“I’m black and I’m proud to be black”.
It may have been 26 years ago, but photographer Wayne Ludbey remembers vividly former Saint Kilda footballer Nicky Winmar’s response to racial abuse at the hands of Collingwood fans at Victoria Park.
Ludbey captured the iconic moment while working for The Sunday Age newspaper.
“It was something that wasn’t normal, it was something that you weren’t used to seeing and photographing on the football field,” he told ABC Radio Perth.
“I knew immediately it needed to be recorded in the following day’s Sunday Age.
“The paper was set, and I made the editors change the paper. I kept repeating the quote because I knew it was so important.”
The image has been immortalized by sculptor Louis Laumen in a bronze statue, which will be unveiled at Perth Stadium ahead of the 50th Western Derby this weekend.
“I love it. I saw it about a year ago and it was quite an emotional moment,” Ludbey said.
“I think it’s one of the better statues I’ve seen.”
While Ludbey is proud of his photo and the impact it has had on racism in the game, he wished the moment had never had to happen.
“I prefer we celebrate Nicky Winmar for 250 amazing games of AFL football. He was a champion,” he said.
‘I just hope I haven’t ruined his life’
While the photo captured a moment widely considered to be one of the most important in the AFL’s history – and in part the impetus for the introduction of the code’s anti-vilification laws – for Winmar, the image has had a mixed impact.
Ludbey said he recently had a conversation with the dual All-Australian and WA Football Hall of Fame inductee in which he revealed the legacy the photo had for him.
“Just recently Nicky said to me: ‘I really appreciate you’ve changed my life, but for me, I’m having to embrace possibly one of the worst days of my life over and over again’,” he recalled.
“Having met Nicky and being on this road for the past 26 years, it’s been an education.
“I’ve learnt so much from him about Indigenous culture and I need to learn more.
“I just hope I haven’t ruined his life. It was quite a sobering comment to make.”