And that’s a wrap!
Sure, not quite the end of the sporting year yet, but near as, dammit. When the days grow cold and we grow old, what are the stand-out moments we will likely remember? Here’s a quick look back.
Biggest shock: The untimely death of Shane Warne in early March. Forevermore, most of us will remember where we were and what we were doing, when the news broke. Even now it barely seems credible that Warne is no more.
The Shane Warne mural in Dalgety Lane, St Kilda, in March.Credit:Luis Enrique Ascui
Most cherished win: Ash Barty’s win at the Australian Open. Already the Wimbledon winner from the year before, the nation’s favourite daughter triumphed on her home soil as we roared with approval. All of it, however, was the set-up for the
Most surprising retirement: When Barty retired just two months later.
Most egregious stuff-up of the year: Novak Djokovic at the Australian Open. By all means stop the unvaxxed tennis player at the border – but it should have been his border, not ours. His was a story where sport and politics collided so badly the whole thing looked like a train wreck.
Ash Barty after her Australian Open win.Credit:Getty
Biggest yawn-fest: The cricket. What happened this year? It’s so hard to keep track I’ve had to put another man on, and even then my eyes glaze over. Yes, I know we won the Ashes handsomely, but much of it since then just seems to be a blur of formats against sides that are no sooner flown in than they have gone again. “Pray take it away,” Winston Churchill once said when presented with some trifle pudding, “it lacks theme”. So too, the cricket. Against that, Pat Cummins emerged as a worthy and admired captain who displayed great skill with the ball, and great leadership on and off the field.
Best team performance: No question, it is the Socceroos in the World Cup. They were ordinary against France, but played superbly for the rest of it, beating Tunisia and Denmark, before giving Argentina a nudge without quite taking the bikkies.
Most frustrating team performance: The Wallabies were without peer this year for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, including three one-point losses and having a Test against the All Blacks all wrapped up, only to be penalised for not kicking the ball out in time!
Biggest “Oops, did I say that, pardon my French,” moment: That would be Phil Mickelson talking about the LIV Golf mob, backed by the Saudi regime who among other atrocities had organised the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018. “They’re scary motherf-----s to get involved with,” Mickelson was quoted as saying in an unauthorised biography. “We know they killed Khashoggi and have a horrible record on human rights. They execute people over there for being gay. Knowing all of this, why would I even consider it? Because this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reshape how the PGA Tour operates ... The Saudi money has finally given us leverage. I’m not sure I even want [the SGL] to succeed, but just the idea of it is allowing us to get things done with the [PGA] Tour.” There was hell to pay. But of course, in the end, Mickelson ignored the bone-saw murder and took the money. Like Greg, all for the good of golf, you understand!
Nick Kyrgios smashes his racquet during his match against Karen Khachanov.Credit:Getty
Biggest pity: Nick Kyrgios playing in sublime fashion to get to the Wimbledon Final, then the early rounds of the US Open only to lose so much of the good will built up, after engaging in a thirty-second on-court tantrum at Flushing Meadows, destroying two racquets.
Biggest purely Sydney sporting moment: Buddy Franklin kicking his thousandth goal in March. It wasn’t just the goal itself, however, it was the joyous crowd surge onto the SCG – all kids again, just like in the old days – all eager to share in the moment. No doubt there was security there somewhere, but they were entirely beside the point – there was no danger, just wild joy. Thirty, 20 and even 10 years ago it was simply unthinkable we would ever see the day where a Sydney crowd would react like that to an AFL goal, but there it was before our very eyes. In a column I did at the time, I put it as No.4 in my all-time great Sydney sporting moments.
Most heart-warming moment: As I noted in October one of rookies in the national netball team, Donnell Wallam, a Noongar woman, was unhappy about having Hancock Prospecting on her uniform, as the company’s founder, Lang Hancock had once talked of the problems caused by “half-castes”. She knew how, 40-odd years ago, he had publicly advocated doping up water-holes “so that they were sterile and would breed themselves out in future, and that would solve the problem”. So Wallam asked the others if they thought it would be alright for her to individually ask for a dispensation from Netball Australia “to wear an unmarked dress when she debuted against England at the end of the month”.
And this is where it gets magnificent, as recounted by the Herald’s Georgina Robinson. For, no, it would not be OK!
Donnell Wallam celebrates after nailing the winning goal in October.Credit:Getty Images
“Wallam was floored when her teammates in the room announced they would stand with her on the matter. For more than a decade the Diamonds had lived and played by their team motto, ‘sisters in arms’. There were tears around the room ... as they told Wallam they would not let her look any different from them on her debut for Australia.”
So they would back her, stand with her, and join her in her refusal to wear the sponsors name on their uniforms. This was not “one-in-all-in” in the team huddle, blithely mouthing off platitudes. This was a magnificent bunch of Australian women, actually living it, taking a stand and facing the consequences.
Ms Rinehart promptly pulled $15 million sponsorship from the Diamonds netball team, allowing the critterati to endlessly chortle that it served the netballers right. At which point Tourism Victoria stepped in to take over the sponsorship for exactly the same amount of money. Those who chortle last, chortle best!
Most amusing sporting moment: That came down in Tassie, just before the Federal election when the then Prime Minister Scott Morrison engaged in a photo opportunity soccer match with some young boys, and inadvertently cleaned up one of them – who was mercifully unhurt. The true star of the show, however, was the kid who scored the goal over his teammate and the prone prime minister of the land.
Scott Morrison accidentally takes down Luca Fauvette at Devonport Strikers soccer club in Tasmania on May 18.Credit:James Brickwood
As I noted at the time, look at his joy. “Goal! Goooooal! A GOOOOOOOAL for your life . . ! Prime minister? What prime minister? GOOOOOOAL!”
Young man, your goal really was outstanding. And your joy in it, notwithstanding everything else going on around was in the very spirit that the foundations of the great game of soccer was built on!
This is the last of Peter FitzSimons’ regular weekly Fitz On Thursday columns for the year.
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