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The downer Down Under

Tom Fordyce | 13:22 UK time, Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Just when you thought you'd had all your Christmas presents, you wake up to find another beauty left under the tree.

Rip off the wrapping paper, and there it is - Australia's sporting supremacy, smashed into hundreds of tiny pieces.

For sports fans around the world, battered into weary submission by years of Australian dominance, the sight is as sweet as it is surprising.

A first home cricketing series defeat in 16 years? Allowing a touring team to successfully chase down 414 in the fourth innings, and then escape from 184-7 to 459 all out in the next match?

It isn't meant to be like this. Ordinarily, Australian conquers while Britons capitulate. They do the exercise, we do the eating. They do the success, we do the self-deprecation.


But South Africa's triumph over Ricky Ponting's boys, and the preceding series defeat in India, are only two aspects of it.

There's a decent argument that this has been the worst sporting year in Australian history.

Linger, unless you're in green and gold, on the following results from 2008 - the ultimate austrannus horribilis, if you will.

  • Sixth place in the Olympics medal table - an acceptable showing unless you see where Great Britain finished. It's hard to say what must have been more painful - failing to win a single men's swimming gold, or having to watch your sports minister don a Team GB tracksuit top
  • Losing the rugby league World Cup for the first time since 1975, to a side beaten 30-6 in the tournament's opening game, and then having coach Ricky Stuart quit in disgrace after being caught abusing the match officials
  • Being beaten in football World Cup qualifiers by China and Iraq
  • Not having a single male or female tennis player ranked in the world's top 50
  • Having an Aussie golfer leading the Open going into the final round, only for him to then to card a seven-over-par 77 to finish six shots behind the winner

It gets worse. You might have missed it at the time, but Australia also lost both matches in the annual International Rules Football contest against Ireland (Aussie Rules meets Gaelic Football).

The mulleted Simon Whitlock was vanquished by Wales's Mark Webster in the final of the BDO world darts championships, while Australia's only Grand Prix driver, Mark Webber, broke his leg cycling at his own charity event.

And while the Wallabies might have gained partial revenge for their World Cup defeats by England with the thrashing at Twickenham in November, they were also spanked by the All Blacks in their last three meetings.


Now - all this may just be a blip, a freakish one-off never to be repeated.

Cricket fans in particular will be wary of celebrating too loudly, fearful that, like a monster in a horror film, the Aussie corpse will suddenly flick open an eye and stagger to its feet, roaring wildly before devouring every Englishman within reach.

It's happened before. Look what followed last time anyone dared dream that the beast had been slain, after the Ashes in 2005 - it went back into its cave, re-grew all the severed limbs and ripped England to shreds in the following series.

It's also not as if British sport had a year untainted by failure. The England cricket team were also dismantled at home by South Africa and away in India, while its rugby team in both codes went from bad to worse.

Then again, what about Lewis Hamilton? Wales's rugby team? Scotland's Chris Hoy? Not to mention the other 46 Olympic medallists?

It was the business in Beijing which seemed to hurt Australians most.

As sports writer John Birmingham wrote in his Olympic blog, "Frankly I don't care where we sit on the tally as long as it's somewhere in front of those gappy-toothed sock and sandal wearing (expletive deleted to comply with revised BBC guidelines)."

Christmas is a time for overindulging in a guilt-free manner. So with that in mind, enjoy this unprecedented Aussie anguish as much as you like, unfettered by fears of what might happen next year.

Australia - allow the rest of the sporting world this brief moment in the sun. We have every expectation that we'll be eating humble pie for Christmas dinner this time in 2009.

Until then, let the schadenfreude flow.


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  • Comment number 1.

    A very clever, light hearted article, and a very enjoyable read. But, Tom, and i'm afraid to say this, your warning is spot on. I imagine that we can expect a resurgent sporting body within Australia over the next year...

    Lets hope we are ready for it...

  • Comment number 2.

    Australia fought hard in this series but in reality they are a shadow of their former side.
    I would say currently they are below the West Indies in terms of talent and only slightly better than Bangladesh (Bangladesh have a superior batting line up).
    Amazing to think how 2 players carried them through so many games, what chances of unearthing another Warne, players like this usually only come along once in a lifetime?

  • Comment number 3.

    i love wotchin da ozzies fail nd dat just sums it all rite up

    thanks 4 such an enjoyable read

    loved it?

  • Comment number 4.

    i love wotchin da ozzies fail nd dat just sums it all rite up

    thanks 4 such an enjoyable read

    loved it!

  • Comment number 5.

    Whilst I did not expect the current decline that Australia find themselves in, to say they are below West Indies in terms of talent, is an outrage. Mitchell Johnson? Ricky Ponting? Michael Hussey? Andrew Symonds? Brett Lee? They are still moulding as a team, the gap left by Mcgrath, Warne and Langer are massive, the Australians are still adjusting.

    Bangladesh are an up and coming side, and with the right direction and focus, can soon become a very tricky opposition, especially in Bangladesh. But Australia's batting line up is far, far superior to that of Bangladesh's...

  • Comment number 6.

    A wonderful recap on Australia's failings in the past year - nothing better to watch than Aussies getting beat!!

  • Comment number 7.

    Maybe they'll lead us into a false sense of security until they thump us in the Ashes.

    That's one prediction I'd like to be wrong at.

  • Comment number 8.

    Sure it's not been a great year for Australia, but it's hardly a worry for them considering how they normally do.
    What would be better is for the British media to actually report the achievments of our own sports stars outside of football cricket, rugby and tennis more effectively. Then it wouldn't come as such a surprise to the general public when they do really well. Most of our successful athletes in the Olympics were previous Olympic and/or World champions so I expected them to do well.
    I don't really like articles like this, since you are getting close to lowering yourself to the level of the Australian tabloid media. I also don't agree with the generalisation that Brits capitulate. Losses come from not being good or prepared enough.
    Country for country we are strong at most sports and in sports that are properly organised we are very strong. This points to an Australian-style setup where if you put the money in and get the structure and attitude right, you will be successful. Nationality becomes irrelevant.

  • Comment number 9.

    "I would say currently they are below the West Indies in terms of talent and only slightly better than Bangladesh (Bangladesh have a superior batting line up)."

