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Sporting Review of the Year 2009

Nick Bryant | 06:35 UK time, Tuesday, 15 December 2009

What will be your abiding memory of the Australian sporting year? Maybe you started 2009 at the New Year's Test in Sydney, when the crowd at the SCG stood as one when the South African captain Graeme Smith walked from the pavilion in a plaster-cast in a valiant, if unsuccessful, attempt to save the match. Perhaps you were at the Oval, when, after five-and-a-half hours at the crease, Michael Hussey was deceived by the off-spinner, Graeme Swann, thus handing England the Ashes. Perhaps you were even lucky enough to watch Tiger Woods play in Melbourne in the days when his poise and precision were the focus rather than his wayward drives. Perhaps you were watching your flat-screen plasma when the disgraced rugby league star, Matty Johns, fronted up before the Channel Nine cameras.

As with most sporting years, Australian fans have witnessed the good, the bad and the ugly. And as ever, the fastest, highest and strongest have ended up vying for column space with the most drunken, the most violent and the most boorish. Fittingly enough, at this year's Walkley Awards for journalism, the sports reporting award went to the Four Corners, ABC's flagship investigative news programme, which explored a series of sex scandals in rugby league.

It neatly makes the point, for in 2009 Australian sport witnessed more shock than awe. Its front page stories were arguably more noteworthy than its back page stories - which is all the more maddening since Australia boasts some fine, fine sportswriters.

For all that, there was much to enjoy on the field of play. In rugby league, the coach Craig Bellamy led the Melbourne Storm to deserved success, but could not do the same for New South Wales in the State of Origin, which has arguably become the biggest annual sporting event on the calendar.

Aussie Rules Football produced the almost all-conquering St Kilda, which won a club record 19 consecutive matches but could not extend their winning streak all the way to the grand final, where Geelong took the honours.

In rugby union, there was an imposing win for the Wallabies against the Springboks in Brisbane, and the emergence that night of Will Genia, a George Gregan-like scrum half.

In cricket, Ricky Ponting and his new look band of brothers celebrated an overseas victory in South Africa and hoisted again the Champions Trophy.

But Australian sport was beset in 2009 by something which outsiders do not commonly associate with Australian sport: chronic inconsistency.

So the same cricket team that won in South Africa could not smother a fairly average England outfit during the Ashes. The same rugby team that beat the world champions in Brisbane could not even beat Scotland at Murrayfield. Even the normally all-conquering Kangaroos, the national rugby league team, could only draw with New Zealand in October, having lost to them in the World Cup final in 2008.

Surely the most consistent team of the year was the Socceroos, who qualified for the World Cup without any of the usual dramas and managed to hold Holland to a 0-0 draw - even if the oft-heard criticism of the Australians is that their game plan is to stop opponents playing great football rather than striving for it themselves. Next year, in the World Cup, they will face their ultimate test, in a talent-packed first round group which includes Germany, Serbia and Africa's main torchbearer, Ghana.

In the ongoing battle of the codes, Aussie Rules has ended on a high, by firming up its plans to expand into Western Sydney and the Gold Coast. Rugby league will be reflecting on a year of on-field brilliance and, for some players, off-field madness. And rugby union is in the doldrums, with even the game's most ardent fans questioning whether they want to part with money to watch 80 minutes of aerial ping-pong and place-kicking.

The individual performance of the year? I'll long remember the try scored by Fuifui Moimoi of the Parramatta Eels in the NRL grand final, when he crossed the line at dazzling speed even though half of the Melbourne Storm seemed to be hanging from his back. Then there is the poll-vaulter Steve Hooker, a gold medallists in Beijing, who won the world championships in Berlin, despite tearing his abductor muscle only the week before. And what of the boxer Danny Green's 122-second win over the legendary Roy Jones Jr - a night when all of Australia surely went green.


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  • 1. At 08:25am on 15 Dec 2009, hackerjack wrote:

    Africa's main torchbearer, Ghana.


