Excess over excellence in the 2010 sporting year
Cheats. Drugs. Sex. Betrayal. Excess overtook excellence in Australia’s sporting year. Thinking rugby league? Think Melbourne Storm. And a man and a dog. AFL? A drug addict. A favourite son disowned.
Soccer? Best not to ponder World Cups past, present, or future.
Cricket? The unbeatables are defeatables.
Swimming? Sinking, with no Australian ranked world No.1 in an Olympic event at the year’s end for the first time in two decades.
There’s scant feel-good from the past year of Australian sport.
Unless you count another domination of the Commonwealth Games. But do they really matter any more?
Take the NRL, for example.
Despite St George Illawarra confirming their dominance with a premiership, rugby league’s biggest story was Melbourne Storm being busted for salary cap rorts.
In April, the NRL stripped the Storm of two premierships, and competition points; fined them $500,000 and ordered they pay back $1.1 million in prizemoney.
They were punished for long-term systematic rorting for being over the salary cap by as much as $3.17 million in the past five years, according to an independent report.
“The elaborate lengths that they went to hide the payments was quite extraordinary,” NRL chief David Gallop said.
The Storm played on, winning 14 games and losing 10. Had they been playing for points, they would have entered the finals from fifth spot.
Instead, they finished bottom and watched the Dragons prevail over the rags to near-riches Sydney Roosters.
A month or so after the premiership play-off, the NRL was brought back to the gutter by Canberra Raiders star Joel Monaghan.
A photo emerged on a social network website of the NSW and Australian rep, depicting him simulating a sex act with a dog.
Monaghan quit the Raiders ashamed of his drunken prank.
“I’ll have to handle the jokes and taunts which is understandable but the players shouldn’t have to put up with the pressure of my ongoing presence,” Monaghan said.
In Australia’s other major football code, most AFL talk also had little to do with on-field feats.
Drug addict Ben Cousins bared his soul in a self-made documentary, and was curiously feted a hero when he retired as Richmond’s favourite adopted son.
But Geelong’s darling descendant, Gary Ablett jnr, was labelled a traitor for turning his back on his club.
Ablett supposedly betrayed Geelong by joining the AFL’s new entity, Gold Coast Suns, on a five-year deal believed to be worth $1.6 million annually.
The Ablett and Cousins sagas were, mercifully yet albeit briefly, overshadowed by two AFL grand finals in seven days.
Collingwood and St Kilda fought an epic draw, with the Magpies winning the rematch a week later.
On the cricket field, Australia slipped to fifth in world Test rankings but still hold the one-day crown – possibly only until the World Cup in February-April.
Australian soccer’s past year was marked by World Cup flops: Just one victory in South Africa to be punted at the group stage; just one vote in their bid to host to 2022 World Cup.
And also best to temper enthusiasm for another World Cup campaign, that of Australia’s rugby union outfit and the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand in September.
While 15 Tests produced nine Wallabies victories in 2010, they suffered heavy defeats to England and New Zealand – although they did snap their 10-Test losing streak to the All Blacks in a meaningless fourth Test in Hong Kong they still appear a rung below the imposing Kiwi outfit.
Not even the Cups king, Bart Cummings, could provide a fairytale in 2010.
The 82-year-old horse trainer left hospital, where he was recovering from pneumonia, two days before the Melbourne Cup.
He watched So You Think stride out as the shortest priced favourite for almost 40 years – and finish third, with Americain becoming the first French trained horse to win the great race.
Formula One driver Mark Webber also came close to glory, winning four grands prix and leading late in the season to raise hopes of becoming Australia’s first F1 champ since Alan Jones in 1980.
Webber ultimately finished third as his young teammate Sebastian Vettel snatched the crown.
Australia’s best tennis performer, Samantha Stosur, also was on the cusp of triumph, only to fall short.
Stosur stormed into the French Open final, only to be defeated by Italy’s veteran Francesca Schiavone – but she did finish the year ranked sixth in the world, a far cry ahead of her male compatriots – Lleyton Hewitt is the highest ranked at 54 with Peter Luczak next best at 139th.
Four Australian golfers triumphed on the PGA Tour – Geoff Ogilvy, Adam Scott, Jason Day and Stuart Appleby, who became the fifth golfer to shoot a 59 on the tour on his way to victory in the Greenbier Classic.
But again, an Australian winning a golf major was a distant dream.
For success stories, Australia looked offshore.
Surfer Stephanie Gilmore claimed her fourth consecutive world title.
And at the Delhi Commonwealth Games, Australia topped the table with 177 medals – 74 gold, 55 silver and 48 bronze.
But did anyone really care?
The Delhi Games, marked by woeful organisation and mediocre sport, were beamed into Australia homes at untimely television hours and captured minimal interest.© AAP 2013