    Not quite. The West Indies have one world class player (Chanderpaul). The Australians still have several, despite lacking in the bowling department.

    And how can you compare the Bangladeshi batsmen to the Australians? The Australians have three batsmen who average over 50 in Test Cricket. An average of 40 would be phenomenal for Bangladesh.

  • Comment number 10.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 11.

    Jaques, Symonds, Lee, Watson, Clark all injured. They'll be back for sure. As for the rest, yippee! Get that Team GB trackie on! You beauty!

  • Comment number 12.

    Englandman makes a few very good points.

  • Comment number 13.

    Tom: I wouldn't worry about Australia losing to China and Iraq; they qualified for the last WCQ stage with a match to spare and fielded an experimental side against China.

  • Comment number 14.

    Absolutely love it. First thing I have done the last few weeks is look at the score in the morning. Could not believe my ears when they said the saffers had a first innings lead of 60 odd. Thought I was hearing things. We all know it will be a blip and revenge will be forth coming, probably next year. But by god it feels so very, very nice to have a gloat. It has been a long, long time. And yes I will enjoy the moment whilst it is here. Long may it last. Now come on and whitewash them and demote them to number 2.

  • Comment number 15.

    isn't Lleyton Hewitt Australian and in the World's Tennis top 50?

  • Comment number 16.

    Cadel Evans was my highlight - talk about bad loser!!!!!!

  • Comment number 17.

    Cadel Evans second again in the Tour de France.
    First Gold Medal in men's pole vault.
    A rare silver medal for a white woman in the Women's 110 metre hurdles.
    The Wallabies beating the All Blacks 34-19 and winning getting away wins in SA, Paris and Twickenham for the first time ever in the same season.
    That golfer is over 50 and a part timer showed up most of the field.
    The Socceroos are one of the form teams in Football, only lost twice under their current coach.

  • Comment number 18.

    Outrage :D Hitler was an outrage, and Stalin not my post.
    Moulding the team is about right though, this lot have more mould than a piece of old cheese, no way are they good enough, if England don't marmalise them then that will be England's fault for screwing up (again) this lot are not up to it.

    'Whilst I did not expect the current decline that Australia find themselves in, to say they are below West Indies in terms of talent, is an outrage. Mitchell Johnson? Ricky Ponting? Michael Hussey? Andrew Symonds? Brett Lee? They are still moulding as a team, the gap left by Mcgrath, Warne and Langer are massive, the Australians are still adjusting.

    Bangladesh are an up and coming side, and with the right direction and focus, can soon become a very tricky opposition, especially in Bangladesh. But Australia's batting line up is far, far superior to that of Bangladesh's...'

  • Comment number 19.

    I'm neither an Aussie nor an Englishman, but I have to say even when Australia seem to be at their weakest, the Englishmen cannot help but put their massive inferiority complex on public display through articles such as these. The author was really clutching at straws with the football, F1, tennis and golf examples.

    "It was the business in Beijing which seemed to hurt Australians most."

    No, it was the cricket and the rugby league that hurt them the most, but I can see the motive for deliberately misleading the readers by innocently picking something that England actually did better than Australia at (Did I say England? I meant Britain. It's the same thing anyway; it's not like the "home-nations" want separate teams or anything right? Oh) as opposed the disasters that are the England cricket and RL teams.

  • Comment number 20.

    Greg Norman was a credit to anyone over 40 let alone 50, an unreal performance in the Open.

    'The Socceroos are one of the form teams in Football,' ? Thats scraping the barrel slightly.

  • Comment number 21.

    BakkiesXV could you name the teams the socceroos have beaten over the past couple of years?? would be interesting to see if any of them contain 11 professional footballers.

    Why has everyone gone on about Australian sport for the past few years they have been VERY lucky at the olympics. Take out the swimming what are they good at??

    Australian cricket has been on the slide for years and have been very lucky they had some of the best players the game has ever seen in the same team at the same time. And looking at the ones coming through i could see them sliding down the rankings further year on year.

    We Brits forget all the sports we have world champions at, why hasnt anyone mentioned boxing?? name an australian boxer. Our athletics is improving, especially in the womens. name some australian athletes???

  • Comment number 22.

    The last point in post 18 has to be one of the funniest things i've read in ages! I'm sure the socceroos are one of the form sides in the world right now, and beating teams like Fiji and China must be quite a challenge!

  • Comment number 23.

    It's called banter and humor do you have those where your from?

    I'm neither an Aussie nor an Englishman, but I have to say even when Australia seem to be at their weakest, the Englishmen cannot help but put their massive inferiority complex on public display through articles such as these.

  • Comment number 24.

    I think you'll find it's humour! I think you'll find it's more to do with having to put up with Aussie gloating when ever they win's just nice to turn it around every now and then!

  • Comment number 25.

    The socceroos beat The netherlands earlier this year, nonetheless its being a rather disappointing year this year for all the aussies.
    But don't count us out yet or underestimate us!.

  • Comment number 26.

    As an unashamedly biased Aussie sporting fan, it has been a slightly tougher than usual year! Without making too many excuses, with a population nearly triple the size of Australia's, Great Britain should beat us in an Olympic medal tally and should consider it a failure if they don't. Coming 6th with only the 51st highest population in the world isn't too bad an effort, beaten perhaps only by Jamaica.
    To the cricket, replacing Warne, McGrath, Gilchrist and Langer is impossible but the future is still bright. The domination that we've seen for the last 15 or so years may never happen again and the resurgence of India and South Africa is great for the game. Below the West Indies and only slightly better than Bangladesh.....! You probably need to watch a bit more cricket mate. Watch out England in 2009!
    Having a half-hearted shot at Mark Webber is a bit lame considering he was raising money for children but I'll let that one pass through. Hopefully 2009 is the yeat that the UK's bubble will burst around Lewis Hamilton and you will realise that he is possibly the least popular and most uncelebrated World Champ around the rest of the globe.
    Fair call on the rugby league, can't find an argument for that one. Darts??? We had someone in the final of a World Championship??? Well there you go.... Didn't exactly hit the headlines Down Under.
    Anyhow, enjoy our brief slump on the world's sporting fields.... Bring on the Ashes!

  • Comment number 27.

    Advance Australia Fair...... Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha

  • Comment number 28.

