Infotainment Factory: 2018 was actually great for Aussie sport

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Friday, 21 December 2018

2018 was actually great for Aussie sport


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It has been a particularly tough year to be an Australian sports star – if you’re a bloke, that is.

History has been made by our men in green and gold - mostly for the wrong reasons, with clear exceptions - but our women’s performers have been on fire.

While the Cape Town Ball tampering scandal that engulfed Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft was a devastating low for Australian sport, not just cricket, our female cricketers claimed the World Twenty20 title for the fourth time, continuing their dominance over the event.

And it’s not just cricket in which the Aussie girls have shown up the boys. Here is what went down in 2018 (international sports, in which both men and women compete).

RUGBY LEAGUE

It was a quiet year for the Kangaroos yet also a season of upheaval, thanks to the representative retirements of Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk and Billy Slater; three-quarters of the Australian Test team’s spine, having only recently lost Johnathan Thurston.

The changes did not go well in the first instance, as the Kangaroos lost 26-24 to New Zealand. They rebounded to thump Tonga 34-16 the following week.

However, their loss to the Kiwis brought another humbling defeat. James Tedesco was the only Australian nominated for the Golden Boot Award (regarded as an unofficial ‘best player in the world’ gone but actually judged on international games), and he lost out to England winger Tommy Makinson.

No such problems for the Jillaroos. Australia’s women’s team scored a gritty 26-24 win over New Zealand in their season-ending Test. That helped Jillaroos centre Isabelle Kelly go on to become the inaugural women’s Golden Boot Award winner.

With the first official State of Origin match played and the inaugural NRL women's competition, it was a ground-breaking year for female rugby league players.

RUGBY UNION

The Wallabies had an absolute shocker in 2018, losing nine of 13 Tests; their worst year since 1958, six long decades. They have now lost six Tests in a row to England, the first time such a humiliation has been inflicted upon Australia in 109 years. They also lost all three Bledisloe Cup matches, simply not in the same class as the All Blacks.

With a World Cup looming next year, coach Michael Cheika was lucky to keep his job; though he now answers to a new director of rugby (Scott Johnson). By current rankings, Australia is the No.6 side in world rugby – which is perhaps generous.

The Wallaroos were soundly beaten by New Zealand in a pair of Tests, played for the first time in double-headers, preceding Bledisloe Cup matches. Our female Test rugby players also received match payments for the first time, and the inaugural Super W season was also held in 2018.

In Rugby Sevens, the Aussie women had the better of it, though the men’s team did enjoy success.

The women’s side finished the world Sevens series as champions, winning tournaments in Dubai and Sydney to just pip New Zealand, who actually won the other three events. The men’s team were fourth in the final standings, winning the Sydney tournament.

The women's side (reigning Olympic champions) took silver behind New Zealand at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, while the men's team missed out.

CRICKET

The New Years’ Test win that completed a 4-0 Ashes romp seems an eternity ago. Australian cricket was plunged into unprecedented crisis by the Cape Town ball-tampering fiasco, with superstars Smith and Warner still missing from the Test team due to year-long playing bans.

Australia just scored its first Test win since March by beating India in Perth and will hope to end the year by taking a 2-1 series lead in the Boxing Day Test.

But what a year for our women’s cricketers.

Australia won the World T20 for the fourth time from six tournaments by downing England in the final. The Australian men’s team is yet to win a World T20 title.

With all matches televised on Gem, the tournament announced wicketkeeper-batsman Alyssa Healy as a true star of the game with her hard-hitting efforts opening the batting; including a tournament record half-century from 21 balls, the quickest ever. Healy was named player of the tournament in the Caribbean, while Ash Gardner was player of the final with 3-22 and 33 not out.

For fans who may have only known Ellyse Perry and Meg Lanning as the faces of Aussie women’s cricket, it was a landmark tournament.

The Southern Stars are the No.1-ranked team in every format of women’s cricket. The men’s team is No.5 in Test cricket, No.6 for ODIs and No.4 for T20s.

FOOTBALL

The Socceroos, unfortunately, performed about to expectations at the 2018 World Cup in Russia. They took a solitary point from a group that included eventual winner France, Denmark and Peru, drawing with the Danes. The Aussies did not score in general play, their two goals netted from the penalty spot by captain Mile Jedinak.

The Socceroos were willing, giving France a genuine run for their money, but overmatched against the world’s best without a genuine route to goal. Having been taken over by Graham Arnold, the 2019 Asian Cup title defence is their next target.

With their World Cup looming next year, the Matildas mostly impressed again in 2018. They had a heartbreaking 1-0 loss to Japan in the Asian Cup final and narrowly missed out on keeping their Tournament of Nations title, pipped by the USA on goal difference.

Sam Kerr is a superstar; possibly the world's best despite FIFA's ongoing ridiculous snubs for the Aussie in its major player awards. The Matildas attacker could take Australia deep into the World Cup to enhance her rapidly-growing fame and popularity.

