Much gets made of the difficulty of winning Test series overseas, with few of the top teams able to break through and defeat opponents on their home soil.
Whether on field or off it, 2018 had all the drama a sports fan could dream of. Here’s the five moments that will remain in our memories from 2018.
The year our heroes died
2018 – what a time to be alive, esports are making millions and the country is losing interest in mens cricket and the Wallabies.
When news came through of ball tampering in South Africa, the riddles and rumours flowing back first seemed like the whole team had potentially gone into cahoots to cheat. When the dust settled, blame was laid on three men, young Cam Bancroft and the biggest headlines with Australia’s two best batsmen (and potentially our only good ones) David Warner and Steve Smith.
The off-field circus triggered by the events took the focus away from bat and ball and onto slogans like ‘elite honesty’. Meanwhile, the on-field narrative has focused on a selection crisis where a lack of first class talent and a domestic fixture devoid of consistent Test cricket has meant that many Aussie fans are wondering if Australia’s international dominance could ever be recovered.
Cricket Australia will be watching Big Bash ratings intently over the summer, hoping it maintains its recent rollicking success. Elyse Perry and Alyssa Healy will be hoping the men haven’t ruined it for them as they continue to ride the upswing of the womens team.
The winter wasn’t any kinder to the other traditional icons in the Australian sporting landscape – the Wallabies. All the talk was focused on a lack of grass roots investment, a lack of talent pipeline and a lack of wins. It now feels like a whole Super Rugby season could go by without the public ever knowing it happened.
The unpredictable AFL
While the powerhouses of the last decade, Hawthorn, Geelong and Sydney, lay dormant the AFL has enjoyed a third unpredictable premiership. Following on from the drought breaking premierships of the Western Bulldogs and Richmond, the West Coast Eagles defied ‘expert’ predictions, injuries and suspensions to win an unlikely premiership.
And if we are talking memorable moments, that premiership-winning play that started with a massive Jeremy McGovern intercept mark and finished with Dom Sheed’s centimetre perfect finish from the pocket, will be remembered fondly as a deciding moment of an epic grand final.
2019 might be the year we do away with the idea of a premiership window. How many teams could win a premiership this season? You could list a dozen teams and I wouldn’t be shocked if they pulled it off.
One armed premierships
Never before has someone who had so few touches or tackles utterly dominate a game.
It was a perfect narrative for the NRL. Former Storm star, Cooper Cronk, against his old teammates including a retiring Billy Slater for the premiership. Yet the story was nearly ended by a Cronk injury and Slater suspension.
While the overturning of Slater’s should charge triggered much debate, it was Cronk who would become the premiership hero overcoming a fractured shoulder, described as being like an injury more likely sustained from a car crash. While the Storm elected not to run at Cronk, the Roosters playmaker acted as an on-field coach orchestrating a masterclass while seemingly being unable to lift his arm.
As an author who has no interest in NRL, this will be a lasting memory of courage and a daring that captured the ultimate prize.
Purple and gold revival
In 2018, the biggest basketball stories continued to be the entertainment of the off-season.
In April, the NBL landed a massive coup of luring NBA big man Andrew Bogut back to Australia. While Bogut had a unceremonious departure from the NBA his arrival in Australia added weight to a league improving on and off court.
The 2018-19 season is tracking to be the highest attendances in the league’s 40-year history and the Kings’ investment in Bogut paying dividends reinvigorating the franchise who prior to Christmas boasted their highest ever single game attendance and look set to make an impact in the finals.
Across the Pacific, it was the biggest name in basketball, Lebron James who three months after Bogut went to another purple and gold – the Los Angeles Lakers. The post-Kobe Lakers immediately became a contender once again.
The off-season stories continued as most surprisingly, Paul George chose not to join him. Nonetheless, the Lakers seem as capable as any team not named the Golden State Warriors to succeed in the ultra talented Western Conference.
In 2019, we can all look forward to the next twitter storm when we finally find who the Lakers can reel in to star along side Lebron.
In a few years time the teams from the 2018 A-League Grand Final may be forgotten but the game will be remembered as the “VAR Game”.
In a season when fourth seed Melbourne Victory knocked off the dominant Sydney United in a semi-final then went to Newcastle for the grandie. Unfortunately the A-League, as it often does, lacked on field flair in the biggest game of the year and the biggest talking point was incompetence not talent.
The only goal of the game came from an uncalled offside decision. Typically these would be reviewed, but the A-League could only blame their provider for the review being ‘temporarily unavailable’. It was as though a Victory official pulled the plug, had their team pinch a goal, then plug the cord back in – the perfect crime.
While the theory is in jest, the situation didn’t help a league ever fighting for legitimacy. A close runner up to the VAR debacle was Roy O’Donovan’s fly kick to the face of the opposition goalie in the closing moments of the game.