    Make no mistake, The Austrailians will be up for the ashes in 2009. It's great to see them presently on their knees and there's a new world order in South Africa and India, but England aren't the team they were in 2005 by a long chalk. It'll be close but I still think the Aussies will shade it i'm afraid. I'm not talking my country down - just been realistic. England have to get past a resurgent West Indies first...

  • Comment number 29.

    The Aussie obsession with beating England is pretty funny, childish and funny again. Mostly in jest I know.

    If only they gathered today, wrote it all down and put it to film we wouldn't have to be exposed to the dribble that is the film Australia!!

  • Comment number 30.

    I admire the Aussies for how they have managed to punch above there weight in terms of population in the sporting field.

    But they are such bad sportsmen, when they win they boast about not having decent competition and when they lose its everyones fault but theirs!!

    They need to take that giant colonial shaped chip off their collective shoulder and realise they are an excellent country in their own right and can give other countries a bit of credit without appearing weak.

  • Comment number 31.

    Darts, are you serious????????

    I think you'd struggle on finding a dozen people in Australia who knew anything about that.

    Also in the football, we lost to China after we'd already made the next round and are currently leading our group and close to qualifying.

    Fair call on everything else though. Mind you if we have to suffer one in every 10 years or so just to enjoy the other 9 we'll live with it.

    It's not really even every 10, when was the previous time GB topped us on the Olympic medal tally? About 20 years I think.

    Sorry, we just can't help ourselves.

  • Comment number 32.

    syd-buy you really can't can you? Even when you pretend you are joking, you actually mean it!!

    So sad, even the kiwis have a sense of self deprecation but you boys.......

  • Comment number 33.

    On recent form the England cricket team is worse than the Australians were against the South Africans. (With a few exceptions: KP, Strauss, Swann)

    The Australians will find it tough going when they go to South Africa in the New Year but who wouldn't! If they lose again they will be even more frantic to beat England in the summer.

    That's all folks.

  • Comment number 34.

    I've had to put up with almost 10 years of stick from the locals (2005 excepted!), so to see the Aussies crumble against South Africa was very satisfying. I see it as my duty as a Pom to support any team that play Australia. They were a great team, but the depth, and it seems the spirit is no longer there in Ponting's current side.

    As for the next Ashes..... well it's anyone's isn't it?

  • Comment number 35.

    This is SUCH A GOOD REVIEW.. I have made sure all my sport loving English cheering family have read it. Great thanks so much for sharing

  • Comment number 36.

    It isn't just a couple of players retiring that has caused this huge defeat.

    There was no McGrath, Warne, Gilchrist or Langer during this series. These four players were all match winners on their day and the sad fact is that their replacements are nowhere near their level, ability wise. Even players like Lehman and Martyn have not been replaced adequately.

    It looks like Australia is on a slippery slope going in one direction, DOWN!!!

  • Comment number 37.

    Ah, you've got to love ending the year with some good old-fashioned Aussie v GB banter. I'm fully expecting to wake up tomorrow morning to a deluge of outrage from Down Under...

  • Comment number 38.

    love it when gobbie aussies lose.
    even sweeter when at home !
    notice the ground was nearly empty on the final day , such bad sports.
    nice way to finish off the year.

  • Comment number 39.

    The Socceroos should qualify for 2010 but after there will be a problem, this is an ageing squad with the majority of players nearly or over 30. South Africa will be the last hurruh for the likes of Schwarzer, Moore, Kewell, Chipperfield, for Cahill, Grella, Emerton, Bresciano this could be their last chance too as there is not really a great deal of talent coming up.

    The A-League is at best Division 2 standard, Adelaide may have got to the Asia Champions League final but Asia isn't the gold standard of football. For the real situation look away from the Socceroos who played in the 2006 World Cup and you see that there are very few players, like Scott McDonald, who are playing in the top leagues.

  • Comment number 40.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 41.

    Unfortunately, the Aussies will be back. Such a sports obsessed nation will not take this lying down.
    Australia has a massive chip on it's collective shoulder, especially when it comes to the 'mother country'.
    They are the GDR of the southern hemisphere. The East Germans thought that regularly topping the Olympic medal table made them a great country.
    It didn't. Not even close.
    Am I saying Australia is a totalitarian communist state? Of course not. There is no Stasi in Australia. There is a similarity, however, when it comes to heavy state investment in sport. I seem to recall that after their poor performance at the 1982 Commonwealth Games in Brisbane the government decided to take action. State funded sports academies sprouted all over the country. Just because they finished behind England in the medal table! We saw the same reaction this Olympic year. It's deeply pathetic. They are the world's worst losers. Exhibit A: their reaction to losing the Rugby League World Cup Final to New Zealand. They talk about 'whingeing poms' but the Aussies take the cake.

    I remember Barry Humphries once said that Australians have an inferiority complex towards the British... and that it was entirely justified!
    Excelling at sports doesn't make you a great nation. Australia is, and always has been, a global backwater.
    Aussies, you need to get over yourselves.

  • Comment number 42.

    After getting whitewashed in India, i could see that they haven't got a 'good' side anymore, and England have a chance next year.

  • Comment number 43.

    A past (Aussie?) all-rounder commented on the BBC cricket website:
    "As for the seamers, it was scary what Troy Cooley did for the England fast bowlers and I can't understand why he's not doing it for Australia."

    What is the story regarding Troy Cooley?
    Is he now not working for either the Poms or the Aussies?
    If he really worked wonders for the Poms in the UK Ashes series, why is he not employed by either team?

  • Comment number 44.

    While I suspect there will be a resurgence soon by the Aussies in sport, they will gradually find themselves having more years like this one than previous.

    The main reason is because they only have a population of 20 million. Other countries with HUGE numbers are catching up and will eventually supersede 'punching above their weight' nations like the Aussies and even eventually us British (60 million).

    The 2 reasons why the Australians did so well is due to 1. Their ferocious winning appetite and 2. The excellent sporting infrastructure which allowed them to squeeze every last drop from the talent pool.

    While they still maintain that fervent desire for success their model of training and producing Champions is being copied and replicated (to greater success) elsewhere and as such this century will see the country slowly slip to somewhere in the middle division.

  • Comment number 45.


