Evonne Goolagong Park is located in Barellan, a small town in the Narrandera Shire in the Riverina region of New South Wales. Barellan has a population of 328 according to the 2011 Census; it is a quiet wheat town with characteristic silos, functioning primarily as a service centre for the surrounding agricultural area. Barellan is approximately 3.5 hours from Canberra, and 5.5 hours from both Sydney and Melbourne.
Many Australians will have heard of Evonne Goolagong Cawley; she made history in 1971 when she became the first Indigenous Australian to win a Wimbledon Tennis Championship. Since then, Evonne, a former World No. 1 female tennis player, has gone on to win numerous prestigious awards and recognitions in the world of tennis, including a whopping 14 Grand Slam titles:
7 in singles (4 at the Australian Open, 2 at Wimbledon and 1 at the French Open)
6 in women's doubles
1 in mixed doubles
Despite Evonne's huge achievements that made Australians across the country proud, her road to success was not an easy one. Growing up in Barellan, a small country town, Evonne and her family experienced discrimination as an Australian Aboriginal family; discrimination during the 50s and 60s was particularly evident in rural Australia. A local resident saw Evonne peering through the fence at the local courts, and encouraged her to come in and play despite widespread discrimination - and that's where her story began! What we can learn from her experience is that we can achieve anything as long as we work hard for it - this is a great encourager to bear in mind for both adults and children alike.
The main attraction at Evonne Goolagong Park is without a doubt the Big Tennis Racquet - at its size, it's literally impossible to miss! The Big Tennis Racquet in Barellan is an impressive 13.8m in length, with the handle and head being 7.8m and 6.0m respectively. The fibreglass tennis ball that accompanies the Big Tennis Racquet is also heaps bigger than the ones you see in your local sports store, with a diameter of 1.25m. The Big Tennis Racquet was erected in October 2009 during the Barellan Centenary celebrations, as a tribute to Evonne Goolagong Cawley - the completed racquet is an exact 20:1 scale model of Evonne's battered wooden signature Dunlop racquet.
The Big Tennis Racquet in all its glory - look how small Eddy is next to it!
Are there any other related points of interest in Barellan?
The local tennis courts and "Evonne's Wall" is located on Mulga Street, just minutes away from the Big Tennis Racquet. The practice wall where Evonne used to hit balls day in and day out, barefoot in the scorching heat, remains untouched to this day. Eddy and I went to have a look; it was here he found a tennis ball which we kept as a lucky charm. Who knows, maybe Eddy will reach world champion status one day too - he's a little pug with big dreams!