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Remembering 1999, Australia's golden sporting year

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Roar Guru
30th May, 2019
17

The year 2019 marks two decades since Australia’s greatest ever sporting year.

Sure, Australia’s greatest ever sporting achievement may have occurred in another year – the America’s Cup in 1983 – but looking at the sheer number of sports where Australia was crowned world champions in 1999, it is tough to beat.

Here’s a look back at the key achievements for Australia in that year.

Rugby union
In a bygone era that today’s rugby fans pine for, the Wallabies reached the pinnacle by bringing ‘Bill’ – officially known as the William Web Ellis Trophy – back down under.

The Australians breezed through the group stages and the quarter-final against hosts Wales.

The semi-final was a nail-biter against South Africa. With the scores level after regular time, Stephen Larkham emerged as the hero in an unlikely way.

Larkham nailed a 48-metre drop goal – his first ever field goal in Test matches – to send the Wallabies into the final.

In the decider, Australia overcame a plucky French side who had caused a major boil-over by defeating New Zealand in their semi-final.

The 1999 victory meant the Wallabies were the first team to win the Rugby World Cup twice.

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The side also complemented their retention of the Bledisloe Cup earlier in that year, another foreign concept for modern rugby fans.

Cricket
Australia’s victory in the 1999 Cricket World Cup marked the beginning of a period of dominance in the one-day sphere that would continue for well over a decade.

However, things got off to a rocky start. Losses to New Zealand and Pakistan meant the Aussies were in danger of failing to qualify for the Super 6 stage.

A victory over the West Indies in their final group match meant Australia finished runner-up in their group behind Pakistan.

Comfortable victories over India and Zimbabwe in the Super 6 stage steadied the ship. However the Aussies still needed to win their final Super 6 match against tournament favourites South Africa to progress to the semi-final.

South Africa batted first and posted an imposing 271 from their 50 overs. Australia were in early trouble at 3/48 before Ricky Ponting and Steve Waugh combined for a 126-run stand to get them back into match.

On 56, Waugh was infamously dropped by Herschelle Gibbs, which will forever be referred to as dropping the World Cup.

Waugh would go on to punish the South Africans by scoring an unbeaten 120 and helping Australia chase down the target with just two balls to spare.

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The victory meant Australia faced the South Africans again in the semi-final.

Australia's Shane Warne (right) encourages South Africa's Herschelle Gibbs (left) to leave the field after dismissing him.

(Photo: Michael Steele/Getty Images)

Australia batted first and posted a modest 213 and were bowled out within 50 overs. In reply, South Africa started strongly with Gary Kirsten and Herschelle Gibbs posting 48 for the opening stand.

Australia were in trouble until Shane Warne entered the attack. He bowled both Kirsten and Gibbs as well as dismissing skipper Hansje Cronje for a duck. Warne also dismissed Jacques Kallis late in the innings to finish with figures of 4/29.

At the start of the final over, the South Africans required nine runs for victory. Big-hitting Lance Klusener crunched the first two deliveries to the boundary to level the scores and put the South Africans on the cusp of victory.

However, a cataclysmic run-out between Klusener and Allan Donald saw the match tied with Australia progressing to the final on the account of their previous victory in the Super 6 stage.

Australia easily defeated Pakistan in the final to cap an amazing tournament and become world champions for the second time. The Aussies would go on to win three of the next four World Cups.

Tennis
Australia were also on top in the tennis world, claiming the Davis Cup with victory over the French in France. It was Australia’s first title since 1986.

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Not only was the victory on foreign soil, but it was achieved without Australia’s No.1 player Pat Rafter, who missed the final due to injury.

Mark Philippoussis gave Australia a lead in the tie with a straight sets win over Sebastien Grosjean. Cedric Pioline levelled the tie with a victory over a young but determined Lleyton Hewitt, who was playing in Rafter’s absence.

In the doubles match, the legendary Woodies combination of Mark Woodforde and Todd Woodbridge dropped the opening set before recovering to claim the match in four sets, giving the Aussies a crucial 2-1 lead heading into the reverse singles.

Philippousssis sealed the tie and the cup with a four-set victory over Pioline.

It was second time in the year that Australia had beaten France in a final.

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Netball
It wasn’t just the men who dominated the sporting field. Australian claimed their eighth netball world title, downing New Zealand in an epic final. Australia cruised through the group stages as well as the quarter and semi-finals.

The Diamonds would face their arch rivals in a final for the ages. New Zealand led by six goals at three-quarter time with one hand on the trophy. But the Aussies rallied in the final quarter and a final-second shot by Sharelle McMahon saw Australia prevail 42-41. It would be of many epic matches the two sides would play in the years to come.

Other notable wins in 1999 include dominance on the hockey field with both the Kookaburras and Hockeyroos winning the Champions Trophy. We were also on top in the water with Mark Occhilupo and Layne Beachley being crowned surfing champions in the men’s and women’s competitions respectively.

Not bad for a single year.

Do any other years even come close?