    Have to laugh your blog was read out verbatim on the very popular Sydney radio show the Big Sports Breakfast over here in Australia, then discussed on air via various callers over a two hour period..

    Your comments got the goat up of presenters no end... They came out with there usually stuff about us being Great Britain at the Olympics not England. That they beat England at league and Union this year etc etc... that our Cricket team will loss the ashes to Australia in 2009

    Just think its great your blog was the topic of a radio phone in here in Australia. How proud you should be....

    Cheers....Peter in Petersham, Australia.... keep up the Aussie ribbing it makes my day!!

  • Comment number 46.

    very good article,

    as an aussie, i am glad the last 2 series have shown that Ponting is not a good captain, still a good cricketer, no imagination with bowling changes execpt when it may have cost him a match suspension for slow over rates.

    the Yarpies showed in both tests that if you
    are willing to build an innings you can post big scores, the Australians tried to blast shots rather than building an innings, hats off to the Yarpies they played very well over the first 2 tests.

    time to rebuild the team, no sentiment for what players have done in the past, get rid of Hayden, Symonds & Lee

  • Comment number 47.

    I cannot believe the vitriol being poured on Australia!!

    Banter is one thing, but this blog is degenerating into outright hatred!!

    Sure we've not had a great sporting year but it hasn't been that bad (apart from the cricket that is, and even that was half expected).

    Face it, as much as you think you are, you Poms are absolutely no different to us Aussies. You love to win and don't like it when you lose (especially when you don't expect to..)

    ....and as for Australia being are cultural backwater, what the hell does that mean?

  • Comment number 48.

    I'm a middle aged Aussie, and I thought the article was good value. Lighten up people!

    I'm probably going to be accused of being un-Australian, but here goes.......Pride comes before a fall. Always has, always will.

    There's a few of our precious sporting personalities' egos that have had an overdue deflating of late. Get over yourselves, or buy a box of tissues and have a good cry.

    You win some, you lose some, at the end of the day you look your competitor in the eye, take their hand and say "Well Played". It's not that hard, or too much to ask for.

    Show grace both in victory and in defeat. Be an ambassador for your country. Don't act like a petulant 4 year old. Might even gain some respect, other than the begrudging variety.

    Is is coincidence that 2 of our biggest geese are called Ricky? Boys (and I mean that literally), learn something from the way Graeme Smith conducted himself at yesterday's press conference.

    And as for our "sporting" press - don't even start me. With a few exceptions, what a bunch of knobs!

    Will we come back? - I doubt it.

    Will we learn to win (albeit less frequently)with humility? - I hope so.

    Will the rest of the world give a fat rat's behind about us - I don't think so.

  • Comment number 49.

    Re briandi01 "and as for Australia being a cultural backwater, what the hell does that mean?"

    As a pom in Aussie, I thought I'd reach out and help you here, with the help of my OD.

    Culture is a "refined understanding of the arts and other human intellectual achievment." A bit like understanding the wit in the original article. It will come, in time, just work at it.

    Now a backwater is "a place remote from centre of activity or thought". I'm not sure this one can be overcome I'm afraid.

    You win some you loose some I guess. Like in sport.

  • Comment number 50.


    "I see it as my duty as a Pom to support any team that play Australia"

    if you hate the country so much, why don't you go back to england? It's all about assimilation mate.

  • Comment number 51.

    having had the privilige of playing cricket for a season in perth in 2005- 2006 i can tell you that the standard of club cricket is so much higher it is hard to believe so enjoying the demise of the national side may not last to long. however i believe we can win the ashes this coming summer. when a side loses all time greats like warne and mcgrath also world class players like gilchrist and langer you are bound to have dip in performances ,by all means enjoy it while it lasts because it wont last long.

  • Comment number 52.

    You Bitter Bitter Poms... Having to drag someone else down to make yourselves feel better! Can't you enjoy your own good sporting performances without bringing rivalaries into it all.

    One only hopes we see another Ashes whitewash on your soil this time and in 2010 we see the socceroos progress further than english team (who by the way lost to the French this year if we are taking score!)

  • Comment number 53.

    Morning all;

    I am not English or Australian so here is my unbiased review.

    OK, the Aussies did not have a great year in sport but they will hit back hard.

    This GB thing is starting to get on my nerves a bit as well.

    When a sports people form Scotland, Wales or NI win something then they are Brittish, when they lose then they are known as Scottish, Welsh or from NI.

    When the English win then they are known as English and when they lose they are known as Brittish.

    The simple fact is, The English and the Aussies have a rivalry, not the rest of the iles.

    You are riding on the back of the Welsh and Scottish achievements (coupled with some English achiements) to have a cheap shot at the Aussies.

  • Comment number 54.

    Good article, but one question you mention the Welsh rugby team, Scotland's Chris Hoy so why not England's Lewis Hamilton?

    ENGLAND is a country and shouldn't be forgotten - we are most certainly NOT Britain.

  • Comment number 55.

    Also, is addition to my previous post. You are also riding on the shoulders of the Irish International Rules Football victory (not English), The Indian and SA cricket teams victories (also not English) to have a cheap shot at the Aussies.

    I say again, The rivalry is between the English and the Aussies NOT Brittain and the Aussies.

    Most Aussies have no problem with the Scottish, Welsh or NI and vice versa.

    rant should now be over unless i think of more :-)

  • Comment number 56.

    A mention of Australia beating England at rugby but no subsequent mention of Wales beating Australia. How about that for unbias BBC reporting? Tom Fordyce if you wanted to create an English only blog why didn't you say so at the very start?

  • Comment number 57.

    Please don't kick the Aussie's when they're down. It's very un-British.

    Rather we should congratulate India and South Africa and New Zealand, as well as the British Olympic team (and even the Welsh rugby team).

    And we should worry about future dominance of Indian cricket.

    Leave the kicking to the Aussies. They're quite capable of kicking themselves. (In fact, they do losing more gracefully than winning).

  • Comment number 58.

    Good article Tom, although I think some people are getting a little too hot under the collar about it!

    I don't understand why everyone's complaining about you using the examples of India and South Africa to take a so-called "cheap shot" at Australia. The whole point of the article was to highlight that it has not been Australia's best year for sport, and as such, using the India and South Africa examples are a perfectly valid way of highlighting that point.

