Winx wrote her name into Australian sporting history on Saturday with a fourth consecutive Cox Plate victory at Moonee Valley. It is a feat unrivalled in this nation’s horse racing history with no other horse having claimed Australian Racing’s Weight for Age championship four times. In honour of Winx’s landmark achievement, and before we argue where it sits in history, The Pinch Hitters gives you the Top Five Greatest Streaks in Australian Sport.
5. Collingwood – Most Consecutive VFL/AFL Premierships
At the end of the 1920’s Collingwood dominated the VFL. ‘The Machine Team’ as they were known swept all before them as they claimed 4 consecutive premierships between 1927 and 1930. Under the stewardship of the game’s most successful coach, Jock McHale, the Magpies were the home for some the games brightest stars.
The work of Brownlow Medallist midfielders Syd Coventry, Albert Collier and Harry Collier greedily finished off by the era’s most dominant forward Gordon Coventry. Coventry’s dominance of the goal square reflected in the fact that his career goal record stood for the best part of 70 years. In 1929 he also set the record for most goals in a Grand Final, since equalled by Gary Ablett in 1989, scoring 9 of the 13 the Magpies scored.
Two sides have come close to equalling Collingwood’s reign. The ‘Pies defended their proud record by upsetting three time defending champs Melbourne in the 1958 decider. The Demons won again in 1959 and 1960 making the 1958 slip up very costly. The Brisbane Lions were half a game away from joining Collingwood. After their own hat-trick Brisbane led Port Adelaide at half time before South Australia’s Magpies protected Collingwood’s record on the way to their first flag. In today’s age of equalisation, it is hard to see this record ever being bettered.
4. Australia’s Three Consecutive ODI World Cup Wins
An early exit from the tournament looked imminent when Australia fell to their second defeat in three games to open the 1999 ICC World Cup in England. Rather than an early flight home, what followed this shaky start was the greatest domination of World Cricket’s Premier ODI Tournament that saw Australia not lose another tournament match for 4318 days and win three consecutive titles.
Their reign at the top of the ODI cricket world was not without some nervous moments however. Their run to the 1999 crown would see them challenged by South Africa in a pair of classic encounters that required an epic hundred from Steve Waugh and mesmerising bowling spell from Shane Warne for Australia to qualify for the final.
In undefeated campaigns of 2003 & 2007 saw some spectacular performances from the team In South Africa in 2003 Glenn McGrath (7/15) and Andy Bichel (7/20) produced the two best bowling performances in World Cup history after Andrew Symonds announced himself as a world class international player with an unbeaten 145 in the competition opener. The exclamation point on the title win was Ricky Ponting’s imperious 140 not out in the final that Australia won by 125 runs.
In the West Indies in 2007, the Australian’s were perhaps even more dominant in their quest for a third consecutive crown. With the exception of the final, when they scored 281, the Australian’s scored in excess of 300 in each match that they batted first. Matthew Hayden scored, what was then, the fastest 100 in World Cup history in a big victory over South Africa in the group stages. Adam Gilchrist was the hero in the final with the fastest ever century in a World Cup final enough to see Australia defeat Sri Lanka by 53 runs under the Duckworth Lewis System.
Unfortunately some of the gloss was taken off the victory with the match ending in farce and darkness. Due to a misunderstanding of the match conditions by the officials Sri Lanka were left with the unenviable choice of batting in darkness or coming back the following day. Despite this, the Australian’s reign at the top of world cricket remains one of Australian sports greatest winning streaks.
3. Makybe Diva Three Consecutive Melbourne Cup Wins
Australia has been blessed in recent times with a number of remarkable tales of equine achievement. Much like they are wowed now by the exploits of Winx, a little over a decade ago the nation was transfixed by the efforts of the great Makybe Diva.
Go and find the smallest child on this course because that will be the only person who lives long enough to see something like this again.
Lee Freedman Melbourne Cup Day 2005
The Melbourne Cup, the race that stops the nation, has a long and storied history dating all the way back to 1861. With an honour roll that includes the likes of Phar Lap, Carbine and Saintly, to be considered the greatest winner of them all is some high praise and in being the only horse to win the great race three times, Makybe Diva has definite claims on the title.
