New Harlequins director of rugby Paul Gustard isn’t the only new sight at the club’s Twickenham Stoop ground this summer, with a 6ft 3in model bear having appeared at the club’s headquarters in a bid to create a new era of aggressive defence.
The new feature was revealed by South African fly-half Demetri Catrakilis, who lifted the lid on the first big left-field move of Gustard’s reign – the man was after all responsible for Saracens’ ‘Wolfpack’ defensive system, which at one point saw him take a real wolf to training.
And now the 42-year-old and has provided Quins with their very own spirit animal.
That got us to thinking. What are some of the best or wackiest statues built outside sports grounds or in memory of famous former players down the years?
Here are our top five best tributes to some legendary athletes and coaches.
They may be somewhat in the doldrums now, but Manchester United are one of the most successful and recognised teams in world football. Many will put that down to Sir Alex Ferguson’s sublime 26-year reign that ended in 2013 – ushering in the recent years of slight decline.
But United’s swashbuckling football and glittering rise to prominence was actually sparked by Sir Matt Busby in the 1950s.
The club’s three greatest players of Busby’s era – and three of the best ever – were George Best, Denis Law and Bobby Charlton, who now greet fans as they enter Old Trafford.
Throughout the 1960s all three would be voted as the winner of the Ballon d’Or. Law won it in 1964, Charlton in 1966 and Best in 1968.
Since then only Cristiano Ronaldo has won it while wearing red, in 2008. Combined, the players scored 665 goals in 1,633 games.
The Spirit was commissioned in honor of Jordan’s three-peat championship legacy, leading the Chicago Bulls to a trio of NBA Championships from 1991-93.
The statue was commissioned in response to his original retirement announcement in October ’93. It was unveiled in November 1994 outside the United Center in Chicago.
The exact pose of Jordan in mid-flight is left for artistic interpretation, but speculations include his 63-point performance against Boston in the 1986 NBA playoffs and his jumpman logo that has been on Jordan branded Nike products since the 80s.
Its black granite base includes an inscription from the movie A River Runs Through It, which reads: “At that moment I knew, surely and clearly, that I was witnessing perfection. He stood before us, suspended above the earth, free from all its laws like a work of art, and I knew, just as surely and clearly, that life is not a work of art, and that the moment could not last.”
The fact the trophy earned by Super Bowl winners is called the Vince Lombardi Trophy should tell you all you need to know about the esteem in which this legend of American football is held.
Iconic Lambeau Field, home of the Green Bay Packers, is where you’ll find the 14-foot statue of the great Lombardi. The former coach of the Packers is one of the most successful and revered coaches in NFL history.
He was the head coach and general manager of the Packers from 1959 to 1967 where he led the team to three straight and five total NFL Championships in seven years, but his list of accomplishments goes way past championships and Super Bowl victories.
He was an innovator in his field that was not only respected by his peers, but football enthusiasts around the world.
Williams played his entire 19-year Major League Baseball career for the Boston Red Sox from 1939 to 1960, only interrupted by service time during World War II and the Korean War.
‘The Kid’ as he was known was an All-Star for all of 19 years and is renowned as one of the sport’s greatest players, but his frequent visits to children at Boston’s Dana-Farber Cancer Institute are what inspired Franc Talarico’s creation that stands outside Gate B of the famous Fenway Park.
The eight-and-a-half-foot-tall statue is of Williams holding a baseball bat and placing a hat on the head of a young boy who adoringly looks up at him. It was sculpted in honor of Williams after his death in 2002.
Nicknamed ‘the Iceman’ or ‘Ice’, not because of his legendary coolness under pressure but because of the number of icepacks he needed for his various injuries, Michael Jones is enshrined at the home of New Zealand rugby – Eden Park – in bronze.
And he is revered as one of All Blacks rugby’s true greats. Now among a stellar list that includes the likes of Colin Meads, Richie McCaw, Sean Fitzpatrick and Wayne Shelford, that is some feat. The back row forward was named Rugby World magazine’s third best All Black of the 20th century after Meads and Fitzpatrick, while former coach John Hart called him “almost the perfect rugby player”.
Jones is captured outside Eden Park scoring the first try of the 1987 Rugby World Cup. The likeness of him diving for the tryline for the first touchdown of the tournament graces rugby HQ in Auckland.
There are not many people out there who can claim to have rowed across the Atlantic Ocean, traversed Antarctica on foot, run across the Sahara, travelled the Empty Quarter on camel and cycled a rickshaw 423 miles non-stop from Edinburgh to London. Not unless you’re Ben Fogle.
