The sport’s world had a blockbuster 2019 and narrowing down the year’s 10 greatest moments was tough. Needless to say a number of unforgettable moments missed the cut.
The controversy and devastation of the infamous NRL Grand Final six-count; the fairy-tale of Noeline Taurua leading the Silver Ferns to a stirring Netball World Cup triumph; Mack Horton’s defiance against Sun Yang; the Cricket World Cup Final’s absurd finish; and the NFL Championship Sunday’s all-consuming fixtures to name a few.
None of these moments made the list. So without further adieu, these are postup’s 10 greatest sporting moments of 2019.
10. The Tayla Harris Kick
Tayla Harris is one of the most recognisable faces in football. Her game smarts and tenacity with the footy is crucial to Carlton’s success, while her accuracy off the boot is second to none, dominating on the big stage with her extraordinary kicking action.
But with her kick came plenty of commentary after a photograph by Michael Wilson went viral. With misogyny and trolls in tow, the photo was taken down from social media – provoking further criticism regarding treatment of women online.
Many would have dealt with the issue personally, but not Harris. Instead, she chose to clap back at the obscene comments and subsequent removal of the photo, creating a move for better treatment of women in sport and other male-dominated field.
Here’s a pic of me at work… think about this before your derogatory comments, animals. pic.twitter.com/68aBVVbTTj
— Tayla Harris (@taylaharriss) March 19, 2019
This movement went viral as other sportswomen spoke up, the photo doing rounds not only across Australia’s sporting landscape but the world’s.
Harris was later dedicated a 3.3 metre statue memorialising not only the image, but her dedication to stamping out misogyny in sport and empowering young girls to embrace what makes them different.
Sophie Taylor, 23
9. Anthony Joshua v Andy Ruiz Jr.
Anthony Joshua was undefeated heading into his heavyweight championship fight against Andy Ruiz Jr in June.
The Brit was on fire and in much better shape than his Mexican opponent – who was only selected a month prior because Joshua’s original opponent Jarrell Miller failed a drug test. But surprises were in store.
Joshua claimed the first knock-down of the fight in Round 3, but Ruiz Jr responded by knocking him down moments later, the sturdy Mexican unfazed by his opponent’s shots throughout the fight.
He continued to hold his own, steering clear of Joshua’s dangerous punches, before shockingly knocking down Joshua for the second time in Round 7. After the mandatory eight count, Joshua’s answers to the referee were deemed incoherent and insufficient, and the match was called.
The result sent shockwaves through the sporting world. To many, Ruiz Jr becoming the new unified heavyweight champion was the biggest upset since Buster Douglas beat Mike Tyson in 1990.
OMG! OMG! I cannot believe this S$&@$! Anthony Joshua — holder of 3 belts, gets TKO’d by Butter Bean…….I mean some dude named Andy Ruiz JR. What a damn disgrace. Joshua looked completely gassed! More fatigued than hurt! Now how in the Hell did you let that happen? How?
— Stephen A Smith (@stephenasmith) June 2, 2019
While Joshua has since defeated the Mexican to win back his titles, their first bout will undoubtedly go down in history.
Daniel Renfrey, 22
8. Steve Smith’s Ashes Series
They say cricket is the most individual team sport in the world, and there’s perhaps no greater embodiment of this theory than Steve Smith’s Ashes campaign.
Smith was meant to fail here…everyone else did.
Instead, with the all-too-familiar shuffle and a few fidgets, he pierced through England’s best-laid plans and racked up 774 runs at an average of 111.
Set up as a prime LBW candidate, England zoned in on Smith’s pads but the Australian dispatched ball after ball, leaving England captain Joe Root flummoxed and England disheartened.
Rescuing Australia from perilous positions was Smith’s specialty. Back-to-back tons with his side flailing at 8/144 in his first test since the sandpaper suspension was pure cinema.
A double century on return from concussion and the Headingley debacle, which he missed, was another such case.
Tellingly, as the series went on, England gave up on the former captain getting out and a hostile crowd – which had booed Smith throughout the series – now offered standing ovations as he left the field after each match-shifting knock.
Adam Daunt, 22
7. Ash Barty makes history
After years of hard work, Ash Barty’s rise to the top of world tennis was relatively quick.
In just 70 minutes, the 23-year-old Queenslander clinched her first grand slam title at the French Open, beating her Czech opponent Markéta Vondroušová in straight sets.
Following a brief sojourn into the world of cricket, Ash Barty became the first Australian to win a grand slam singles title since Samantha Stosur won the US Open in 2011.