A Champion becomes a Legend!
Greg Miles announcing Makybe Diva’s victory in the 2005 Melbourne Cup
No mare had carried more weight to win the great race, but jockey Glenn Boss all but guaranteed victory to the Diva’s owner the night before. On race day his confidence was shown to be well placed with the 7-year-old gracefully and effortlessly passing the field in the home straight and cruising to a commanding victory. The 106,479 strong crowd at Flemington were rapturous in their applause for the achievement as Boss slowly made his way back to the mounting yard even pausing in the middle of the track to allow them to fully acknowledge the mighty mare.
2. Heather Mckay – 16 Consecutive British Open Wins
The feats of Heather McKay on the squash court are almost impossible to believe, in a career that spanned 21 years she lost just two matches and was undefeated from 1962 until her retirement in 1981. The British Open was considered the unofficial world championship of squash for the majority of her career and it was for this tournament that McKay saved her best performances.
In her 16 Open victories she dropped just two games and won each final in straight sets. In 1968 she won the final without conceding a single point in the final and did not drop more than two points in any final game again until 1975!
She was named ABC Sportsperson of the year in 1967 and in 1976 became World Champion officially for the first time after winning the inaugural World Championship of squash staged in Brisbane and McKay . Before her retirement in 1981, she would add one more World Championship in 1979.
1. St George – Most Consecutive NSWRL/NRL Premierships
11 seasons, 222 first grade games, 184 wins, 5 draws, 33 losses, 5109 points for, 2153 points against, 11 Premierships.
The raw data of an era of dominance which is actually impossible to comprehend. An era of dominance which is difficult to capture adequately within a small snapshot. As you would expect St George’s run relied upon strong leadership both on and off the field, canny recruiting, junior development, the overcoming of stiff obstacles, luck and even a little bit of controversy.
Australian Rugby League recognises 14 players as Immortals of the game. Reflecting the mark this group had on the game, 4 of the 14, Johnny Raper, Reg Gasnier, Norm Provan and Graeme Langlands, were members of this all conquering team. Twice, St George recovered from being reduced to 12 men to win Grand Finals. In 1956 they prevailed over Balmain 18-12 despite being a man short due to injury for 67 minutes. In 1962 they had to replicate the heroics, hanging on in a classic 9-6, after having a member sent off early in the second half.
The 1963 Grand Final win over Western Suburbs has gone down in folklore for a number of reasons. Firstly, for the claims by many Wests players that the referee, a renowned gambler, had backed St George to win. A claim they believe is borne out by a number of controversial decisions. A tight affair played in horrendous and muddy conditions the Magpies were on the wrong end of an 18-7 penalty count and a disallowed try. However most consternation from Wests players related to St George winger Johnny King’s match winner. King set off down the Members Stand touchline and was knocked to the ground by scrambling Magpies defenders. Was he held? Referee Darcy Lawler didn’t think so and allowed the St George flyer to set off again for the try line upon regaining his feet.
Secondly, it was at the conclusion of this match that the iconic ‘Gladiators’ photo was taken. This image, seen as reflection of sportsmanship, shows opposing captains Norm Provan and Arthur Summons embracing after the final siren. This image has been the basis of the competitions premiership trophies since 1982.
But it wasn’t exactly as it seemed. Years later Arthur Summons revealed that he was in fact expressing to Norm Provan that St George were lucky to win. Or words to that effect anyway. It concluded a hat-trick of losing Grand Finals for Wests who were unlucky enough to be the beaten side 4 times in St George’s Grand Final streak.
Like all good things, St George’s reign had to come to an end. It did after a see-sawing Preliminary Final against Canterbury saw them fall short 11-12. The St George players formed a guard of honour for their vanquishers and made their way to the dressing rooms.
There was said to be tears and anguish in the rooms after the game. Coach Ian Walsh is even said to have apologised to the fans at the Leagues Club after the game. I think the best response though was from St George Secretary Fred Facer who put his around Walsh and said “Well old chap, we had to lose one day”.
With that the greatest reign that will ever be, ended.
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