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Last year certainly had its share of history-making events in sport – the biggest money-making fight in history, the Rugby League World Cup, drought-breaking grand final wins, and a movement that will jump-start women’s national competitions.
Here are my top ten sporting moments of 2017.
10. Darwin celebrates 20 years of V8 Supercars
A bit of a biased event to start the list, as one I was there for it and spent the last two years living in Darwin.
June is a wonderful time of year to be in Top End and the 20th anniversary of the V8 Supercars was a not-to-miss event. With the first ever female driver, Simona de Siverstro, and Scott McLaughlin picking up the win. A record crowd 100,000 people walked through the gates over the three-day event with many travelling from interstate and overseas.
9. NRL announces women’s comp
On Decemeber 6, 2017, (my daughter’s fourth birthday) the NRL announced they were creating a women’s competition, starting with eight teams in 2018. This was a great moment not just for women but sports in general. As a father of four daughters, now I can go after that dream of having NRL stars in the family (I think the second girl may be a boxer, she has a mean right hook).
8. The first ever day-night Ashes Test
The Adelaide Test was the first to go day-night and Australia proved that it was no issue, wining the match in dominant fashion.
An Australian first, one to tell the grandkids about.
7. GSP returns to the UFC
UFC 217 featured three title fights, as well as the return of one of the octagon’s all-time best fighters, Georges St-Pierre. Contesting for the middleweight title, GSP returned after a four-year absence with a vengeance to defeat champion Micheal Bisping with a choke out.
In a bloody and brutal match, GSP became only the third man in UFC history to become a multiple-division champion, joining Randy Couture and Conor McGregor.
Unfortunately, GSP suffered a neck injury and was forced to relinquish the title. UFC President Dana White promoted interim champion Robert Whittaker as the new middleweight champ, and he will defend his title at UFC 221 in Perth on Feb 11.
6. Mayweather vs McGregor
Thankfully, this was not the farce everybody expected it to be.
Anticipation was built up for months as boxing champion Floyd Mayweather, after a near-two-year period of inactivity, finally got into the ring with multiple division UFC champion Conor McGregor.
Billed as the biggest money fight in history, McGregor surprised many and went ten rounds with the undefeated Mayweather – even winning the first two rounds. While McGregor constantly hit Mayweather with hammer fists, he put up quite a decent fight for a debut boxer.
Still, by Round 7 the Irishman was gassed, which was to be expected, and Mayweather applied the pressure in rounds eight and nine. Finally, the referee called an end to the fight in the tenth, with McGregor no longer able to intelligently defend himself.
All in all a fight that was not worth the $59.99 pay per view price tag, but certainly better than what most predicted.
5. Australia’s dominance in the Rugby League World Cup
The World Cup sometimes looked like a training session for the Australian men and women’s teams.
The Jillaroos gave Canada the biggest flogging in the tournament’s history, 88-0, beating New Zealand’s 72-6 thumping of the USA.
Both Aussie teams never looked liked under any threat, cruising to dominant tournament wins and showcasing that – even with missing talent due to switching national allegiances – Australia is the dominant force in rugby league and the NRL is the best comp, period.
I was lucky enough to witness Australia vs Samoa in Darwin and even though it looked like Samoa did not show up, a chance to see a world-class game was still a favourite moment for me in 2017.
4. AFL Women’s first season
Eight teams entered the inauguraul AFLW season, the Brisbane Lions and Adelaide Crows contested the grand final, with the Crows coming away with the title.
Being that nearly half the winning team was made up of NT girls, the Territory and in particular Darwin is claiming its first ever national.
3. Richmond’s first flag in 37 years
Not since 1982 (the year I came into this world) had the Richmond Tigers even looked like winning the flag, but in 2017 they truly had a fairytale year, with Dustin Martin winning the triple threat (Brownlow, premiership and Norm Smith).
The Tigers dominated the final series and the Adelaide Crows in the grand final, finally bringing the trophy back to Punt Road.
2. Storm vs Cowboys
The NRL grand final saw the most dominant team in the comp, Melbourne, up against the fairytale finalists, the Cowboys. The build up was electric, with mates from both Townsville and Melbourne telling me how the cities were painted in the clubs’ colours, going off like a frog in a sock.
My household was split down the middle, myself and my eldest girl going for the Storm, my two younger daughters for the Cowboys, and my brand new baby girl becoming a member of the winning team (my wife couldn’t have cared less).
Although the game was pretty much decided even before kick off, the quality was still great. Billy Slater won the Clive Churchill Medal for a second time, equaling Brad Clyde’s record, while preventing Cameron Smith from completing the trifecta of a premiership, Dally M and Churchill in a single season.
The win meant the Storm and Tigers earnt the first ever Punt Road double (both clubs are on Punt Road).
1. Jeff Horn’s upset of the century
My number one was the biggest upset in boxing history since Buster Douglas knocked out Mike Tyson in 1990. To top it off, it was witnessed by the biggest ever crowd for a boxing match in Australia.
Over 50,000 people packed into Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium to witness Aussie Jeff Horn face 11-time, eight-division WBO welterweight champion Manny Pacquiao.
Horn, who was given little chance of victory, did the unthinkable. Despite his inexperience – with only 17 pro fights to his name – Horn dominated Pacquiao from the opening bell, using his height and weight advantage in a surprising ‘go after the man’ style.
By Round 5 you could feel the upset coming and Horn had the fight pretty much wrapped up by Round 8. Although the rest of the country was worried in Round 9, Horn was able to finish the fight strong, as the Battle of Brisbane lived up to its name – both fighters being batted and bloodied as the final bell rang.
Horn was given the fight via score cards of 117-111, 115-113, 115-113. For his history-making event and victory, he makes my number one.