Wembley statue begins to come to life

The players and relatives of the figures represented in the statue that will be unveiled at Wembley in 2015 to celebrate the sport’s long and proud association with the national stadium were given their first sight of the impressive artwork this week.

Billy Boston MBE, Martin Offiah MBE and Alex Murphy OBE were joined by Bev Risman, the son of Gus Risman, and Doreen Ashton, wife of the late Eric Ashton, to meet sculptor Stephen Winterburn from Yorkshire Fine Arts at his studio in East Yorkshire to view scale versions of the iconic statue.

Wembley Stadium last week secured the planning permission from Brent Council required to site the statue on the main stadium concourse at the top of Wembley Way and work is on schedule to unveil the magnificent finished work in the build up to the 2015 Challenge Cup final.

The former players and their relatives have already played a big part in the creation of the statue, which is being produced in association with the sport’s charity, Rugby League Cares, and on Wednesday they were able to see the first full figure in the final piece, as well as 13-inch and 23-ich maquettes.

Billy Boston MBE said: “It was fantastic to see how the sculptor has turned the images he showed us last year into what is going to be a stunning statue.

“It was a real honour to be selected to be involved in the statue and having seen what it’s going to look like I’m humbled.  I am stunned by the size and I think it really captures all that is great about Rugby League.”

Alex Murphy OBE said: “I truly think this is one of the biggest things in the history of the sport and certainly in my long career.

“It is an honour to be recognised and chosen to represent the many great players and fans who have enjoyed and graced Wembley over the years.”

Stephen Winterburn, the sculptor who won the commission to create the statue, said: “We have to get this exactly right to ensure that it is the very best sporting statue anywhere.

“My intention is also to produce a piece of public art that captures the spirit of Rugby League and all the excellent qualities of the game.”

The five figures were selected by a public vote and a process involving a number of specially-convened selection panels comprising fans, Rugby League journalists, coaches, players, national newspaper editors and MPs.