TENNIS

Australia’s highest-ranked tennis player at the end of this year is Ash Barty, who is beginning to deliver on her immense potential. She sits No.15 in the world after winning two WTA titles in 2018 and will hope for a big run at the Australian Open.

Barty, 22, shared the Newcombe Medal with Alex De Minaur, 19, who has risen to world No.31. Nick Kyrgios added his fourth career title at the start of 2018, in Brisbane, and is currently world No.35.

Australian tennis’ most memorable moment of their year, undoubtedly, was John Millman’s win over Roger Federer at the US Open. Millman, world No.38 at year’s end, beat the Swiss icon in four sets in the Round of 16 to earn one of the great upsets in tennis history, before losing to Novak Djokovic in the quarter-finals.

BASKETBALL

The Opals are back. The Australian women claimed a silver medal at this year’s World Cup, powered by the sensational Liz Cambage, losing only to the USA in the final. It was an effort that eased the pain of their failure at the Rio 2016 Olympics.

Both the Opals and Boomers won gold at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games, and the men’s team successfully qualified for the 2019 World Cup. Yet one horrible incident largely overshadowed their year.

In a game in the Philippines, Chris Goulding was knocked to the floor, Daniel Kickert responded with a nasty forearm … then all hell broke loose for the Boomers. A staggering overreaction from the home team saw Australian players punched, kicked and hit with chairs. Both rival players and officials (with notable exceptions) were at fault in a wild melee that will be forever known as ‘Basketbrawl’.

HOCKEY

One for the boys, though both our national hockey teams felt heartbreak at the World Cup.

The Kookaburras (men’s) claimed a bronze medal, losing their semi-final in a shootout, while the Hockeyroos (women’s) finished fourth.

SWIMMING & ATHLETICS

Australia's male swimmers pipped the women for most golds won at the Commonwealth Games, 16 to 12. It was the same in athletics, with the men winning seven golds to six.

UFC

Robert Whittaker had a triumphant year, after an early illness, defending his middleweight championship against the man he beat to the belt in the first place, Cuban colossus Yoel Romero. ‘The Reaper’ (or, as fans prefer, ‘Bobby Knuckles’), will next defend his title against Kelvin Gastelum at Melbourne’s Rod Laver Arena in February.

Tai Tuivasa made a splash in the heavyweight division this year before losing to Junior dos Santos in Adelaide this month, while Alex Volkanovski is undefeated in five fights in the UFC and one to watch at featherweight.

Megan Anderson finally made it into the Octagon this year, though the women’s 145-pounder was beaten by former bantamweight champion Holly Holm. She has the chance to get her first UFC win on the year-ending pay-per-view card (UFC 232 in Las Vegas) against Cat Zingano.

It has been a particularly tough year to be an Australian sports star – if you’re a bloke, that is.

History has been made by our men in green and gold - mostly for the wrong reasons, with clear exceptions - but our women’s performers have been on fire.

While the Cape Town Ball tampering scandal that engulfed Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft was a devastating low for Australian sport, not just cricket, our female cricketers claimed the World Twenty20 title for the fourth time, continuing their dominance over the event.

And it’s not just cricket in which the Aussie girls have shown up the boys. Here is what went down in 2018 (international sports, in which both men and women compete).

RUGBY LEAGUE

It was a quiet year for the Kangaroos yet also a season of upheaval, thanks to the representative retirements of Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk and Billy Slater; three-quarters of the Australian Test team’s spine, having only recently lost Johnathan Thurston.

The changes did not go well in the first instance, as the Kangaroos lost 26-24 to New Zealand. They rebounded to thump Tonga 34-16 the following week.

However, their loss to the Kiwis brought another humbling defeat. James Tedesco was the only Australian nominated for the Golden Boot Award (regarded as an unofficial ‘best player in the world’ gone but actually judged on international games), and he lost out to England winger Tommy Makinson.

No such problems for the Jillaroos. Australia’s women’s team scored a gritty 26-24 win over New Zealand in their season-ending Test. That helped Jillaroos centre Isabelle Kelly go on to become the inaugural women’s Golden Boot Award winner.

With the first official State of Origin match played and the inaugural NRL women's competition, it was a ground-breaking year for female rugby league players.

RUGBY UNION

The Wallabies had an absolute shocker in 2018, losing nine of 13 Tests; their worst year since 1958, six long decades. They have now lost six Tests in a row to England, the first time such a humiliation has been inflicted upon Australia in 109 years. They also lost all three Bledisloe Cup matches, simply not in the same class as the All Blacks.

With a World Cup looming next year, coach Michael Cheika was lucky to keep his job; though he now answers to a new director of rugby (Scott Johnson). By current rankings, Australia is the No.6 side in world rugby – which is perhaps generous.

The Wallaroos were soundly beaten by New Zealand in a pair of Tests, played for the first time in double-headers, preceding Bledisloe Cup matches. Our female Test rugby players also received match payments for the first time, and the inaugural Super W season was also held in 2018.

In Rugby Sevens, the Aussie women had the better of it, though the men’s team did enjoy success.