    What????? Ghana are at best Africa's 4th team behins Cote D'Ivore, Nigeria and Cameroon.

    As for the consistency of the socceroos, yeah that will happen when the best team you play in a meaningful match is barely in the worlds top 30.

    The best and most consistent Aussie sportsmen of the year for me were Hooker and Mark Webber.

    Hooker as you mentioned won multiple events while Mark Webber has finally emerged from being a good midfield runner in F1 to someone who is now a genuine threat to win races on a regular basis.

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  • 2. At 11:40am on 15 Dec 2009, Joseph Postin wrote:

    I was at the A-League grand final.
    They run their league small as it is with some teams playing each other 3 times in a season, and then run a knockout competition at the end of the home and away rounds.
    Anyway Melbourne won 1-0 against Adelaide Utd at the Telstra dome.
    I can safely say, it wasn't the finest sporting moment in the Australian calendar this year. The A-league standard is similar to league one (old 3rd division) and I believe most teams would struggle to be in the top half of the league with the odd one skilled and competitive enough to fight for promotion. I know it is a minor sport and I know that it is a new establishing league, but, when has Australia ever accepted mediocrity in sport.
    There is no suprise their national squad contains only international natural born stars. The A-League gets into the national squad only for friendlies and minor qualifiers where the result doesn't matter and the result generally doesn't as they struggle against all teams.
    I was really hoping the Ashes rivalry would rub off on the World Cup and was desperately hoping that England and Australia would be drawn together. I believe it would have launched the nations interest. A chance to defeat the old country, as they still whisper with reverend voices about the friendly win over England at Twickernham. Comment that they not only beat England that night, but (due to the volume of substitutions) beat us twice in one night.
    The AFL Grand final was actually (this year) an almost exciting game.
    The result wasn't decided until the last few minutes of play. Infact during the last few weeks of the tournament there were quite a few games where the result was decided at the death. The problem for AFL is this really is a rarety. Quite often the result is known by half time.
    Anyway many in Melbourne believe the final between Geelong (home town for me with no allegiance) and St Kilda was a classic. I have to take their word for it, and give it the nod for best sporting moment.

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  • 3. At 2:10pm on 15 Dec 2009, Kate Derby wrote:

    How sad that an Australian Sporting review ignores one of the sportsmen they should be most proud of.
    Red Bull Racing's F1 driver Mark Webber has battled back from terrible injury to have the best season by far, of his career.
    Pity that in Australia F1 is such an over looked sport.

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  • 4. At 2:59pm on 15 Dec 2009, Bren54 wrote:

    The AFL Grand Final was a fantastic match, the most exciting sporting event I've seen all year (and I live long-term in the UK, so call me insular if you like), watched by millions round Austrlaia not to mention almost 100,000 at the MCG. As usual, it gets a passing acknowledgement at best in the BBC's disgracefully Sydneycentric rugby-love roundup.

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  • 5. At 3:33pm on 15 Dec 2009, dennisjunior1 wrote:

    Nick Bryant:

    Thanks for the excellent retrospective on the Sporting World in

    -Dennis Junior-

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  • 6. At 9:58pm on 15 Dec 2009, 11pete11 wrote:

    3 Kate Derby: It's review of Australian Sports, done by a Brit on a British blog. Here in Australia Webber is highly respected and mentioned when it comes to motor sports generally.

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  • 7. At 00:00am on 16 Dec 2009, AustGirl wrote:

    Im still getting over how Andrew Johns got into the team of the Century yet he freely admitted (after he was caught) to using drugs during his so called career. Of course he'd play good, he'd be numb and high as a kite, to fly with the ball. If a sports man takes drugs they are banned etc. Why oh why, was Andrew Johns rewarded. Plus other halfbacks were far better and did the effort from their own heart and soul. This man took hard drugs, yeh maybe not a suprize to some but struth, he was caught in a nightclub in England (Shame 1) Denied it (shame 2) then admitted to it, used excuses (shame 3) and was rewarded, the biggest shame of all - arh let me correct that - the biggest disgrace of all.

