that match and was player of the series.
And here at beautiful Blundstone Arena, there are many important chapters in this great story.
Among the greatest; twenty years after debuting for Tasmania and months after retiring from the international stage, in 2013 Punter finally added a Sheffield Shield to his long list of career achievements – a moment which all Tasmanian cricket fans still cherish as one of our most memorable.
Ricky, Tasmanians take great pride in calling you one of our own given your remarkable feats on the world’s cricket stage, as well as your significant contribution off it, including through your important Foundation, inspiring young people to beat cancer.
And importantly, you are a remarkable role model, and a source of great inspiration for Tasmanians - especially young Tasmanians - who through you can see just what is possible from our beautiful island state.
You have entertained us; impressed us and inspired us.
This statue we’re unveiling today, in the grandstand named in your honour, will serve as enduring reminders of this for many innings to come.