The women’s side finished the world Sevens series as champions, winning tournaments in Dubai and Sydney to just pip New Zealand, who actually won the other three events. The men’s team were fourth in the final standings, winning the Sydney tournament.

The women's side (reigning Olympic champions) took silver behind New Zealand at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, while the men's team missed out.

CRICKET

The New Years’ Test win that completed a 4-0 Ashes romp seems an eternity ago. Australian cricket was plunged into unprecedented crisis by the Cape Town ball-tampering fiasco, with superstars Smith and Warner still missing from the Test team due to year-long playing bans.

Australia just scored its first Test win since March by beating India in Perth and will hope to end the year by taking a 2-1 series lead in the Boxing Day Test.

But what a year for our women’s cricketers.

Australia won the World T20 for the fourth time from six tournaments by downing England in the final. The Australian men’s team is yet to win a World T20 title.

With all matches televised on Gem, the tournament announced wicketkeeper-batsman Alyssa Healy as a true star of the game with her hard-hitting efforts opening the batting; including a tournament record half-century from 21 balls, the quickest ever. Healy was named player of the tournament in the Caribbean, while Ash Gardner was player of the final with 3-22 and 33 not out.

For fans who may have only known Ellyse Perry and Meg Lanning as the faces of Aussie women’s cricket, it was a landmark tournament.

The Southern Stars are the No.1-ranked team in every format of women’s cricket. The men’s team is No.5 in Test cricket, No.6 for ODIs and No.4 for T20s.

FOOTBALL

The Socceroos, unfortunately, performed about to expectations at the 2018 World Cup in Russia. They took a solitary point from a group that included eventual winner France, Denmark and Peru, drawing with the Danes. The Aussies did not score in general play, their two goals netted from the penalty spot by captain Mile Jedinak.

The Socceroos were willing, giving France a genuine run for their money, but overmatched against the world’s best without a genuine route to goal. Having been taken over by Graham Arnold, the 2019 Asian Cup title defence is their next target.

With their World Cup looming next year, the Matildas mostly impressed again in 2018. They had a heartbreaking 1-0 loss to Japan in the Asian Cup final and narrowly missed out on keeping their Tournament of Nations title, pipped by the USA on goal difference.

Sam Kerr is a superstar; possibly the world's best despite FIFA's ongoing ridiculous snubs for the Aussie in its major player awards. The Matildas attacker could take Australia deep into the World Cup to enhance her rapidly-growing fame and popularity.

TENNIS

Australia’s highest-ranked tennis player at the end of this year is Ash Barty, who is beginning to deliver on her immense potential. She sits No.15 in the world after winning two WTA titles in 2018 and will hope for a big run at the Australian Open.

Barty, 22, shared the Newcombe Medal with Alex De Minaur, 19, who has risen to world No.31. Nick Kyrgios added his fourth career title at the start of 2018, in Brisbane, and is currently world No.35.

Australian tennis’ most memorable moment of their year, undoubtedly, was John Millman’s win over Roger Federer at the US Open. Millman, world No.38 at year’s end, beat the Swiss icon in four sets in the Round of 16 to earn one of the great upsets in tennis history, before losing to Novak Djokovic in the quarter-finals.

BASKETBALL

The Opals are back. The Australian women claimed a silver medal at this year’s World Cup, powered by the sensational Liz Cambage, losing only to the USA in the final. It was an effort that eased the pain of their failure at the Rio 2016 Olympics.

Both the Opals and Boomers won gold at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games, and the men’s team successfully qualified for the 2019 World Cup. Yet one horrible incident largely overshadowed their year.

In a game in the Philippines, Chris Goulding was knocked to the floor, Daniel Kickert responded with a nasty forearm … then all hell broke loose for the Boomers. A staggering overreaction from the home team saw Australian players punched, kicked and hit with chairs. Both rival players and officials (with notable exceptions) were at fault in a wild melee that will be forever known as ‘Basketbrawl’.

HOCKEY

One for the boys, though both our national hockey teams felt heartbreak at the World Cup.

The Kookaburras (men’s) claimed a bronze medal, losing their semi-final in a shootout, while the Hockeyroos (women’s) finished fourth.

SWIMMING & ATHLETICS

Australia's male swimmers pipped the women for most golds won at the Commonwealth Games, 16 to 12. It was the same in athletics, with the men winning seven golds to six.

UFC

Robert Whittaker had a triumphant year, after an early illness, defending his middleweight championship against the man he beat to the belt in the first place, Cuban colossus Yoel Romero. ‘The Reaper’ (or, as fans prefer, ‘Bobby Knuckles’), will next defend his title against Kelvin Gastelum at Melbourne’s Rod Laver Arena in February.

Tai Tuivasa made a splash in the heavyweight division this year before losing to Junior dos Santos in Adelaide this month, while Alex Volkanovski is undefeated in five fights in the UFC and one to watch at featherweight.

Megan Anderson finally made it into the Octagon this year, though the women’s 145-pounder was beaten by former bantamweight champion Holly Holm. She has the chance to get her first UFC win on the year-ending pay-per-view card (UFC 232 in Las Vegas) against Cat Zingano.

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