    If the Australians choose to make questinable selections (eg Cameron White, Matthew Hayden) then that is their fault, not anybody else's.

    Furthermore, if some like to think that this article is bitter invective, I'd like them to read the sports columns of Sydney Morning Herald and other respected newspapers, especially around times of big clashes between England and Australia. I remember being out in Sydney before the final of the Union World Cup in 2003 in 2003, and a lot of the writing was xenophobic at best.

    The Australians have not had a good year. Accept that and, depending on whether you're Australian or otherwise, look forward to or fear the inevitable Australian comeback. As Englishmen, we all remember the whitewash that came after the Ashes win in 2005, and the impressive resurgence of the Aussie front row after their mauling in the World Cup. Australians can't dominate everything all of the time, and should be gracious enough to accept that fact and rebuild, as other sporting nations have had to do.

  • Comment number 59.

    Agreed with the results in the Cricket and Rugby-L very disappointing but good for the respective sports that someone else wins every once in a while.

    On the Football front though this was probably our best year yet. Top of the final WC qualifying group and our best ever FIFA ranking (28). Sure, we are minnows but definitely on the way up. Like the other sports mentioned are we really expected to be the best? It's not like we invented them :)

    Final note - I like how it becomes "English" success when English folk are doing well but when they're not the net goes wider and it becomes "British".

  • Comment number 60.

    Well, Australia has 20 million inhabitants, GB has 60 million.

    Has GB 3 times as good as Australia.

    Don't think so.

  • Comment number 61.

    A well written article, but the very fact we're taking so much pleasure in their rare moment of mediocrity just goes to show how fantastic they are at sport. Australia is the greatest sporting nation in the world bar none (no, I am not an Aussie), and if we were honest we would bet on an Aussie to show more heart, grit and skill than anyone else 9 times out of 10. We may have pipped them in the medal count, but remember they only have a third our population.

  • Comment number 62.

    I have seen a lot of this sort of thing since the Olympics. Someone has already said "pride cometh before the fall".

    To be fair ( as Peter Beardsley might put it ) quite a few UK based contributors have recognised this.

    As a kiwi I admire the Australians for their guts and drive, even though we are on the receiving end of quite a bit of punishment from them. I am sure that being next door has raised our game in a number of sports.

    They'll be back. Someone has already pointed out that they made a better fist of beating the Saffas than England did this year, so keep the open top bus on hold.

    The League victory was sweet but England should look more at their pretty poor performances in that competition than bag the Aussies. I'm pretty sure that most Australians did not share the views of their coach - listening to the commentary they were pretty fulsome in their praise of the Kiwis.

    Their rugby team is improving and the record between Aus and the ABs was two hidings on either side and a pretty close run victory in the last game. Robbie Deans may yet prove our nemesis in 2011 ( and will never be allowed to return to Canterbury if that is the case ).

    The Olympics argument is particularly galling. The miracle is that a nation with a relatively small population has done so well over the years. Again, I think they'll go back to the bunker in the Blue Hills and re-emerge the stronger for it. Just imagine how it will feel if they are above Team GB in the medal table in 2012. Some of the jibes above will then taste like ashes in Pomgolian mouths.

  • Comment number 63.

    Why don't you Brits focus on improving your own sport rather than slagging off us Aussies? The Australian media takes pride in Australian *wins* not opponents *losses*.

    I don't see how you can claim a bad year in Australian sport as a British victory?

    Spend more time focusing on your so-called national sports (case-in-point: Soccer. When's the last time you won anything meaningful in that? Let alone qualified for finals berths?)

  • Comment number 64.

    Some people still don't seem to understand the England / Britain thing.

    In some sports, we compete as Britain. So Chris Hoy is British in the olympics.

    In some sports - eg football - we compete separately. We are separate.

    In individual sports, most brits will support brits and do not really worry about Scottish, Welsh or English. Andy Murray is both Scottish and British, Lewis Hamilton is English and British. Win or lose.

    In some sports, including the 3 main team sports against the Aussies, we do a bit of both. In Union, the British Isles play as the Lions. In League, Great Britain someitmes competes in tri-nations.

    The cricket team is England and Wales, and a skilled Scot may play for England (Gavin Hamilton the last example, not Lewis's brother).

    I know it's off the point but a number of the posters are either mischieviously or just ignorantly missing this.

  • Comment number 65.

    What's all this crap about England wins and British losses?

    The Olympics were a British success. Welsh rugby was a Welsh success. Lewis Hamilton and Andy Murray were Lewis Hamilton and Andy Murray successes.

    As for Australia, yes they'll be back, but perhaps not as strongly:
    - India is poised to dominate cricket. You could almost say India is cricket and cricket is India.
    - I can't see NZ rugby union being eclipsed by Australia anytime soon.
    - The Olympics are getting harder. Big countries like Britain, which previously weren't bothered (1 Gold in Atlanta) have woken up. China has made it a national priority.

    Gromm9 - Australia the greatest sporting nation (per capita)? Maybe - quite a few small countries can claim that. Here are the medals per capita rankings from Beijing. If you add in Winter sports Norway would climb right up the table, and of course, this doesn't take into account the most important sport which would push New Zealand and South Africa right up.
    1. Bahamas (1) - 307,451
    2. Jamaica (7) - 311,592
    3. Slovenia (5) - 401,542
    4. New Zealand (9) - 463,717
    5. Australia (38) - 542,127
    6. Armenia (5) - 593,717
    7. Estonia (2) - 653,802
    8. Lithuania (5) - 713,041
    9. Bahrain (1) - 718,306
    10. Belarus (13) - 745,059

  • Comment number 66.

    When you decide to mix "English" and "British" so liberally you only invite such a backlash. Unfortunately, for many of us north of the border such an ill distinction has become synonymous with the BBC.

    But to get back on topic, write the Aussies off at your peril. You can only applaud their approach to sport, because no country with such a small population is so routinely successful in such a wide array of sports. They are improving in soccer, amongst the best two or three in the world in cricket and both codes of rugby, and have produced a number of outstanding individuals in athletics, golf and tennis, a Formula One world champion and three Olympic *winter* gold medallists to go with their 100+ Summer golds.

    That has to be respected and they are NOT a nation in decline.

  • Comment number 67.

