What a year in sport!
As we look to start another year, it’s a great time to reflect on what has occurred in the Australian sporting landscape in 2015 and to look forward to what may happen in the next 366 days (remember it’s a leap year in 2016).
In January a historic moment for the sport of Soccer when the national team won the Asian Cup defeating South Korea in extra time 2-1.
It was a fantastic achievement for coach Ange Postecoglou who has seen all spectrums of coaching, from success in the old NSL to ridicule and personal embarrassment when manager of the Australian Joeys. He took himself away from the limelight and had a coaching stint in Greece and came home better for the experience to coach the Brisbane Roar to back-to-back A-League triumphs.
After leaving the Roar he returned to coach his home town club Melbourne Victory. After a season and a bit he was appointed coach of the Socceroos after the dismissal of Holger Osieck. Since then Postecoglou has scouted countless Australian players playing home and abroad and after some challenging moments saw his method was the right way to go.
In March, the Australian Cricket team won the World Cup on their own turf defeating the Kiwis by 7 wickets in a match that was defined by the brilliant Mitchell Starc delivery in the first over when he clean bowled Black Caps captain and influential player Brendon McCullum with a beautiful yorker.
The match also saw Michael Clarke bow out as a winner in the limited over format and a few months later we saw him leave the game for good as the Australians released their grip on the Ashes with a humbling 3-2 defeat which included the forgettable (or unforgettable depending on who you support) all out for 60 in the fourth test at Trent Bridge.
It was the end of a era which saw players like Clarke, Chris Rogers and Shane Watson retire from the game completely or from the five day game in Watson’s case. Mitchell Johnson joined the retirement ranks after playing his last test in Perth in November. Steve Smith was the man that was appointed as Clarke’s successor as captain.
In the winter sports we saw the old and the new reign supreme. In AFL the Hawks made it a hat-trick of premierships with a resounding 46 point win against the West Coast Eagles who enjoyed a superb season but were completely out of their depth on the big day. In Rugby League, the North Queensland Cowboys won their first ever premiership with a extra time golden point win over their city ‘cousins’ Brisbane Broncos thanks to a field goal by their leader in Jonathan Thurston. While the AFL grand final was a fizzer, there is little doubt that the NRL finale was one of the the most dramatic in history.
In Rugby Union, the Wallabies got a boost before the World Cup by winning the Rugby Championship defeating the All-Blacks for the first time in four years. The tournament in the UK proved a great one with many storylines including Japan defeating South Africa, England not getting past the group stage and the Wallabies emerging from their group of death to make the final against all expectations. However, they were outplayed by their nemesis the All Blacks to leave no doubt whatsoever that they are the power in the world of Union and despite their ageing core players don’t seem like leaving that mantle anytime soon.
In female sports we saw huge strides taken by the National Soccer side the Matildas where they made the quarter final of the World Cup. In Netball the Diamonds claimed the World Cup defeating New Zealand in a thriller by three goals. Our female cricketers did what the men could not by winning the Ashes on foreign territory. We also had the glorious triumph of a female jockey win the Melbourne Cup courtesy of Michelle Payne. Her story has been told countless times but it is the stuff of Hollywood. Let’s hope her success can be the catalyst for females in the industry.
Briefly a recognition to some names that had a big year. Jason Day winning his first major in Golf and being crowned world Number 1, Jarryd Hayne making a NFL roster with the San Francisco 49ers against all odds, Andrew Bogut becoming a NBA champion with the Golden State Warriors, the Campbell sisters continuing their success in swimming, Craig Lowndes winning Bathurst and Mick Fanning fighting off sharks and battling personal tragedy to go very close in taking the Surfing World Championship. In many people’s minds, he had won anyway.
Well after a jam packed year what’s to look forward to? As well as the new AFL and NRL seasons which undoubtedly will have plenty of storylines to play out, we also have an event called the Olympic Games in Brazil coming up in August. In Cricket there is the 20/20World Cup in March as well as a home test series against South Africa which is always absorbing viewing. Ben Simmons is a name to keep a eye out for in the world of Basketball as he looks to be be the first overall draft pick in the 2016 NBA Draft.
That is just a snapshot of what to look forward to. If it is anything like 2015 we won’t be disappointed .
Bring it on!