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A lifetime of great sporting memories

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Expert
26th February, 2019
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When the Daily Telegraph recently published a comparison of Winx with Don Bradman, it reminded me of a column I wrote last year, and had me thinking of my standout sporting memories since I was a kid in short pants.

The Don’s hundredth first-class century at the SCG in 1947 is one of the first, but his stunning last-Test duck at The Oval in 1948 is right up there – needing just four runs to own a career average of 100.

In the many conversations and interviews I’ve had with The Don, Arthur Morris and Neil Harvey over the years, nobody knew that fact – stats in those days weren’t as detailed as they are today.

Nonetheless, it’s still the most famous duck in Test cricket history.

In 1949, I saw Clive Churchill and Trevor Allan play for the first time, and marvelled at their sheer brilliance – Churchill so slightly built, with his sleeves rolled up to the elbow, Allan wearing headgear as Gordon rugby’s outside centre. But they are still two of the greatest footballers I’ve ever seen.

In 1950, winger Ron Roberts scored a magnificent try wide-out in the pouring rain that gave the Kangaroos a 5-2 series win at the SCG, to end a 30-year series dominance by Great Britain.

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In 1951, I was playing rugby for Mosman Prep against Ken Catchpole’s Coogee Prep when ‘Catchy’ had his ear torn from the top to the lobe, and refused to go off, telling his worried Dad to use sticking plaster to keep his ear on, and playing out the last 15 minutes. Little did I know he would turn out to be the greatest halfback in rugby history, but it came as no surprise when I kept recalling that incredible incident.

In 1952, Jimmy Carruthers became the first Australian to universally be recognised as a world boxing champion, when he knocked out South Africa’s bantam champion Vic Towell in Johannesburg. Carruthers landed an incredible 147 punches to Towell’s one that missed, in just over two minutes.

In 1954, English medical student Roger Bannister burst through the four-minute mile barrier for the first time, with 3.59.4.

In 1956, England offie Jim Laker did the seemingly impossible at Old Trafford against Australia by claiming 19 wickets – 9-37 and 10-53 – with spin-twin Tony Lock the other, with 1-106. Both Neil Harvey and Ken Mackay were double Laker victims in bagging a pair apiece.

Also in 1956, at the Melbourne Olympics, the Australian swim team captured all seven freestyle golds – four in the men, three in the women – plus the men’s backstroke. It was the start of Dawn Fraser’s stellar career, winning the first of three successive Olympic 100m freestyles, the first to achieve the feat.

In 1959, Jack Brabham ran out of petrol and had to push his car 400 yards to the finishing line to win the first of his three Formula One world championship titles.

At the 1960 Rome Olympics, Herb Elliott, never beaten over the 1500 or mile in his entire career, smashed his own world record for the 1500 with a time of 3.35.6 that was so sensational it would have won seven of the next nine Olympic 1500s.

In 1962, Dawn Fraser became the first to break the minute barrier for the 100 free, with 59.9, which she lowered to 58.9 two years later. It was broken by Shane Gould with 58.5, eight years after Dawn had retired.

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In 1965, I was playing for Mosman against Western Suburbs at Pratten Park, where the bowling club was situated at the northern end. That day, Alan Davidson kept smashing me onto the bowling green for sixes that were so dangerous the bowlers hung over the fence to watch the destruction. His big century that day was at my expense, but you had to admire his immense power.

At the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, American Bob Beamon nearly jumped out of the long jump pit in setting a new world record that stood for 23 years, until another American, Mike Powell, broke it by two inches.

In 1969, Rod Laver became the only two-time Grand Slam winner, and debate will rage forever whether the left-handed Australian is the greatest of all-time.

In 1974 and 1975, Muhammad Ali was involved in two of the biggest heavyweight battles of all-time – ‘The Rumble in the Jungle’ against George Foreman, and ‘The Thrilla in Manilla’ against Joe Frazier. Ali won both in a career you can’t do justice to in just one par.

In 1976, Romanian Nadia Comaneci, standing just 163 cms tall, scored gymnastic’s first perfect 10 at the Montreal Olympics, the first of seven.

In 1980, arguably the greatest Wimbledon final of all time saw Bjorn Borg outlasting John McEnroe 1-6 7-5 6-3 6-7 8-6.

In 1983, I was in London and missed the celebrations of Australia 11 winning the America’s Cup, ending 132 years of USA dominance. But when I interviewed John Bertrand at his home six years ago, it was under a huge colour photo taken from the air of Australia 11 crossing the line, with the smoke from the gun evident. I felt I was there, the photo was so graphic, and the stories the skipper told me just added to the aura.

In 1984, the Alan Jones-coached, Andrew Slack-led Wallabies completed Australia’s only Grand Slam-winning tour, beating Ireland, Wales, England and Scotland. Mark Ella set a record that can never be broken by scoring a try in all four.

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In 1985, the biggest bolter of all-time, 17-year-old Boris Becker, surfaced to win the Wimbledon final.

In 1990, the biggest heavyweight boxing boilover of all-time saw 42-1 rank outsider Buster Douglas knock out the seemingly invincible Mike Tyson in Japan.

In 1991, the Wallabies won their first of two Rugby World Cups by beating England 12-6 at Twickenham, made famous by Wallabies coach Bob Dwyer yelling out “Kick it to the f-ing shithouse” late in the game while sitting just in front of the Queen. Michael Lynagh obliged to relieve a tense situation.

In 1995, Steve Waugh scored his only double Test ton, at Kingston, against a brutal pace attack of Curtly Ambrose, Courtney Walsh, and the Benjamins, Kenny and Winston. An innings of pure courage, and dedication – you would expect that from him.

In 1999, the Wallabies claimed their second Rugby World Cup, coached by the most successful mentor in Australian rugby history, Rod Macqueen, and led by lock legend John Eales.

In 2000, Cathy Freeman stopped the nation with her Olympic 400 track gold in Sydney. Those privileged to be there will never forget the electricity in the air, and the thunderous-to-deafening applause.

In 2008, American Michael Phelps won a record eight gold medals in the pool at Beijing, setting seven world records.

Also in 2008, the greatest track sprinter in history surfaced, as Jamaican Usain Bolt cruised the 100 in 9.69 and the 200 in 19.30 – only to reset those times with 9.58 and 19.19 in 2009, world records that will stand the test of time.

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In 2012, Sachin Tendulkar became the only batsman to score 100 international centuries, with 51 in Tests and 49 in ODIs. The closest is Ricky Ponting, who retired on 71, while the closest current batsman is Virat Kohli, on 64.

In 2013, the Mal Meninga-inspired Queenslanders chalked up their record eighth successive Origin series victory.

And this year, Ellyse Perry cracked a record 777 Big Bash runs, with two centuries and six half-centuries, to average 86.33 in a season that will take some beating – finishing 221 runs ahead of her closest rival.

Of course, there are many others over nearly eight decades, but those are the ones that stand out.