    Definitely not a great year for Australian sport but I have still enjoyed watching our teams in action. The Kangaroos played some wonderful Rugby League at the World Cup, and are still by far the best rugby team in the world of either code. NZ played brilliantly in the final, and needed all the 50-50 calls to go their way to get the win.

    As for the cricket, well it's obvious we are not the side we used to be. All great teams have to come to an end at one point, and we need to unearth some great bowlers. I can see us being off the top spot for a few years now, probably hovering in the top 4 or so nations. However, I look forward to enjoying more competitive matches and a return of the days where I was desperate to see us win. In fairness, in recent years I have attended most cricket matches with the hope of seeing a close contest, not necessarily an Aussie win.

    And as for football, I thought the article was a bit harsh. We are currently going very well in World Cup qualifiers, and I'm sure I read recently have reached our highest ever World ranking. Only a major stumble can stop us getting to South Africa from here!

    As for all other sports and especially rugby union (just thought I'd mention this as the BBC spends far too much time obsessing over this very boring sport), who cares!

  • Comment number 68.

    Er, leave the Scots and the Welsh out of it mate. It's the English who have a problem with the Aussies, and if you don't try to hijack Hoy, Murray, Harrington, and Wales Grand Slam winners your left with a year when the Aussies stuffed you at Rugby League, Rugby Union and your cricketers failed to shine. How many English tennis players are in the top 50, how many englishman won golf grand slams?

    Dine out on Australias recent problems and remember this, what they've achieved this year would be a relatively good year for the English!!!

  • Comment number 69.

    Er... we're proud of Britain's acheivements and the contributions, whether from Scotland or Wales or wherever were excellant.

    Hardly 'hijacking Hoy, Murray, Harrington'. In those sports we competed as a team together, they were brilliant.

    England has a strong sporting tradition and are in the top 10 in the three major sports. The Welsh contribution in the cricket has been great over the years as well. As recently as 2005 Simon Jones was a spearhead of our attack.

    Please don't accuse us English of dining out on home nations success as we appreciate how well competitors from the home nations have done. We have plenty to be proud of as an individual nation and as part of a united team.

    Here's to a 2009 with success for the Lions, the GB tennis team, and home nations competitors.

    Looking forward to Ashes and Lions in South Africa particularly.

  • Comment number 70.

    Sporting supremacy? Around the world?

    1) no one outside of the roughly "commonwealth" nations cares about cricket (which is about as athletic as darts or snooker) or the various forms of egg-chasing.

    2) every host nation does well at their [insert sporting event here], no one should have expected a repeat of the sydney medal haul

    3) Iraq and China have better football players than Croatia B err I mean Australia. Guus Hiddink is a genius and Australia briefly overacheived while he was in charge

  • Comment number 71.

    Only thing Australia can beat anyone to at the moment?New Years Day, best savour it

  • Comment number 72.

    You realise that your 'commonwealth' countries are:

    England 50m
    Sri Lanka 20m
    New Zealand 5m
    Australia 20m
    Pakistan 170m
    India 1,150m
    Bangladesh 150m
    Zimbabwe 15m?
    South Africa 50m

    A LOT OF PEOPLE, hardly a select few interested in cricket.

  • Comment number 73.

    Post 61 has forced me to comment again. 'Aussies are the best sporting nation bar none'

    why do people keep believing this hype???

    Football - No
    Cricket - Not any more and wont be for a long time
    Rugby U - No and havent been for some time
    Boxing - Never
    Tennis - No and wont be for some time
    Motor Racing - No
    Overall Olympics - No (the swimming has boosted the aussie medal table up every year, mainly due to thorpe and hackett) the fact that you can win 7 medals in swimming alows the medal table to be distorted for so many years in favour of the aussies. Name 5 australian athletes???

    What are they the 'worlds best' at??????

    And as for the british thing its completely the other way round. If its an englishman doing well there british, if its a scot doing well he's a scot always has been!!!!

  • Comment number 74.

    Up front - I am an Aussie.

    I liked the article but then the contributing comments featured the typical Aussie bashing that I have come to expect from a UK based blog and English people in general. I have lived here for eight years and have seen and heard it all. As a nation you really aren't in a position to point the finger at others for gloating (extensively) when winning.

    For a variety of reasons - some of which have been referred to here - I think Australia's position on the world sporting table will slowly drift downwards. We have been fortunate to punch above our weight for a long time in a large number of sports. As I fear we wont have this time for much longer I would like to take a moment to glow in some basic information:

    Medal Table:
    Atlanta: Aus 7th, GBR 36th
    Sydney: Aus 4th, GBR 10th
    Athens: Aus 4rd, GBR 10th
    Atlanta: Aus 6th, GBR 4th

    Medal Table Per Capita:
    Atlanta: Aus 7th, GBR 49th
    Sydney: Aus 4th, GBR 37th
    Athens: Aus 3rd, GBR 29th
    Atlanta: Aus 7th, GBR 15th

    What I like is that we have done it in lots of sports - in Sydney we won more medals in more sports (18) than any other country. Since 1996 we have generally been around 12 - 14 sports. (Beijing 12 for Aus; 11 for GBR).

    For this I have used IF basis (i.e. diving, swimming, Synchro and Water Polo are one IF only and therefore medals in 3 of these only count as one sport; artistic, rhythmic and trampolining are one IF only; Flatwater and Canoeing canoe/kayak are one IF only). In each case the number of "disciplines" in which medals are won would be higher. We may never achieve that again as some countries start to specialise in individual sports.

    Answering the question of one blogger "which sports other than swimming are Aussies good at?" Apparently quite a few.

    Number of registered players
    Aus: 82818
    Eng: 698163

    There are two questions here
    i) why aren't you 8.4 times better than us?
    ii) why don't you stuff all the other six nation teams every time when they have a miniscule playing base when compared to you? i.e. Scotland 32,000; Wales 47,000; Ireland 114,627; France 282 000;

    We are definitely on the decline, but for almost 14 years we were almost unchallenged number one. Definitely an achievement to be proud of. I suspect that the Indians and the South Africans will really now be the force(s) to be reckoned with.

