Sporting woes across the Tasman
— Not a great time for Aussie sportBy Roger Childs
Australian horses were first and second in the Melbourne Cup, but there ‘s been little else to keep local sports fans happy across the ditch in recent weeks.
- The netballers failed to reach the semi-finals in the Fast 5 competition.
- The Wallabies were thrashed 33-6 by France.
- Their top male tennis prospect, Bernard Tomic, has been in the news for the wrong reasons. He recently pleaded guilty to three traffic charges at the Southport Magistrates Court.
- Aussie female tennis number one, Sam Stosur, won the US Open tennis title in 2011, but only made the third round this year. She also lost her opening match at the 2012 Olympics.
- After dominating the sport for many years, Australia recently lost the World Surf Lifesaving Title in Adelaide.
Don’t like losing to the Kiwis
With five times our population, Australians expect to clean up the Kiwis in sport and are not happy when they don’t. It hurts that the trans-Tasman rivals are ranked one and two in world rugby and netball, but both the Bledisloe and Constellation Cups have ended up in Kiwi trophy cabinets for 2012.
Earlier in the year the New Zealand Breakers won the Australian National Basketball League Grand Final and the Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic beat the Melbourne Vixens in the final of the Trans-Tasman ANZ Netball Championship. Meanwhile in the rugby Super 15 competition Australian teams struggled and the Kiwi Chiefs took out the title.
In the recent Fast5 netball, equivalent to rugby sevens, The Fast Ferns beat the Fast Diamonds 31-23 and went on to win the tournament in the final against England. To add salt to the wound, the Australians were humiliated in the overall competition, losing to everyone, including minnow Malawi, to finish last.
Another recent blow to Aussie sporting pride was losing the Alan Whelpton Trophy to the Black Fins at the 2012 World Surf Lifesaving Championships in Adelaide. New Zealand last won the trophy in 1998.
At the London Olympics in July, Aussie sports fans and commentators despaired whether their much vaunted stars would head off New Zealand in the gold medal haul. It got so bad that Sydney’s Daily Telegraph light heartedly suggested a new Olympic team, AUS ZEALAND. “Yes, that’s right, the Kiwis have given plenty of good things to us in the past (Melbourne Cup winners, movie stars and musicians) so now it’s time to start counting their medals as our own.
Big disappointments at the Olympics
ABC Grandstand’s Andrew McGarry had talked up the Aussie prospects at London with suggestions of 25 gold medals. He did concede however that the only certainty about the Olympics is that there are no certain gold medals at the Olympics. How right he was.
In the end the tally was seven, only one ahead of the Kiwis. Australia had won 14 at Beijing in 2008 and 16 on home turf at Sydney in 2000. The swimmers failed to fire in London with only one gold, and the women’s water polo, women’s basketball and men’s and women’s hockey teams did not live up to expectations.
There were just three individual winners: Anna Meares in the women’s track cycling, Sally Pearson, in the women’s 100m hurdles, just, and Thomas Slingsby, in the laser sailing.
The element of bad luck
Not all the setbacks for Australian sportsmen and women in 2012 have been failures in performance.
Hopes were high for Victoria’s Erin Densham to top the women’s triathlon rankings for 2012 and she only needed to finish well up in the recent Auckland World Champs to achieve this. Unfortunately sickness in the weeks prior to the event meant that she was forced to pull out during the bike leg.
Long suffering coach, Kiwi Robbie Deans, has had a tough season with the Wallabies losing more than 15 top line players. Despite the loss of so many stars, the 18-18 draw with the All Blacks in Brisbane was a meritorious performance.
Plenty of top performers
Although 2012 will not go down as a vintage year for Australian sport the country does have some excellent teams and individual stars. Adam Scott is one of the world’s best golfers, currently ranked number six in an incredibly competitive sport. They also have a lot of quality swimmers, divers, canoeists, BMX riders, cyclists, sailors and rowers. In the Paralympics they had many outstanding performances as the team garnered 32 golds to take 5th place on the medal table. Jacqueline Freney won an incredible eight gold medals, first in every event she entered.
On the world stage, Australia has highly competitive teams in cricket, hockey, women’s water polo and women’s basketball. In rugby league they are the best on the planet and their netballers did win the recent four-nations competition. And in one sport they have no peer: Australian Rules.
However, if the Australian cricketers beat South Africa in the current test series, they will return to the number one world ranking they have often held in the past.
And Captain Michael Clarke’s double century, giving the Aussies a first innings lead in the Brisbane match, was a welcome boost to sports morale across the Tasman!