IN­SIDE YEAR IN RE­VIEW

Inside Sport - - EDITOR'S LETTER - BY FOX SPORTS’ K EL LI UN­DER WOOD

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 shied. 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. Aer 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.

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