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  • 8. At 01:57am on 16 Dec 2009, Stephanie wrote:

    Three glaring omissions: Craig Alexander, Mick Fanning and Stephanie Gilmore - all world champions.

    Alexander won back-to-back Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii. Running in stifling heat, completing the 226.2km endurance test in 8:20:21.

    Fanning and Gilmore both are the 2009 ASP World Title holders in surfing.

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  • 9. At 04:36am on 16 Dec 2009, Ellis Turrell wrote:


    No sporting review would be complete without mentioning the issue of sports coverage on television. Once again, free-to-air commercial channels have failed to grasp just how confusing sports coverage in Australia is. I actually don't know which channel has the right to which sport anymore.

    But more importantly, it's the people in Perth who have been let down once more. Perth hardly ever gets live sport on free-to-air channels, and in the 21st century that simply isn't good enough. Sport should be broadcast live across the nation wherever possible. I'm fed up of having to look online to find out the latest results before Perth has even seen them on TV.

    Also, I've switched on the TV to watch the Third Test Match at the WACA only to discover that people in Perth aren't getting live coverage of the cricket, even though everywhere else is.

    One day, TV networks need to realise that sports coverage in Australia is not up to scratch. I've never experienced such a complete disregard for live sport. Australians should be ashamed.

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  • 10. At 05:43am on 16 Dec 2009, TheMoz wrote:

    Michael Katsidis and Vic Darchinyan both made a big impact on the world boxing stage. Vic may end up as one of Australia's best boxers.

    The Roosters sunk low low low. From 4 from 5 grand final appearances, they hit the bottom of the ladder in 2009. It is rare for a team to fall so quickly off the perch. Their players dominated the front pages all year to add insult to injury.

    Danny Green was good but how hard is it to beat a man who was named The Ring magazine boxer of the year in 1994.

    Fui Fui's try was amazing, and it was one of the best years ever for League...on the field.

    If Morrissey played League I wonder what position he'd play?

    good blog Nick.
    Morrissey in Australia

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  • 11. At 10:03am on 16 Dec 2009, TheMoz wrote:

    Actually i retract my praise of the blog Nick.

    Webber was a big omission.

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  • 12. At 11:07am on 16 Dec 2009, TheMoz wrote:

    Dear Bren54, (and all other Melbourne Living and Bleating posters)

    Cry me a small man syndrome river.

    You watch a sport played by only a couple of teeny weeny suburbs and towns. Isn't Carlton just 6 streets wide and 4 streets deep? Hardly geopolitical tribalism. This is the BBC website - the big time, the grand stage. I am surprised your 'sport' even got a couple of sentences in this blog. I'd have swapped the Triathlete and the F1 star for any VFL comments.

    If you're not careful Brent (is your first name David?), then Mr Bryant will have to write up a lot of 'curling'and 'netball' blogs to satisfy all you lovers of bottom tier sports.

    Kindest Regards,

    Worldly Moz

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  • 13. At 11:57am on 16 Dec 2009, Matthew Oberklaid wrote:

    was rugby league played this year? who won?

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  • 14. At 9:56pm on 16 Dec 2009, Camo wrote:

    By far the biggest sporting cataclysm of this or any other year was the ceremonial burning of The Camo's carlton membership.
    Quote current carlton president stephen kernahan circa 1995 after a then-record 22-2 season and 16th premiership "stick around, we're hitting the p-1-ss all night and all day tomorrow."
    Sacked a player for hitting the p-1-ss for half a day...
    Witness sending a former player to rehab twice during consecutive seasons - hey einstein, not all Lance Whitnall's flab was pies, no?
    sent to rehab in consecutive seasons, DURING the season.
    Sacked a player after staying clean for 18 months and falling off the wagon for half a day.
    The sacked player refused trade offers when he was THE prime moving fwd in the league. Stayed with a team on the bottom of the ladder. Won individual goal scoring trophy in a team finishing last.
    Committed. Delivered. Repeatedly. Showed loyalty. After last episode with the booze, stayed clean on his own undertaking for 18 months.
    Go well Fev. Brisbane flag in 2010/2011 - the years that should have been Carlton's... I wont be watching tho.