Having returned from a sabbatical to become the second-ever Australian female world number one – in the footsteps of fellow Indigenous pioneer Evonne Goolagong Cawley – Barty’s story is particularly resonant at a time when the mental health of elite athletes is increasingly openly spoken about.
Barty captivated Australia with her underdog-like triumph and continued her stream of success throughout 2019, ensuring she enters the new decade as the number one ranked player on the planet.
Jesse Neill, 22
6. The legend of Biles
Simone Biles’ decade of dominance capped off with a pair of historic moments at the World Championships in Stuttgart, Germany.
During the October event, Biles invented two new skills and performed them to near perfection on her way to five of the six world titles on offer, including her double-twisting, double somersault dismount on the balance beam – the third skill to be named after her.
Not content with one ground-breaking moment, Biles also landed a triple-twisting, double somersault on her floor routine, now known as the ‘Biles II’. This was more than enough to send every sort of social media into pandemonium.
Now the most decorated artistic gymnast of all time at 22-years-old, Biles has brought the sport so far forward that – in the interests of player safety – officials capped one of her signature moves to be worth less points.
hahahaHAHAHAHAHhahaHahaAhahAhahahaAhahahHAHAahaaaaaaaHa bullshit https://t.co/NAnzBlfh8c
— Simone Biles (@Simone_Biles) October 1, 2019
It sure is one way to surmise Biles’ dominance in the sport, culminating in two breathtaking moments within hours of each other.
Benito Carbone, 21
Although Australia was collectively aggrieved at the conclusion of this one, the insanity of Headingley began well before the finishing fireworks.
Without concussed captain Steve Smith, Australia responded to their own paltry first innings total of 179 by skittling England for just 67. Two days later, Stokes was flayed out, celebrating a historic victory.
At 156/3 at the beginning of the final day, Stokes had faced 66 balls for his two runs, playing second fiddle to captain Joe Root, well-established on 75. Chasing 359, Root fell quickly, and Jonny Bairstow’s resistance was short-lived.
Within 15 overs, 245/5 became 286/9 and an unassailable 2-0 series lead was within reach for Australia.
But with the Cricket World Cup Final still fresh in the memories of many, writing off Ben Stokes was a perilous task.
With Jack Leach for company, Stokes went ballistic in an unbeaten 76-run 10th wicket partnership. Farming the strike to perfection whilst launching Josh Hazlewood – who had nine wickets for the match – and company across the ground with unorthodoxy, fortune favoured the brave.
With two runs still to get – one to tie – Lyon’s inability to field a returning throw onto the stumps saved Leach, after a botched run call left him stranded metres from his crease.
But the following ball was the cruelest.
Stokes’ missed slog sweep saw him wrapped on the pads by a Lyon jaffa that clearly straightened. It’s plumb, but umpire Joel Wilson didn’t give it.
Captain Tim Paine – who used his final review five minutes earlier for a ball that was missing fifth stump – couldn’t take the one hitting middle upstairs.
Three deliveries later, Leach hit the only run of his 17-ball innings before Stokes belted the winning boundary through the covers to pure elation, ripping apart the hearts of Australians.
Benito Carbone, 21
4. Toronto Raptors’ Championship Run
Toronto’s 2018 off season decision to trade away Demar DeRozan – their best player since Vince Carter – for an injury-riddled former Finals MVP with his heart set on Los Angeles was heavily scrutinised.
If the furore surrounding the move was an indicator of what would unfold, Masai Ujiri was a fraud and the Toronto Raptors amounted to nothing in the 2018/19 NBA season.
Fortunately, Kawhi Leonard didn’t play to the expectations of Facebook comment sections.
The journey to an NBA Championship – Canada’s first – was full of incredible moments, including rookie coach Nick Nurse rattling off four straight W’s to dismantle the Milwaukee Bucks after going two games down in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Others include commanding road victories in Games 3 and 4 of the Finals after surrendering home court advantage in a Game 2 loss in Toronto as well as Kawhi’s 10-straight points late in the fourth quarter of Game 5 that absolutely felt like the championship had been won (it hadn’t, Steph Curry and Klay Thompson somehow rescued this match).
Winning Larry O’Brien was also special, but the most overwhelming moment took place in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
With scores tied and 4.2 seconds to play, Toronto’s play to get the ball in Fun Guy’s hands essentially failed. Leonard was quite literally put in a corner by Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. Off-balance and with numbers to shoot over, the Finals MVP let fly on a shot that – if logic had played a part – should not have fallen.
