A salute to the also-rans of sport

21 Have your say

Nick Riewold is grabbing his opportunities again, despite predictions in 2012 that he may be on the downward slope. (Slattery Images)

Joel Parkinson, the perennial place getter of the surf scene, finally clinched his first world title in Hawaii on Sunday, and officially avoided the title of being an ‘almost’.

It must have been a massive sigh of relief.

Here is a list of some unlucky sportspeople and teams who have been unfortunate enough to fit into this category:

Swimming
Daniel Kowalski is one of the unluckiest swimmers there has been. He was an excellent medium-to-long distance freestyle swimmer, competing at the 1996 and 2000 Olympics.

At the Atlanta Games he became the first man in 92 years to win medals in the 1500m, 400m and 200m freestyle events (winning silver, bronze, bronze respectively).

His career was constantly in the shadow of the great Kieran Perkins and, later, Grant Hackett, especially in the prestigious 1500m race.

His first gold medal was as a member of the 4x200m team. Although he was not part of the final race, as he swam in the qualifiers and was then replaced by Ian Thorpe. He retired in 2002.

Cricket
The dominant teams of Australian Cricket through the 90s and 00s were full of so many legends, including the Waugh brothers, Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath, Mark Taylor, Adam Gilchrist, Jason Gillespie, and a young Ricky Ponting.

The flipside is that were some really good cricketers that constantly missed out.

Perhaps the unluckiest was batsman Jamie Siddons.

Siddons amassed an impressive 11,587 first class runs at an average of 44.91, impressive figures over a 16 year career by any standard. However, Siddons was making his tally at exactly the wrong time. He played a solitary one-day international for Australia, scoring 32 runs.

Leg spinner Stuart MacGill is another example of a good player who probably missed out on the career their ability deserved, almost entirely on account of the presence of Shane Warne.

MacGill was regarded as having one of the best strike rates in world cricket. In 44 Tests, he boasted 208 wickets at 29.02, with best figures of 8/108. Both Siddons and MacGill are players who would be very handy in the current setup.

AFL
The St Kilda Football Club is the Aussie Rules equivalent of the bridesmaid who is destined to never get a ring on the finger – or trophy in the cabinet.

The Saints’ only premiership came all the way back in 1966. That gives them an overall record of eight grand final appearances and 25 finals series for one solitary premiership.

Even in the modern day, with a team including Nick Riewoldt, Stephen Milne, Brendon Goddard and Nick Dal Santo, the club still managed to avoid a flag.

2010 was potentially the most heart breaking, with a draw against Collinwood the closest they have come to breaking a 44 year premiership draught.

There are of course so many others that come to mind. Wallaby Phil Waugh, like Stuart Macgill, was a fine international level player – only he was up against the great George Smith.

Irish racehorse Vinnie Roe was a great stayer, but was only ever a place bet in his three attempts.

Even Lleyton Hewitt, among others, was sandwiched in between the dominance of Sampras and Federer.

Add to that the innumerable sportspeople who had careers cut short through injuries or health. Fabrice Muamba’s heart attack means he went from England under 21 to retired at 23.

Ex-Carlton defender David Teague went from best and fairest to assistant coach in the blink of an eye.

We should still look at all these with some perspective. They are all excellent sportspeople/teams, it’s just they came with a bad sense of timing or weren’t blessed by lady luck.

What can we learn? Even without the best trophies or careers, if you keep plugging away, something might come up. Just ask our own Cadel Evans.

The AFL is now a year-round beast. From the pre-season Cup to the draft, it's always on. What's on your Christmas wishlist for 2015? What are your reflections on the year that was? If you're feeling inspired, you can share it with other Roarers by submitting an article.
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