The 44-year-old might be well known in the UK as a TV presenter and author but the Brit isn’t fazed by challenge when he sees one – no matter how gruelling it may be.
Fogle was back on the television screens and in the newspapers in May, not because of his day-to-day job as a broadcaster or author, but his latest trial – conquering Mount Everest.
A month after starting the mission and defying doctors’ orders to cut the trip due to his struggles with oxygen deficiency, Fogle finally made the 8,848m ascent of Earth’s highest mountain above sea level.
While he had the support of world-renowned mountaineer Kenton Cool, who amazingly was making his 13th ascent of Everest, Fogle completed it without one of his team members, who was with him at the start. That was former British cyclist and Olympic gold medalist Victoria Pendleton, who had to abandon the attempt due to effects of oxygen deprivation.
Two months on from that mission, Fogle shared his experience on tackling one of the greatest challenges of his life with Sport360.
It’s been almost two months since you completed the Mount Everest climb. How do you look back at the achievement and has it sunk in yet?
It’s undoubtedly the achievement that I’m most proud of. I think the mental and physical toll of the climb, along with the training over the last two years with Victoria Pendleton, has made this a different and almost otherworldly experience.
What was the most challenging part and how did you deal with it?
One of the reasons I wanted to do it was to confront my own fears, one of which is being afraid of heights. Ever since being back at home, I’ve been gradually adjusting back into normal life and work, but I lost 10kg from the mountain and the impact of the altitude cannot be understated.
If you analysed my brain upon my return, it would be 30 per cent less (functional) than it normally is. Although it will regenerate in time, ever since then, I’ve been operating in this dreamlike state – which has been challenging at times.
When you reached the summit, what were your emotions?
It’s hard to put into words. Reaching the summit wasn’t just the realisation of a childhood dream, but the challenges we faced so close to the summit with extreme storms and our oxygen ventilators exploding made it feel like an even more monumental achievement.
Many people have attempted to try and fail in their bid of climbing Everest. Can you explain the importance of physical, logistical and psychological elements that you went through?
We had trained for two years alongside world-renowned mountaineer Kenton Cool, who accompanied us up the mountain. Ahead of the expedition, we did several altitude tests which you will be able to see in the CNN documentary, alongside some practice treks in Bolivia and the French Alps.
With the whole process of acclimatisation and treks to the different camps, we were out in Nepal for nearly two months. We wanted to treat Everest with the respect it deserved and without ego, so going in with the right mentality is just as important.
Victoria Pendleton had to pull out midway through due to oxygen deficiency. How big of a blow was that and did make you more determined to complete the climb?
We were heartbroken to lose Vic. Having trained and prepared for the climb for such a long period of time, her suddenly not being there was quite surreal. However, she made me promise that I would reach the summit and the attitude of a two-time Olympic gold medallist stayed with us during the most challenging parts of the expedition.
What would your advice be for someone who is interested in climbing Everest?
Treat it with the respect it deserves. I’ve never travelled to such a beautiful and terrifying environment, but preserving an understanding of that environment is equally important. Personally, I would never say I ‘conquered’ Everest, I’ve seen it as agreeing on a deal of respect and she allowed me to climb her.
Are there any plans to carry out more expeditions?
In the aftermath of Everest, I have to say not as it stands – but you can never say never.
In terms of the other adventures you’ve had, did those experiences help you for this expedition and how?
Climbing Everest is such a unique challenge and out of all my experiences it’s by far the hardest one. I think the lesson I’ve learnt from all of my trips, having the right level of grit and determination can make anything possible. If you put your mind to it, you never know what you can accomplish.
What did you learn about the whole expedition from planning right through to when you reached the top?
If there was one thing I’ve learnt, it’s to live your life brightly and without regret. Don’t let anyone tell you what you can or can’t do – if you live bravely, you’ll never know where it may take you.
CNN International are broadcasting a documentary The Challenge: Everest on Fogle’s and Pendleton’s experience, telling the stories and dangers of their expedition.
Saturday July 7 at 16:30 and 23:30 (UAE time)
Sunday July 8 at 04:30
Monday July 9 at 07:30
Tuesday July 10 at 13:30 and 20:30
Wednesday July 11 at 12:30
Thursday July 12 at 12:30
Saturday July 14 at 11:30
Monday July 16 at 05:30
Thursday July 20 at 13:30 and 20:30