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Simmons, Kyrgios and Day: Australian sporting exports on the verge of boom time

Ben Simmons. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)
Roar Guru
18th February, 2018
6

Don’t look now, but this country is within touching distance of an unprecedented golden era for its overseas based male sports stars.

Ben Simmons, Nick Kyrgios and Jason Day are all uniquely placed to take their respective global sports by the scruff of the neck.

While Australia has always punched above its weight abroad, to boast such prodigious talents in three of the world’s biggest sports is remarkable.

Playing for the resurgent Philadelphia 76ers, Simmons is rapidly ascending to superstar status in what is effectively his debut season in the NBA.

The Simmons’ hype train has been headlined by explosive rim finishing and mercurial court vision that has even the ‘phenom-weary’ NBA abuzz.

That Simmons’ jump shot is considered a work in progress – with even suggestions he may be using the wrong shooting hand – has many positively drooling over his potential ceiling.

Boasting fellow wunderkind, big man Joel Embiid and a loaded young roster that has even drawn admiring glances from soon-to-be free agent LeBron James, the 76ers are the perfect vehicle for Simmons’ ascent to basketball’s rarefied air.

Ben Simmons dribbles the ball

(AP Photo/Winslow Townson)

Throw in an NBA-studded Boomers roster that promises to break its medal duck, and the 2020 Olympics looms as a potential coronation party for Simmons and Australian men’s basketball

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Kyrgios is of course a more complicated beast.

His sometime errant ways have undoubtedly numbed us to his other-worldly ability, which is perhaps no bad thing.

Yet as a 22-year-old Kyrgios is availed of the greatest defence of all, youth and the hope that age will prove his elixir.

And it’s easy to forget just how long we have waited for such a generational talent.

After all as a mid-thirties sports fan in this country, I remember the dog days of Australian men’s tennis after the glow of Pat Cash’s 1987 Wimbledon triumph had faded away.

Who can forget the nation pinning its hopes on the likes of ‘no frills’ (Richard) Fromberg and his bizarre poker visor out on Show Court 1.

While dominant, ‘The Woodies’ were always more of a sideshow and – through no fault of their own – brought with them a large dose of cultural cringe.

It didn’t do much for their brand when Mark Woodforde so predictably undid our great white (but ultimately flawed) hope Mark Philippoussis after ‘the Poo’ had us dreaming big after unseating the great Pete Sampras in the Australian Open.

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Then of course we were gifted that much adored one-two punch of Pat Rafter and Lleyton Hewitt.

We rode their bumps – Rafter’s Wimbledon final loss to Goran Ivanisevic indelibly inked on the national sporting consciousness – and revelled in their considerable success.

Yet there was always a limit to what they could achieve. That point where physical attributes catch up with willpower, no matter how immense.

And that’s because neither of them were…well…Kyrgios.

At 6ft 4, Kyrgios moves like a cat, has a giant serve, and possesses that perfect blend of power and finesse.

Nick Kyrgios

(AP Photo/Dita Alangkara)

It’s often said that in tennis, timing is everything and Kyrgios ticks that box too.

With Roger Federer surely entering the final act of his remarkable career and cracks appearing in the remainder of world tennis’ dominant ‘Big Four’, the path to the top of world tennis is relatively clear.

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Kyrgios has the game, we just have to hope he has the gumption.

While not enjoying quite the same ‘new car smell’ as Simmons and Kyrgios, Jason Day stands right alongside them on the cusp of outright superstardom.

Day is perhaps the victim of his own success, having arrived before he really arrived.

Watching his final day back nine master class en route to a tied second place finish at his debut Masters in 2011, Day was seemingly preordained for greatness.

That he has since only won one major (the 2015 PGA Championship), suffered health issues and went winless in 2017 has somehow resulted in his star falling in Australia.

It also happens that compatriot Adam Scott has sucked a large amount of oxygen from the Australian golfing living room.

Day’s world No.1 ranking and slew of PGA Tour victories achieved during his 2015–16 purple patch have seemingly been deemed an inadequate return for a nation still scarred from the Greg Norman experience.

Yet while local excitement may have dimmed, not so his game which remains extraordinarily complete with no discernible weakness from tee to cup.

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Not to mention his ripe old age of 30.

Jason Day during the first round of the PGA Championship

(Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)

A win in last month’s PGA Tour Farmers Insurance Open following a caddy change augurs well for hopes that Day is on the verge of the sustained breakthrough he has always seemed destined to make.

Australia has always had an insatiable appetite for its local kids making it big on the world stage.

For Simmons, Kyrgios and Day, the time is now.

Our nation turns its hungry eyes to you.