The Suncorp Super Netball trophy is not only a memento to recognise the season’s title holders. It is a piece of art.
Weighing six kilograms of polished bronze, this picture-perfect representation of netball is one of the most sought after trophies in Australian sport.
A collaboration between Netball Australia, Michael Wilson (designer), Paul Smits (sculptor) and Ewen Coates (foundry master), this trophy is truly a masterpiece.
Wilson worked closely with Netball Australlia and Bryce Ott from Nutshell to develop a concept for the trophy.
Ott had worked closely with Suncorp Super Netball clubs to conceptualise the brand behind the league in the lead up to the inaugural season.
Through research and discussion, it was decided the trophy should represent the following qualities to encapsulate Suncorp Super Netball – athleticism, skill and finesse, competitiveness, fierce rivalries, high calibre of play and our heroes.
Wilson then examined hundreds of action shots and video footage, and decided on the final design.
“The shot that appeared to be a favourite of photographers was one where two opposing players were jumping with hands outstretched to gain possession of a high ball,” Wilson explained.
“I felt the image of such a contest truly encapsulated all the qualities decided that my trophy design must be a sculpture of two players in this state of play.”
Smits was tasked with brining Wilson’s design to life.
He used a photographic reference to base the sculpture, adopting a subtractive method of sculpting, which involves using plasticine to to build up the anatomy and to gradually build up the forms.
With a number of instruments including a guitar string, rake tools and dental tools for the finer details, Smits crafted the infamous netball pose.
“The athleticism involved in all codes of elite sport is just out of this world so trying to capture that is challenging,” Smits said.
“But you have to rely on your reference and also your knowledge of anatomy.”
Creating the mould
The sculpture was created, then it was up to Coates and his team at the foundry to cast the masterpiece into bronze.
A total of five silicon rubber moulds were used to replicate the original plasticine sculpture. Due to their delicate nature, the arms were formed in separate pieces.
The mould was set and the plasticine removed.
Hot wax was poured into the mould, to create a wax model of the trophy.
Once the wax set, the silicon shell was removed, with the final tiny details perfected, right down to the expression on the athletes’ faces and strands of hair.
The shelling process began, with a mould made from ceramic chip set around the wax. This was repeated a number of times until the mould was thick enough to fire in the kiln.
The lost wax method began, with the shells placed in a kiln to melt out the wax mould, leaving a just a hollow ceramic mould. Once the wax melted away, the mould was placed in a sand pit to cool.
The final product
20 minutes after the pouring, the bronze was removed from the mould, by smashing it away with a hammer and water blasting it to remove any other debris.
The final step in the process was polishing the trophy. The casting was sandblasted, sanded and filed. Separate parts of the casting were welded together to create the final trophy, including the arms of the figures.
To achieve a mirror finish, the trophy was polished with sisals and stitch mop polishing pads with cutting compounds.
“The trophy is unique because it’s a dynamic portrait of two players in action, rather than just a symbol representing the sport,” Coates said.
“I’m excited to be involved with the promotion of women’s sport, particularly netball that has become such a high level sport in this country.”
The Suncorp Super Netball trophy will be contested at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre on Saturday June 17 at 7.00pm AEST. Get your tickets, or if you can’t make it to the game, tune in live on Channel 9 (9Gem in WA, NT and SA) or the Netball Live mobile app.