As the sun sets on one year and dawns on another, it is the perfect opportunity to look back at the year that was 2017. What were the most memorable moments, greatest achievements and performances in another jam-packed year of sport? In the spirit of this retrospection, this correspondent not so humbly submits for discourse and debate, the Bozza Awards for the Landmark Victories of 2016.
AUSSIES FEEL THE TIGERS BITE
While most cricket fans felt that Australia might be tested in their two-match tour of Bangladesh, there weren’t many who were prepared to suggest they might actually lose to the fast developing Tigers. It was not a feeling shared by star Tiger All-Rounder Shakib Al-Hasan who was bullish about his team’s chances pre-series.
“But there is no shortage of self-belief at this moment… Now we feel that we are very much unbeatable at home – doesn’t matter who we are playing against. So this is the belief that makes a team a very good team, and a winning team.”
Shakib Al Hasan
On the back of an incredible individual performance from the 30-year-old, 10 wickets and a first innings 84, Bangladesh proved Hasan’s pre-match confidence well founded, defeating Australia in a thrilling 20 run triumph. The importance of the victory evident in the attendance of Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheik Hasina on the final day, desperate to bear witness to her countries greatest Test victory.
NADAL ENDS HUNT FOR LA DECIMA
Rafael Nadal’s status as the King of Clay had long ago been assured but in securing his 10th French Open Crown in 2017, he achieved what no man had before or will likely do again. Nadal dominated Stan Wawrinka in a one-sided final, dispatching the Swiss star in straight sets.
The victory, the Spaniard’s 15th Major Title, moved him into outright second on the Grand Slam winners list behind Swiss Maestro Roger Federer. After 3-years in the Grand Slam wilderness, it was the crowning glory of a year in which Nadal re-established himself as one of the world’s best.
His victory at Flushing Meadows later in the year meant his wait for Grand Slam number 16 was nowhere near as long and that he would end the year ranked number one in the world. Having spent much of his career in the shadow of Federer the pair, now in the twilight of their glorious careers, now seem locked in a race to be the first man to claim 20 career Grand Slams.
TONGA DISRUPT RUGBY LEAGUE’S WORLD ORDER
New Zealand’s World Cup campaign and the accepted world order in Rugby League was turned on its head in Waikato when Tonga stunned the World Number Two ranked team in their final group game.
At half-time, with the Kiwis leading 16-2, it looked unlikely that the Tongans would be in a position to become the first second-tier nation to defeat one of the ‘Big 3’ at a World Cup. Yet that is exactly what a shocked crowd of 24,041 watched unfold in the second 40 minutes.
Needing to score first to breathe life into the contest, Tonga did just that through David Fusitua. Neither team could unlock the defence of the other in the next 10 minutes, but the floodgates opened when Fusitua crossed for his second try.
It would be the first blow in a six-minute, three try onslaught that saw Tonga take a stranglehold on the match. A Roger Tuivasa-Sheck try brought the margin back to two points and gave the 2008 World Champions hope but Fusitua’s third try secured the points and provoked delirious scenes in the crowd. It was a fitting end to an afternoon that those who witnessed will long remember.
MATILDAS WALTZ PAST WORLD’S BEST
Australia’s Tournament of Nations triumph in the USA in August was a landmark moment for our women’s national team. Expected to be just making up the numbers, the Matildas recorded victories over World Champions USA, Asian Champions Japan, and World Superpower Brazil, to claim the title in impressive fashion.
It may well prove to be the opening salvos on the path to a much bigger victory. “We have a goal as a team to become world champions and win Olympic Medals,” midfielder Caitlin Foord told Fox Sports News. “This is just the start of that journey we are just trying to get ourselves ready for when that time comes,” she stressed.
The Matildas continued their winning ways by sweeping two games series at home against both Brazil and China. It would mean that they would end the year with a historical high Fifa ranking of fourth in the world and with genuine hopes of claiming a second Asian Cup title in 2018.
THE TIGERS EAT ‘EM ALIVE ONCE MORE
As the 2017 season dawned, it is fair to say that Richmond fans had waited a long time for success. An extraordinary 13,326 days had passed since the Tigers were last crowned Premiers. They had won just three finals matches since that day, the same number they would need to win the 2017 flag.
The Tigers slowly improved throughout the season, timing their charge to perfection ensuring they hit the finals in prime form. The weight of history did not slow their finals assault in any way as they accounted for Geelong and GWS on the way to a Grand Final date with the Crows.
Against the competitions heaviest scoring team, Richmond was slow out of the blocks on the games biggest stage. Just 11-points down at the first break, on the back of a supreme performance from Browlow Medalist Dustin Martin, the Tigers completely dominated the rest of the contest.
Kicking 11 of the next 12 goals, Richmond turned the contest on its head to run away with a famous Premiership victory. The scenes that followed in Swan Street and the greater Richmond area going a long way to illustrating just how special a victory it was.