On the floor surrounded by his bench, Kawhi watched as the ball bounced off the near-side of the rim to the top of the backboard. With a mind of its own and every intention to make basketball history, the ball bounced onto the near side of the rim again, before bouncing off the other side, knocking the ring once more as gravity returned to Canada to count the bucket.
— Mark Blinch (@mblinch) May 13, 2019
Board man went to work, got paid, then was hired elsewhere, but what was business to Kawhi Leonard remains in the hearts of an entire country, probably forever.
Benito Carbone, 21
3. Djokovic outlasts Federer in all-time Wimbledon final
Centre Court at the All England Club is no stranger to breathtaking moments and countless legends of the game have etched their names into the illustrious history books at SW19.
The two greats that met in the latest men’s final were no exception, battling out one of the greatest matches ever witnessed. In pursuit of his ninth Wimbledon title and 21st major title, Federer faced Djokovic, who was searching for his fifth and 15th respectively.
Djokovic’s characteristic serve and serve return seemed lost on the court, but he was elite in clutch moments and won two of the first three sets in tiebreakers. Federer breezed through the second set 6-1.
Relentless rallies from deep played into the Joker’s hands, although the 37-year-old Swiss maestro hung on to take the fourth and set up a finale that didn’t disappoint.
Anxiety level that entire match: pic.twitter.com/4uV55plYNP
— Sloane Stephens (@SloaneStephens) July 14, 2019
The battle raged as the lead changed hands until a pair of timely and signature aces propelled Federer to a double championship point, only for the Serbian to pull back to level it.
At 12-12 and nearing the five-hour mark, a newly introduced fifth set tiebreak (to avoid another Mahut-Isner scenario) commenced, and it was the spectacular Djokovic who dominated to win one of the greatest major finals in modern times.
Jordan Walters, 25
2. The Miracle of Anfield
Renowned for its atmosphere, the exceptional football played and the unforgettable once-in-a-lifetime moments, Anfield nights have been magical since the 1970s.
After going to Barcelona’s famed Camp Nou for the first leg of the UEFA Champions League semi-finals, Liverpool found themselves travelling back to Anfield with a three-goal deficit to overcome.
Without Mo Salah and Roberto Firmino, Liverpool were dreaming for one of those fabled Anfield nights.
When Divock Origi scored in seventh minute, the Kopite crowd could sense something special. Half time substitute Gini Wijnaldum’s two-minute double in the 54th and 56th minute mark drew the tie level at 3-3.
Sheer brilliance occurred next. Where age may have hesitated, Trent Alexander-Arnold and his youth ventured.
Having earned a corner with 10 minutes to play, Alexander-Arnold took the set piece quickly and caught Barcelona off guard. On the receiving end of the cross, Origi buried his second goal of the night to give Liverpool a lead they would never relinquish.
At the start of the night, Anfield dreamed of a miracle and through the course of 90-minutes that followed, they saw one.
Adam Jones, 25
1. Tiger roars again
The ten years after Tiger Woods’ 14th Major Championship in 2008 were as turbulent as imaginable. Scandal, injury, good golf, bad golf, and more injury: but no Majors.
Following his fourth back procedure – this time spinal fusion surgery – Tiger entered 2018 ranked outside of the top 1000 golfers in the world. Most were resigned to the fact that Woods – now in his early 40s – was never getting back to the top.
Fast forward to 14 April 2019: The Masters.
Woods – in his Sunday red and a slick mock turtleneck only he can pull off – was two shots behind leader Francesco Molinari with the final round to play.
Three birdies on the front nine inched Tiger closer to the lead. However, the metronome Molinari held his composure, to hang on as Amen Corner approached (holes 11 through 13 at Augusta).
Everyone except Tiger put their ball in Rae’s Creek to double bogey the 12th. The veteran Woods played it safe and landed the ball over the bunker on the left side of the green.
A two-putt to make par and a birdie on the 13th swung the tournament in favour of Tiger. Why? The man in red now has a share of the lead.
If there is one thing you need to know about Eldrick ‘Tiger’ Woods, it’s that he never loses when he leads on Sunday. Ever.
Another birdie on 15 and a near hole-in-one on 16 put Tiger in the position to stroll down the 18th and he only needed a bogey to secure the Green Jacket for a fifth time.
With the entire crowd surrounding the 18th green, Woods tapped it in and let out a cheer the decade in the making. The Tiger had returned, and he now sits atop the throne once more.
Harry Cunningham, 23
Image by Jarrod Pettit