Sport Review: The Year That Was
It was another big year in Australian sport. Here are five moments that shaped the 2017 sporting calendar.
Pacquiao Stung by The Hornet
April 23: In the biggest fight ever held in Australia, relatively unknown Queenslander, Jeff ‘Hornet’ Horn, took on one of boxing’s biggest names in Manny Pacquiao, to decide the WBO Welterweight Championship. Pacquiao claimed he had never heard of his opponent before the fight, but the 29-year-old former Brisbane school teacher certainly left his mark with a unanimous decision victory after 12 rounds. The huge upset was made even sweeter by the presence of many of Horn’s closest friends and family amongst the 50,000 who packed Suncorp Stadium for the fight.
Maroons Dynasty Lives On
July 12: It was another case of ‘this is our year’ from the New South Wales camp, but again it was answered with ‘not on our watch’ by the Maroons State of Origin side. The Blues were convincing in their 28-4 victory in the first game of the series, but it was a trademark conversion from out wide by Johnathan Thurston that gave Queensland the edge in game two. That proved to be his last game in the maroon jersey though, as Cameron Munster replaced the injured five-eighth for game three to join an all-Melbourne Storm spine with Billy Slater, Cooper Cronk and Cameron Smith. Their class and big-game experience proved too much to handle, winning 22-6, leading the side to its third consecutive series victory and keeping the dynasty alive for another year.
Queen of the Track Again
August 12: Seven weeks out from the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, Sally Pearson had just returned to competitive sprinting after a wrist injury, as well as calf and Achilles tendon problems, kept her out of action for the best part of three years. She was set to defend her title in the 100m hurdles, but a hamstring injury while training meant she would miss yet another major competition. While the world’s attention was on Rio for the start of the athletics events, Pearson was in her Gold Coast home, having just sacked her coach Ashley Mahoney, and writing out a plan to coach herself back to the top. Just under a year later, she completed an unbelievable comeback to take gold in the hurdles at the 2017 World Championships in London. Her second WC victory, to go with her gold at the London Olympics, prompted claims she had overtaken Cathy Freeman as our greatest track and field athlete of the modern era.
Tigers Roar at Last
30 September: The black-and-gold army finally had something to celebrate, as long-suffering Richmond fans enjoyed their side’s first premiership win in 37 years. Finishing third on the ladder, the Tigers upset Geelong by 51 points in the first week of finals, before overcoming GWS to qualify for their first grand final since 1982. Minor-premiers Adelaide also had a smooth run to the decider, going in as favourites after beating GWS 36 points and Geelong by 61 in the preliminary final. Richmond never looked challenged after quarter-time though, keeping the Crows to just four goals for the last three quarters, and running away 108-60 winners in front of 100,000 at the MCG. Dustin Martin was named best-on-ground, becoming the first player to win the Brownlow Medal and Norm Smith Medal in the same year.
Russia Here We Come
15 November: With the pressure mounting on coach Ange Postecoglou and his players after a two-year qualification journey, the Socceroos breathed a sigh of relief when they beat Honduras to go through to their fourth consecutive FIFA World Cup. A string of draws in the group stages against Saudi Arabia, Japan, Thailand and Iraq, and a loss to Japan, meant Australia had to go through the inter-confederation playoffs. A 0-0 draw in Honduras made the equation simple for the return leg in Sydney – it was do-or-die for the Socceroos. Skipper Mile Jedinak broke the shackles in the 54th minute, before scoring two more goals to lead his side to a 3-1 win. Despite all the hard work being done in qualifying for Russia 2018, Postecoglou stepped down from his position a week later.