    Go Tom Brady & the Boston (sorry.. 'new england') Pats.

    p.s. - what is this "league" thing? Is that the one where they practice/play depending on who's not in jail that week? And a 20,000-seat stadium is "ambitious"? And they only get coverage in the media outlets owned by the owner of the competition? And their best players cant wait to do anything else? (Mundine, Sailor, Hunt, etc etc) - Is that what you mean by "league"?

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  • 15. At 00:15am on 17 Dec 2009, Joseph Postin wrote:


    Please post sober next time.

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  • 16. At 08:33am on 18 Dec 2009, jtdhstky wrote:

    "State of Origin, which has arguably become the biggest annual sporting event on the calendar" - bah, humbug!

    Where in Australia does his event have ANY resonance AT ALL outside the NSW-QLD corridor. Compare this with truly nation-unifying sporting events such as the Melbourne Cup, the Australian Tennis Open, the latest sporting mission of the 'Baggie Greens' - or even the Aussie Rules Football Grand Final...

    As I have said before, Nick, you need to *get out more*
    - no longer in Australia is it the case that you need to be focused on Sydney, or be camping out (an approximation to past words attributed to Mr P. Keating)
    - see the recent political-cum-financial shambles in NSW and the article in 'The Weekend Australian' magazine ~2 weeks ago on how Sydney as a city has well and truly lost its way in recent times...

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  • 17. At 09:45am on 18 Dec 2009, TheMoz wrote:

    SOO has the highest individual ratings of any TV show since the OZtam ratings system came into effect in 2001. it sits in most of the top ten of the last 8 years continually breaking its own records.

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  • 18. At 10:01am on 18 Dec 2009, TheMoz wrote:

    Sorry, that post above was wrong, i was looking at the wrong data.

    but can i ask why all this "my city is better than your city" stuff comes from?

    Australia's truth is that each capital city has its own vitality mostly due to the vast distances between them. As a nationa we are sort of bonded by cricket (and maybe a smidgeon of swimming and soccer) but mostly we love our own winter sports.

    You can't expect a Melbourne-centric blog. So what does a Nation-centric view of sport look like for Australia?

    It is not a data abberation that the biggest AFL TV audiences have been the two west coast v sydney GF's.

    we all love different sports. time to simply accept that.

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  • 19. At 5:25pm on 18 Dec 2009, democracythreat wrote:

    I think the author could have focused more on the State of Origin result.

    It is important that NSW were completely outclassed and destroyed on all three occasions. Queensland proved that NSW is an inferior state with inferior inhabitants. Again.

    Those are facts. It is THE real news.

    News I did not get from this blog.

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  • 20. At 6:26pm on 18 Dec 2009, funniinnit wrote:

    This comment has been referred for further consideration. Explain

  • 21. At 04:27am on 21 Dec 2009, jtdhstky wrote:

    Interesting that TheMoz seems to infer that I write from Melbourne - I don't!

    Having lived in Australia for almost 10 years, I do however agree with TheMoz that the "my city is better than your city" banter that occurs in ths great country is somewhat juvenile.

    But even more frustrating is Mr Bryant's tendency to perpetuate the 'uninformed view from Britain' perception (which perhaps emenates from his own London-centric view of the UK?) that Australia essentially = Sydney
    This is especially misleading now that Sydney has essentially become a politico-financial basket case, which the rest of the country may end up subsidizing as it continues to show that it is manifestly incapable of running itself effectively...

    Magnificent harbour that it possesses, Sydney is also most notable among Asutralian cities for the huge gulf betwen the 'haves' (who live clustered around the harbour) and the 'have nots' (who live elsewhere)
    - this represents a stark contrast by comparison with other Australian cities, but perhaps sits more easily with the world view of someone who hails from the regional wealth extremes of the UK or USA...

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