    Nothing to boast about here but hey, it's not our national sport ... ;-)

    Some other stuff that is incorrect in the responses:

    1. Australian Sports Institute was set up after we had a dismal performance at the Montreal Olympics in '76 NOT after we "lost" at the Brisbane Comm Games in '82

    2. Culture - actually means "the way of life, especially the general customs and beliefs, of a particular group of people at a particular time" (Cambridge Dictionary) not an understanding of arts and other human achievement - that seems an selective and elitist usage of the word

    3. There was a mention of athletics (name an Australian athlete) - Australia finished equal on the Athletics table with GB at the Olympics (1 gold, 2 silver, 1 bronze each)

    Actually this has been fun and is meant in the same good nature as the article but I am sure there will be some Pom somewhere who carries on about it.

    P.S. I am conflicted about the whoel Greg Norman thing. An amazing performance for someone his age; but i don't think there was anyone who didn;t belive that he was giong to choke on the final day - apparently we have produced the world champion in that one also.

  • Comment number 75.

    re: tour_contact's post
    Results per capita? Number of registered rugby players? Since when have Australians needed such excuses? I could go on about the better facilities, weather and space that you have which suits sport much better but I won't. I'll just enjoy the amusement at reading such stuff from an Aussie desperate for excuses.
    Bring on the Ashes!
    Good blog article by the way.

  • Comment number 76.


    what excuses - I thought it was more a poor indictment on English sporting performance and I was enjoying what Australia had achieved when we most probably shouldn't have.

    As I said originally "I am sure there will be some Pom somewhere who carries on"

    Didn't take long. I am sure there will be others - bring it on folks, you know you can't help yourself

  • Comment number 77.

    I love reading so many Englishmen sinking the boot into Australia to try to make themselves feel better then describing Australia's sense of inferiority towards them. Is it a total lack of self-awareness and wishful thinking or an exercise in subtle English humour? I'm hoping the latter.

    The author of the article seems to have a sense of humour (I assume he's writing tongue in cheek) but the rest is mostly petty bitterness.

    WolfinSydney: "win some loose some" do they? Writing that while taking a condescending tone regarding language is hilarious. I love being lectured about culture by a nation which apparently needs a pair of headlighting norks inside the front cover to buy a newspaper.

  • Comment number 78.

    Can't be bothered to read all of it, but you seem to have left out Oz Stoner in the Moto GP who. despite powdering his nose and Ducati bending the fuel rules, lost out to Valentino the Great. But at least VR let him win Philip Island so he didn't throw all his toys out of the pram.

  • Comment number 79.

    Happy NY to all from a Brit in Oz. "England" is so right, the olympics hurt Australia the most, particularly the cycling and to a lesser extent the swimming/sailing. However, the most disgraceful sporting activity here is the pathetically easy qualification Australia has for the football World Cup in SA next year. Not one of their opponents would have a snowballs chance of getting to SA from any European group and Australia would struggle in most of them. Looking at the various groups there are many Euro teams who cannot qualify because of numbers, yet would dispose of this current Aussie side. As for the Ashes England (who themselves look weak, particularly in the bowling department) can be sure of galvanised oponents.

  • Comment number 80.

    In the words of Russel Crowe (born a Kiwi by the way), never underestimate the Aussies when they're down or have their backs against the wall. Be warne-d: Don't count your Ashes eggs yet.

  • Comment number 81.

    I've got to say that it's terrific to see England doing much better at sport recently but please don't take yourselves too seriously like we do in Australia. When it comes to the World ever noticing us, sporting achievements is all we have to rave about here. Let's admire and enjoy the athletes' efforts and not only the medals: Not all sporting heroes were also sporting greats (I so do miss Eddie The Eagle).

  • Comment number 82.

    we get a good laugh here in oz about how you britts support any team that takes on our aussies such as we witnessed here in the rugby league world cup,we can only assume that because your national teams are so hopeless you need to try to find winners to must be quite humiliating for you..anyhow we aussies are a loyal mob and we still back our boys to beat your english team or world eleven or whatever their called these the way just in passing we have dominated world cricket for ten years just in case your papers fail to mention it..

  • Comment number 83.

    One year of bad results isn't really a thing to get in such a lather about.
    English cricket fans are usually grumpy because of such a protracted slump of the national team. What will be more interesting than the current poor Ozzie performances will be what happens in the next year or so. Don't know about the other sports but Ian Chappel wasn't very optimistic about the chances for a quick restoration of the Australian cricket team. We might see our Commonwealth friends have to become a bit more like us ie, sardonic and self-depreciating, just so as to be a able to deal with it!

    Aussie v Brit spats are always amusing...long may they continue....lets not change a thing.

  • Comment number 84.

    Further to previous comments regarding medals won per capita the Aussies have a good argument. However, what they do not conveniently tell is that Australia spends MORE per capita on sport, particularly elite athletes through various Institutes of Sport, than ANY other country in the world.

  • Comment number 85.

    To have gone fishing in Cricket, Rugby, Tennis and swimming in the same year are symptoms that may have their roots in some very logical reasons.
    In cricket at least I can say the single most massive set back has been the retirement of the greatest spinner of our time, Shane Warne. He was an outstanding matchwinner for Australia.

  • Comment number 86.

    britain may have done well in the olympics but most of the medals were for crap sports.

  • Comment number 87.

    Allthough I'm english, proud, and currently hammered, the aussies will hammer us in the ashes 2-1 or worse. We can't bat with any kind on consistancy and our bowlers blow hot and cold. And dont get me started on the wicket keepers............

    The aussies revival (however sweet their fall from grace was) will start with a comprehensive ashes win.

    Having said all that, hasnt moores assembled a REALLY good county side (albiet a rubbish test team)

  • Comment number 88.

    With all this written about the Australians being a bit paranoid etc spare a thought for South Africa. We win the World Cup in 2007, have a wobble in the tri-nations but comprehensivley thrash England at Twickenham. In cricket we beat England in England and then go on to win our first series in Australia in 100 years of trying,yet we hardly get a mention. The Proteas are now serious contenders for the top spot in world cricket. Graham Smith who the barmy army used to slag off is now described as "inspirational" by the BBc. The Springboks are now referred to as "the mighty Springboks" once again on BBC, yet no-one writes blogs about how well we have done or how we have managed to punch above our weight.

  • Comment number 89.


    The socceroos beat Holland 2-1, who are ranked fourth in the world currently.


