And so this is Christmas/ And what have you done?/ Another year over/ And a new one just begun.
John Lennon’s classic Christmas song prompts reflection of the year that’s coming to an end.
And for most of us hardcore sports junkies, we’ve been to a lot of sport. Because, while watching on TV is good, there’s nothing like being there.
All of our experiences are as diverse as the permutations of matches we’ve attended. Whatever our sport, we’ve experienced the ecstacy of victory and the agony of defeat. Without it, and the unpredictability of what’s going to happen, sport wouldn’t be the same. It’s unscripted drama of the best kind.
In AFL, the year belonged to Richmond. I wasn’t there for the grand final, but was there the week before, travelling to Melbourne to support my beloved Greater Western Sydney Giants against the Tigers in the preliminary final.
There were 3000 of us, 90,000 of them. But we stood our ground.
In the end, the Giants couldn’t get it done, and for the second year in a row finished one game short of the big dance. But you couldn’t begrudge Richmond’s long-suffering supporters that the long drought came to an end.
AAP Image/Julian Smith
The Tiger fans are passionate, the ‘Yellow and Black’ in the team song is something special, and it was a memorable experience to have played a small part in that moment.
The Richmond fans were great, and although we were outnumbered, there was never a hint of trouble and we were happy to congratulate them, and chat footy with them after the game.
But next year it’s our turn.
And we got one over the Tigers earlier in the year. I was at Spotless Stadium for that one, which came down to the final minute, as the Giants went coast to coast and Jeremy Cameron landed the winner on the run. Stevie Johnson got GWS over the line against Collingwood the week before, in a period of cliffhangers – at one stage, six out of seven games were decided by less than a goal.
2017 will go down in history for the rise of women’s sport, where AFLW was instrumental. Memories of a dark and stormy evening at Blacktown will long live with me, as the Giants held on for dear life against the star-studded Demons to record their only win of the season.
In the round-ball football game, I was at ANZ Stadium as the Socceroos took on Honduras for a spot in the World Cup.
It had been an unconvincing campaign for the Aussies, forced into playoffs against Syria and Honduras. A scoreless first leg away was followed by a first half that was far from encouraging, seeing the nerves building.
But nerves and despair gave way to elation as Mile Jedinak found the Honduran net and then twice converted from the penalty spot.
Nothing like the sheer jubilation of 2005 – this time it was more like relief – but we’d made it through, and I was there.
Photo by Matt King/Getty Images
Most of the cricket I attended in 2017 was the T20 Big Bash, and there were plenty of highlights. Eoin Morgan smashing a six off the last ball to get the Thunder over the line, then the Sydney Smash at the SCG, when the Thunder demolished local rivals the Sixers after skittling them for less than 100.
Just last week, in the opening game of the new season, the Thunder scored 15 off the last over for a first-up win.
The Big Bash, with non-stop action over a short period of time, lends itself to the possibility of a close finish. And it’s the close games that are usually the memorable ones.
But the cricketing moment I’ll remember this year the women’s Test at North Sydney Oval, where Ellyse Perry booked herself a place in the record books with a well-earned double century.
Not just memorable for the innings itself, but this Ashes series saw the interest and awareness of women’s cricket rise substantially – and deservedly so.
I didn’t get to much rugby league in 2017, but one I’ll remember was at ANZ Stadium, when Kevin Naiqama crossed in the last couple of minutes to get the crisis-ridden Wests Tigers a morale-boosting win over the Bulldogs.
Everyone’s experiences are different, but in years to come, those who passed through the turnstiles will have cause to boast “I was there”.
And it’s the being there that makes the difference.
Have an awesome Christmas everyone!!
A very merry Christmas/ And a happy New Year/ Let’s hope it’s a good one/ Without any fear.