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Gerard Whateley's 10 defining sporting moments of 2021


From enormous moments on the international stage to those that occurred on domestic shores, here’s Gerard Whateley’s comprehensive top 10.

The overall achievement of Emma McKeon, Genevieve Gregson in the steeplechase, the Olympic skateboarding, India beating Australia at the Gabba and Australia’s T20 World Cup victory all were unlucky to miss out.

See it below:

10. Tom Brady wins a seventh Super Bowl

“In other parts of the world this might very well stand at number one. Brady’s phenomenal legacy as the greatest NFL player of all was forged in partnership with the Patriots and coach Bill Belichick,” he told SEN’s Whateley.

“His seventh with that organisation wouldn’t have meant nearly as much as did mean elsewhere. The Patriots wanted to search for the future and in his mid-40s Brady was left to choose a new home and opted for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

“Recall the backdrop, many thought that he should have retired, that he was pushing it too far. First up, he took his new team, the least successful franchise in NFL history, to the Super Bowl and there he would face the one player with the raw materials to one day challenge his own accomplishments and that was the figure of Patrick Mahomes.

“It was a true battle of the generations and Brady prevailed absolutely and Brady prevailed magnificently.”

9. Verry Elleegant wins the Melbourne Cup

“Another crowning glory at number nine, Verry Elleegant winning the Melbourne Cup.”

“The nervous nellies thought that this would be a sub-standard edition of the Melbourne Cup, a return to mid-week handicap derided before the race turned international.

“Only two Europeans faced the starter given the impact of the new veterinary rules, but it gave us a safe running of the race and that allowed us to revel in the grandeur of what happened on the track because it was one of the great Melbourne Cups.

“Australia’s champion racehorse running down the turfs new star, defying the best of the English staying form.”

8. Dylan Alcott completes the Golden Slam

“This is the story of a career journey not just one magnificent year where Alcott won the lot.”

“The quad wheelchair tennis champion had been to the cusp of the grand slam previously, but couldn’t complete the set in New York.

“2021 offered the chance to not only stitch together the four Grand Slam tournaments, but add in the gold medal at the Paralympics and that’s the event that truly has Dylan’s heart.

“In February he claimed a seventh Australian Open title, by the middle of the year when he won a second Wimbledon crown it was clear he was on his international farewell tour.

“For all that he’s achieved, there’s a special place at the Paralympics given that his sporting journey started in wheelchair basketball with a gold medal in Beijing.

“He won the gold, he got on the plane to New York and completed the deed before announcing that this Australian Open would be his last.”

7. Hawthorn jettisons Alastair Clarkson

“If you like the ultimate fusion of sports and politics, the end of the Clarko era at Hawthorn offered boundless fodder. It’s a case that will be studied for generations to come.”

“What was attempted owed more to a federal political coup than footy.

“Jeff Kennett wanted Clarkson out and it was nothing but a power play. It was brazen but not nearly as clever as the politician imagined.

“He lined up a succession plan with Mitchell to inherit the mantle … it was a shotgun arrangement. The briefest conversation before it was announced.

“Kennett hand-picked his audience and turned his most condescending performance, but the tensions were real, immediate and deep. In the manoeuvrings that followed, Clarkson outpointed Kennett more completing that Steve Bracks had in 1999.

“The succession plan didn’t make it to four weeks, Clarkson would go with a full payout, Sam Mitchell would be damaged on his way into the job and Kennett would be forced from office by the supporters that understood exactly what had transpired.”

6. Tim Paine resigns as Australian Test captain

“It was a sleepy Friday afternoon, an abrupt press conference is called, Tim Paine announces his immediate resignation and the reason; a texting scandal.”

“In doing so, he became the second successive captain to leave that office in disgrace.

“It is a tawdry story that is ripping at the sport. A previous investigation found that Paine had not breached the code of conduct. It didn’t last an hour in the public glare.

“Cricket Australia then stunningly declared it would make the opposite decision when presented with the same facts and without any change to the integrity inquiry at the time.

“Regardless of where the blame is apportioned it damages the sport immeasurably and two weeks out from an Ashes summer, the second most important role in the country lies vacant.”

5. Jess Fox wins Olympic gold

“This is probably my favourite moment … this is quintessential in how we follow an Olympic Games. It’s doubtful that any of us watched a frame of slalom canoeing or kayaking in the five years previous, but we knew of Jess Fox and her quest.”

“There we were riding every gate with Fox swerving left and right in the rapids, holding our collective breath through the most tense 105 seconds of the games.

“Fox had lived the agony of narrow defeat in the K1 final on a Tuesday and that was felt right across the nation. She touched the penultimate gate and it cost her the gold she had been striving for her entire career.

“She hid the hurt publicly, but then had to put herself back together for the C1 competition, a discipline that was only included in the Olympics because of her advocacy for equality with her male contemporaries.

“She had the nerve to stare down and then seize her destiny. I feel for years to come it will be used as an example of an athlete dealing with acute disappointment on a short timeline and then recovering to succeed.

“Her exuberant leap on the podium and her beaming smile put a tear in every eye back home.”

4. Boomers claim their first Olympic medal

“You have to risk having your heart ripped out to ultimately let your spirit soar, both as a participant and as a fan, that was the Boomers in Tokyo.”

“A semi-final date with the might of the U.S … after a promising start it became a gruesome pummelling. The Boomers know about enduring pain across a 65-year odyssey, it bound the generations together that had worn that singlet.

“Patty Mills wanted his contemporaries to understand the journey and what they represented beyond themselves and Brian Goorjian as coach took the cues to cast off the disappointment and challenge the team to complete the mission in the bronze medal match.

“Against Slovenia, Mills was epic and emotion poured fourth and the final buzzer. The tears of the Boomers in Tokyo were matched by those of Andrew Gaze in the television studio that we all got to share in real time. It was a moment that touched us all.”

3. Melbourne’s drought breaking premiership win

“In a field so deep there are no guarantees a domestic football premiership would make the list, but Melbourne’s triumph was no ordinary victory.”

“Not when you’re laying to rest a curse after 57 years and not when it happens in such a seismic way and not when it unlocks the most beautiful emotions in the Melbourne community.

“It seemed to reaffirm why sport means so much to the people of this city and it was experienced on the other side of the country.

“Still in almost every neighbourhood, red and blue adorns fences and doors and walls and these events live so vividly events of the Melbourne faithful.”

2. Ash Barty wins Wimbledon

“The All England grass courts have had such a hold of our imaginations forever and watching events from the other side of the world in the wee hours, it’s one of the great charms of being an Australian sports fan and Ash Barty represents the best of us as a sporting nation.”

“Barty had dared to share her dream of winning Wimbledon and that gave us all a stake in her quest.

“It was one of the great sporting moments.”

1. Ariarne Titmus takes down Katie Ledecky in the race of the Olympics

“It had been foretold for two years in the build-up. The greatest female distance swimmer in history against the Australian who coveted the crown.”

“It was built into the psyche of both athletes and it was embedded as a source of national pride in their respective countries.

“The added bonus in that was what got to meet Dean Boxall, who become our national motivator.”

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