INSIDE YEAR IN REVIEW
The Bulldogs became the first team tow in the flag from seventh place, an astonishing feat.
This year the sporting world has taken us on an unforgeable and exhilarating ride. In this modern era of ultra-professionalism and spin, when we’re constantly fed cliched lines like “we’re just taking it one game at a time”, something shied. Sport delivered the unpredictable, the unexpected and ultimately in many codes, the underdog! First there was Leicester City, who started the English Premier League season at 5000-1 to win the premiership. In a system where the big clubs get bigger and the small clubs continue to ba
le, Leicester City needed a miracle. And that’s exactly what happened. Aer a period of offfield turmoil, the club appointed a charismatic Italian manager and pulled together a driven playing group made up of has-beens, workhorses and up-and-comers. The Foxes combined to prove that money doesn’t always buy silverware, pulling off a thrilling EPL victory, to the delight of long-suffering fans.
Just when we thought Leicester was a oncein-a-generation sporting moment, enter the Cleveland Cavs. LeBron James stunned the NBA when he quit Miami and returned to Cleveland, vowing to deliver his hometown its first ever NBA championship. The sports-mad city hadn’t won a sporting title in 52 years. The Cavs created history by becoming the first ever team to recover from a 3-1 finals deficit; LeBron’s superhuman block in the final stages of game seven delivering the title his people had long been craving. Mission accomplished.
The Cavs weren’t the only team to do it for their people. In the AFL, the Western Bulldogs had long been recognised as the league’s ultimate ba lers, representing Melbourne’s working class and suffering through the longest premiership drought of any other team in the league – 62 heartbreaking years.
Their rookie coach, Luke Beveridge, was a breath of fresh air and his young charges played an electrifying, high-risk game of football. They were resilient, too, bouncing back as players went down like dominoes with injuries. The ‘Dogs rode a wave of euphoria in September, winning on the road in Perth and Sydney before a magical grand final victory. They became the first team to win the flag from seventh place, an astonishing feat.
Cronulla Sharks fans would have watched on hoping some of the Bulldogs’ grand final magic would rub off ... and it did! In 49 years of competition, the Sharkies had never won the premiership. They weren’t the form team heading into the finals, losing six of their last seven games before September. Supporters were resigning themselves to another year of missed opportunities. But on the day that ma ered most, Paul Gallen and his men stood tall to overcome the fast-finishing Melbourne Storm, and end the title drought.
The final narrative of the year, baseball’s World Series, featured two success-starved teams that hadn’t tasted victory since the middle of last century. The Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians re-wrote history to join the list of drought-breaking underdogs for 2016.
Each of these teams restored faith in the contest. They knew what success would mean to the fans. They used the emotion surrounding their campaigns to their advantage. These clubs embraced the hype and the spirit, knowing the whole story wasn’t just about them, it was about those they represent.
Their victories have captured everyone’s imagination, even those with no emotional investment in the outcome. Because, at the end of the day, everyone loves an underdog. And to see them succeed makes us believe that anything is possible.