Israel Folau v ARU
Despite 2019 being a World Cup year, the biggest story in Australian Rugby was Israel Folau’s legal battle with the game’s governing body. A messy, drawn-out saga with no winners, it was eventually settled out of court but not before untold damage was done to the reputations of all involved.
Smith, Warner, Stokes and the English Summer
The 2019 English summer will be long remembered by cricket fans as it was the backdrop to a thrilling World Cup and Ashes Series. The headline act across both was Ben Stokes who was an integral part of England’s World Cup triumph and memorable victory in the Third Test. A remarkable summer also saw the return of Steve Smith and David Warner to International Cricket with the former having a scintillating Ashes Series and the latter one of the players of the World Cup.
The rise and rise of Ash Barty
Just four years since plying her trade as a cricketer for the Brisbane Heat in the WBBL Ash Barty now stands on top of the tennis world. A breakthrough win at the French Open was the highlight performance in a year that saw her become the first Australian woman in four decades to claim the world number one ranking and maintain it at years end.
Mack Horton Stands Tall
The 23-year-old Victorian has long been a campaigner against drugs in sport and he took these efforts to new heights at the FINA World Championships in South Korea. After winning silver behind the controversial Sun Yang, who was competing despite running foul of drug testers once again, Horton made his position known at the Medal Ceremony. After accepting his silver medal, Horton refused to shake Yang’s hand or to join him on the medal podium in a protest that echoed around the world. With Yang’s fate now in the hands of the Court of Arbitration for Sport, there is now a genuine possibility of a postscript that sees the gold medal stripped of him and awarded to Horton.
Six again and Back to Back the Roosters Rule Again
A gripping contest, the 2019 Grand Final will, unfortunately, be long remembered for a number of refereeing blunders. Not least the remarkable situation of Canberra being denied an attacking opportunity by a late change of mind by the official. It will ensure that the game will be forever a part of Rugby League folklore but it shouldn’t take away from the Sydney Roosters feat in becoming the first team in over two decades to win back to back titles. Given the quality of players still at their disposal, a third consecutive title is not outside the realms of possibility.
Alen Stajic sacked as Matilda’s Coach
The Matildas began 2019 considered a genuine contender to win the World Cup in France. Despite this, the FFA made the remarkable decision to sack coach Alen Stajic. In a blur of innuendo and scuttlebutt, no official reason was given as a number of Matildas players came out in support of their coach. In the months that followed, the team performed beneath expectations in France and Stajic was finally given a financial settlement and an apology from the FFA for the manner in which his employment was ended.
Winx makes it 33 and out
The Queen Elizabeth at Randwick in April was the final chapter in one of the most remarkable stories of the Australian track. Winx in her final outing, won a 33rd consecutive race to add a triumphant final note to a storied racing career. We have been spoiled in Australia in recent years with some remarkable equine champions but it will be a long time before we see another like the mighty Winx.