    Australia a 'global backwater'? The million odd poms who have immigrated to Australia might disagree. Regarding the argument that 'excelling at sports doesn't make you a great nation', I have seen this used before and it is utterly pathetic. You call Australia a 'global backwater' then tell Aussies to 'get over themselves'?

    In the Mercer top 100 most livable cities 2008, Australia had the second highest average, after Germany. The global ranking of the world's most livable cities is based on 39 key quality-of-life issues. They include political stability, currency-exchange regulations, political and media censorship, school quality, housing, the environment and public safety. England on the other hand, had only 2 cities in the top 100. London - 39 and Birmingham - 55.

    In the Economist's World's most livable cities 2008 Australia had the highest average of any country, with 4 cities rating in the top 10 including Melbourne 2nd.

    That 'global backwater' is starting to look pretty inviting isn't it?

    Yes, Australia had a particularly bad sporting year but as many other have mentioned, we will be back will a vengance!

  • Comment number 90.

    The first time I saw tv, I watched the last two days of the 1955 Ashes series, when England regained the Ashes. A lifetime bias was set.

    A little later, my now wife began watching cricket at the MCG, where her uncles were members. We first met on neutral ground (the Indian Himalayas), but since we moved to Australia, the sporting rivalry has been intense ... and the results generally in Australia's favour. The debacle v SA has made my Christmas; and I'm finding that the guest room is quite nice, all things considered!

  • Comment number 91.

    Mr Fordyce,

    Have you been reading my 606 article:'is there a crisis in australian sport' that I posted in the summer?

    You could add to the points that you make in your article that, since 2003 at the latest, the balance of sporting powwer has been shifting away ro Australia to Britain.

    Beijing 2008 is part of a trend that includes Rugby world cup 2003, Hattons win over Tszu in 2005, the Ashes win in 2005, RWC 2007,etc.

  • Comment number 92.

    I say "take the good with the bad".
    Make the most of it you Brits, Englishmen or what ever else you like to be called...most of us Aussies can handle a little stick from a nation of try hards. We all know you lot have got pretty thick skins, having to endure endless years of sporting failures can do that to a nation. But checking the list of GB/English achievements for 2008...hilarious, quite sad that this meager little list is enough to make you lot go all giddy in the knees. I have spent many a years laughing out loud at the efforts of your Cricket side, your Football team (failing to qualify for Euro 08 LOL!!!) and the sad medal hauls at past Olympics.
    2008, yeah we Aussies have certainly taken a leaf out of your book. The RLWC was a real kick in the guts but the better team won on the night. The Olympics were a failure...mainly cause we finished behind Great Britain. And the Cricket...all great teams fall sooner or later. India and South Africa are on the up and delivered...well done to them. Lets see how the Pomes cope come mid year when we do battle for the Ashes. If ever there was time to grab the bulls by the horns this is it. Time will tell if you guys can rise to the challenge and keep the pressure on the Aussies or usual, you fall into a bumbling heap of under achievers.
    Make hay while the all know how quickly the clouds can roll in over Mother England...and 2008 will just be a distand memory.

  • Comment number 93.

    You were lucky we didn't win the international rules by a lot more points than we did....

  • Comment number 94.

    I think it is a wonderful thing that Australia is giving up its fascination with sport.

    With luck, the anti-intellectual culture will recede and we can finally, thankfully, get that piece of rubbish from off the southern cross, and have a real flag for a real nation.

  • Comment number 95.

    What fabulous journalism. Well worth the license fee! Well done Fordyce! Top notch.

  • Comment number 96.

    As a Brit who lived in Australia for a year (nice weather but that's about it) I find these Brit-Aussie exchanges mildly entertaining but ultimately unfulfilling. The fact is we all know Britain is the greater country - we virtually created the modern world, what more do you want? The Aussie chip on the shoulder is because deep down they know sport (and their nice weather of course, well done on that by the way) is all they will ever have to challenge the Mother Country's eternal supremacy over them. What gets them is the fact that whenever their nation's story will be written, for all time it will start with three words - Made By Britain, and that for the next three centuries (more?) their head of state was/is British and their flag was a quarter British. Many people in America (if they don't confuse them with Austria!) think Britain still actually owns Australia and rules it as a colony (nothing to do with us anymore my American friends, all their own doing!). It will forever be thus and no Ashes win or swimming gold can change it.

  • Comment number 97.

    Re: "It isn't meant to be like this. Ordinarily, Australian conquers while Britons capitulate. They do the exercise, we do the eating. They do the success, we do the self-deprecation."

    Olympics aside, it wasn't the Britons who did the beating of the Aussies, especially in the Rugby League and the Cricket. It amazes me how selective the Brit Press is, taking pride and credit for NON-Brit results!

    And. no, I'm not an Antipodean or Indian.

  • Comment number 98.

    The 2009 Lions will only stand a partial chance if they omit England players, none of whom deserve a place at the moment anyway, AND if the Boks are as complacent as they were in 1997, which is unlikely.
    The 1997 Lions DID win the series, but lost the try count by about 1 - 9 if I recall correctly.

  • Comment number 99.

    It's always funny to read a pommy's desperate gloating, even when they gloat they sound like losers! They have the 'ex-imperial' chip on the shoulder like Spain and Italy. And they gloat when England beats the "home nations", but mostly they claim Scottish and Welsh success as their own (e.g. Olympics).
    From an Aussie point of view the rugby and football were pretty good years, and apart from Cavendish beating McEwen to the line every day, Aussies were pretty happy with the TdF - it was unfortunate for Evans that he had to race the tour on his own while Sastre had a team of drug-filled heroes towing him to the line.
    But the Olympics and the cricket were tragedies. Don't expect an aussie comeback in the cricket for 3-4 years, we could cope without our retired champions if we had a decent captain instead of timid sulky schoolboy Ponting, and if our selectors weren't tied to their old Queensland drinking buddies.

  • Comment number 100.

    Lets not forget the magnificent Welsh rugby team's win against the Aussies at the Millenium Stadium in November. After years of having the endure the arrogance of the Aussie rugby fan, this victory was very sweet and the our friends from down under left the stadium with their tails firmly between their legs. Little Wales, population 3 million, certainly socked it to Aussies !!!



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