Drugs and ill-discipline, sackings and smackings — all punctuated Australia’s sporting year.
Bad news outweighed good in a year of bombshells. Here are the top sport stories of the year.
DRUGS IN SPORT
The Australian Crime Commission tossed the biggest bomb, finding widespread use and trafficking of performance and image enhancing drugs in all levels of sport in the country. Not only that, the nation’s top crime-fighting body found the drugs had links to organised crime, and their use by athletes was being facilitated by sports scientists and high-performance coaches.
ESSENDON’S SUPPLEMENTS SCANDAL
The AFL club was the major casualty of the drugs scandal. Investigations continue into their boundary-pushing supplements program in 2012. But they have already been hit with the heaviest penalties in AFL history. The AFL found Essendon brought the game into disrepute and booted them from the finals. Headquarters also fined the Bombers $2 million, suspended their once-iconic golden boy James Hird as coach for a year, banned football operations boss Danny Corcoran for six months, fined Hird’s coaching mentor Mark Thompson $30,000, and penalised them top draft picks for two seasons.
CRONULLA CAUGHT OUT
The NRL took longer to come down on Cronulla for their supplements program. But in December the cash-strapped Sharks had coach Shane Flanagan suspended for a year, former trainer Trent Elkin provisionally dereigstered for two years and they were fined $1 million – $400,000 of which was suspended.
ADAM SCOTT, THE MASTER
Finally, an Australian slipped into the most coveted jacket in sport. Scott’s play-off victory at the US Masters ended decades of Australian heartbreak at the fabled tournament. Where the likes of Peter Thompson and Greg Norman failed, Scott sailed into national sporting folklore. “This was one thing in golf that we had not been able to achieve. It’s amazing that it’s my destiny to be the first Aussie to win,” he said.
Stuart O’Grady was Australian cycling’s favourite son. A six-time Olympian and a gold medallist, he wore the leader’s yellow jersey for a total of nine days in 17 Tours de France. He retired in July after again competing in cycling’s greatest race. But two days later, after being named in the French Senate regarding doping, O’Grady confessed to taking banned drugs at the 1998 Tour.
SACK THE FOREIGNERS
South African Mickey Arthur was sacked as Australia’s cricket coach. New Zealander Robbie Deans was sacked as Wallabies coach. German Holger Osieck was sacked as Socceroos coach. All were replaced by Australians with home-spun philosophies. Bucking the trend was Swimming Australia, who dumped local head coach Leigh Nugent and appointed Dutchman Jacco Verhaeren.
Arthur’s tenure was pockmarked by troubles. There was the banally-named Homework-gate in India, when vice-captain Shane Watson, James Pattinson, Mitchell Johnson and Usman Khawaja were suspended for a Test match for failing to do homework. Then, opening bat David Warner was fined $5,750 for abusing Australian journalists on Twitter. Just three weeks later, a tipsy Warner punched English batsman Joe Root in a Pommy pub and was banned a month. The ill-discipline led to Arthur’s sacking just 16 days before an Ashes series. He was replaced by Darren Lehmann.
Kiwi Deans was sacked as Australia’s rugby coach after a series loss to the touring British and Irish Lions. He had six months remaining on his contract, but departed after six years without delivering a coveted Bledisloe Cup. He was replaced by Ewen McKenzie.
AU REVOIR OSIECK
After a nervy campaign, German Osieck steered Australia to soccer’s World Cup – but it wasn’t enough. After consecutive 6-0 away losses to Brazil and France, Osieck was dumped, paid out a million dollars, and replaced by Ange Postecoglou.
Lance Franklin, the biggest name in the AFL, took the biggest-ever contract – in both money and length. Buddy won a premiership with Hawthorn and days later signed with Sydney on an unprecedented nine-year, $10 million deal.
MAGNUSSEN MAKES AMENDS
The self-appointed alpha male of the Australian swimming team James Magnussen made some amends for his Olympic failures and Stilnox controversy by winning the 100 metres freestyle world title in Spain.
BLACK CAVIAR FAREWELLS
After 25 consecutive wins, the magnificent mare was retired in April. In her triumphant last race, she claimed her 15th Group One win, breaking the Australian record held by Kingston Town.
THE RUGBY LEAGUE KINGS
Australia’s campaign had several hiccups – all off the field. They started with the mugging of forward Josh Papalii on the team’s first night out in Manchester and continued with star fullback Billy Slater delivering a swift retaliation punch to a punter in a nightclub queue. On-field, the Kangaroos had no such problems, their unbeaten tournament culminating in a clinical 34-2 trouncing of New Zealand in the final.
THE ASHES REGAINED
After four long years, three straight losing series and much heartache, Michael Clarke’s men regained cricket’s most treasured trophy in dominant style. Among the many heroes were moustachioed firebrand Mitchell Johnson, rejuvenated wicketkeeper Brad Haddin and pugnacious opener David Warner. Could this be the start of a new dynasty?
Hawthorn won the AFL flag, the Sydney Roosters ruled the NRL, the Chiefs took the Super 15 rugby crown and Australia’s women’s cricketers claimed the limited overs World Cup. But none of those victors can match the year’s Cinderella story – A-League newcomers Western Sydney Wanderers claimed the premiership in their first season, although Central Coast won the grand final.
THE WORLD CHAMPS
The year’s honour list of Australian world champions also includes Kim Crow (rowing, single scull), Mirinda Carfrae (ironman triathlon), Matthew Belcher/Will Ryan (sailing, 470 class), swimmers Cate Campbell (100m freestyle) and Christian Sprenger (100m breaststroke), Jessica Fox (C1 slalom canoeing), Caroline Buchanan (BMX), Carmen Marton (taekwondo) and the nation’s cycling track team pursuit team of Alex Edmonson, Michael Hepburn, Alexander Morgan and Glenn O’Shea.