Gerard Whateley has put together his top 10 defining sporting moments of 2020.
It was obviously quite the year, with sport around the world going on hiatus as the weight of COVID-19 was felt. The impact of the virus is a big part of the list, as it was the defining aspect of the year.
With an international bent, but of course with an Australian and Melburnian focus, here are Whateley’s top 10 defining sports moments of 2020.
Unlucky omissions: Liverpool, Lewis Hamilton, the NBA Black Lives Matter protests and Rafael Nadal’s 13th French Open.
10. Novak Djokovic defaulted for hitting linesperson at US Open
“This tied in a whole lot around the world’s number one tennis player,” Whateley said.
“Novak Djokovic defaulted for hitting a linesperson with a ball at the U.S Open.
“Think about Djokovic’s path through the COVID period. Through the best of intentions, he started his own tournaments, but he disregarded all the necessary limitations that were demanded in a pandemic.
“As a result, players tested positive, he and his family tested positive, they partied while they should have been isolating.
“It was a flagrant disregard for the times. It was the sheer arrogance of sport believing it could operate separately to what was happening in the world.
“Then we got to the U.S Open, it was a depleted field, Djokovic was the banner holder for his sport, and he went out like this:”
Oh my god, Djokovic got disqualified from the US Open.pic.twitter.com/yCo3Lqw0tg— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) September 6, 2020
9. Patrick Mahomes wins first Super Bowl with fourth-quarter comeback
“In the before-times and there were crowds, when an event could be staged in all its indulgences and its extravagances – Miami hosted a Super Bowl,” Whateley said.
“This was about the rival of a young man in his sport. He might be the most precociously talented young man in world sport at the moment in Patrick Mahomes.
“The quarterback from the Kansas City Chiefs who came from 10 points down in the fourth quarter to win by 11 running away with it.”
8. Melbourne Vixens win the Super Netball premiership
“This comes very personally for Melbourne. In the exodus before the second lockdown, teams were being shot off everywhere, the Vixens spent three days with their bags packed waiting for a phone call, not knowing where they were heading to stage their season,” Whateley said.
“You might recall the line we were given, they didn’t know whether to pack beanies or bikinis.
“Like everyone else, they ended up in Queensland and on day 93, and Melbourne was a hard-bitten town at this stage, the first title was won by the Melbourne Vixens in the Super Netball.”
7. Kobe Bryant dies and LeBron James leads
“In a sporting sense, it had so many echoes of the death of Princess Diana,” Whateley said.
“Tragically killed in a helicopter crash which took friends, colleagues and his daughter.
“We were in the United States at the time and that profound sense of national tragedy, it was probably best encapsulated that part of your youth had passed away.
“And tied into this was the next generation, which was LeBron James, who carries the mantle. This was the year James became the most influential athlete on the planet on a whole number of fronts.
“His leadership of the NBA, as to whether that sport would resume or not, the title he ended up winning, but he was essentially called upon to speak to the grief that so many were feeling around the passing of Kobe Bryant.”
"So in the words of Kobe Bryant, 'Mamba Out,' but in the words of us, 'Not forgotten.' Live on, brother."— ESPN (@espn) February 1, 2020
—LeBron James during the Lakers' tribute to Kobe pic.twitter.com/qQTHrirN6t
6. The shutdown of the games we love: AFL, NRL, NBA, Olympics and more
“The shutdown of the games we love. Grave press conferences and almost that sense of impending doom.”
“Certainly it was the revelation of how fragile sport was – much more than we would have imagined.
“The AFL shut down, the NRL, the Masters delayed, Wimbledon cancelled, the big one was the Olympics and it was the greatest international mashup of all.
“They were a remarkable set of press conferences and in each instance, Peter V’landys and Gillon McLachlan, words they never would have imagined having to speak and the uncertainty of it.
“Both have since reflected that at stages they thought they’d be losing $1 billion and the price tag ends up being a little short of $100 million.
“And what it meant to all of us, basically a 12-week stretch where there was no sport live and life was a little bit duller.
“Remember, The Last Dance came along. That was our sporting refuge, that documentary.”
GM: Today after a meeting with the AFL commission, the AFL has moved to immediately suspended the 2020 AFL season at the conclusion of this weekend's matches. We will also conclude the AFLW season.— Fox Footy (@FOXFOOTY) March 22, 2020
5. Melbourne Storm win NRL Premiership having spent all season on the road
“No team spent longer on the road out of Victoria than the Melbourne Storm,” Whateley said.
“They were perpetually looking for a new home … tossed out of Albury, then relocated, the hard quarantine they went through.
“They sensed what it meant to Victoria, they honoured what it meant to Victoria, they represented magnificently and our sporting capital saluted them when they won it and it confirmed the iconic status of Cameron Smith.”
4. Dustin Martin inspires Richmond to a 3rd premiership
“This was the confirmation of a legend. It was the Makybe Diva effect.”
“It was his greatest performance in a Grand Final. It was Richmond’s greatest premiership.
“There was all manner of legend and legacy tied up in this as Dustin Martin inspired the Tigers to their third flag.”
Dusty does it again.— SEN 1116 (@1116sen) October 24, 2020
Three Grand Finals, three Norm Smith medals.#AFLGF
3. The Australian Grand Prix is cancelled
“That was March the 13th and by the end of that day, the war cabinet had been established involving the Federal Government and all the Premiers, there was a ban on mass gatherings, there was a run on supermarkets,” he said.
“That was the day and the trigger point for it was the cancellation of the Grand Prix in Melbourne and then life sort of descended from that moment on.”
2. Australia women win T20 World Cup at MCG in front of biggest crowd of the year
“I probably felt for the longest time that it would be number one, but it’s number two. It’s the biggest sporting crowd that has gathered in Australia this year and it might be the biggest sporting crowd in the world this year tipping in at 86,174,” Whateley said.
“More than 1 million watched on television and the MCG had never quite been like this. My daughters took me to the cricket that night.
“It spoke of the evolution of the game and spoke of the incremental progression of us as a society.
“Right throughout the night I was wondering what this looks like to a teenage girl and what it might mean a decade down the track.
“The sporting achievement was enormous in its own right. It’s hard to win home tournaments.
“You’ve got to hold your nerve and the Australian women’s cricket team did that. It was a tough campaign, they felt the pressure and they delivered in the moment and delivered the World Cup in front of the biggest crowd of the year.”
1. Denis Pagan trains Victoria Derby winner
“I’m a self-declared tragic for the romance of the turf, but sport is at its best when it is so utterly improbable that if you penned the script that a retired footy coach would turn horse trainer and almost with his first, win the oldest classic on the Australian turf you’d be told ‘no, no you’ve gone too far, we can’t have that’, and yet it happened,” Whateley said.
“It happened at an empty Flemington when Denis Pagan trained the winner of the Victoria Derby – Johnny Get Angry.”
Listen to Gerard Whateley’s full top 10 defining moments in sport this year below