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Ranking, countdown, analysis, feature, Ariarne Titmus, Ash Barty, Sam Kerr, Jess Fox

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If you’ll allow us to get nationalistic for a moment…

What a year it was for Australian sport. Amid the pandemic, we still managed to run tremendous seasons of our leading winter codes, while our national teams drew plaudits for their skills abroad.

With apologies to Quade Cooper, Madison de Rozario, Dylan Alcott and many others, the staff of Foxsports.com.au combines to reveal the 10 best Aussie sports performances of 2021.

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Foxsports.com.au looks at the top 10 Aussie performances in sport for 2021.
Foxsports.com.au looks at the top 10 Aussie performances in sport for 2021.Source: FOX SPORTS

GOAT KILLER: ARNIE TAKES DOWN LEGEND LEDECKY

Emma McKeon’s astonishing seven-medal haul will go down as one of our greatest ever Olympic performances. However Ariarne Titmus overcoming living legend Katie Ledecky in their first duel is hard to beat as the single greatest moment of Australia’s glorious performance in the Tokyo pool.

Nobody had ever beaten Ledecky at the Olympics until Titmus overpowered her on the final lap of the 400m final; the perfect fruition of a gruelling, meticulous campaign that took the Aussie star and her colourful coach Dean Boxall to some “dark places”.

“I’d thought about that moment probably every day for probably two years. People probably don’t understand the work that went into that race … and the amount of pain that Arnie had to go through. It was enormous,” said Boxall, who became a global viral sensation over his now-iconic celebration.

– Liam Fitzgibbon

Ariarne Titmus’ dominance headlined a golden week of winning from our women in the Tokyo pool. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

BARTY PARTY MIGRATES TO SW19

The number one tennis player in the world doesn’t quite get the respect that her ranking suggests; and admittedly, Ash Barty has benefited slightly from a virtual ranking freeze, allowing her to stay No.1 from September 2019 until now.

But after breaking through for her first grand slam singles title in 2019 at Roland Garros, it was time for Barty to prove once again she’s one of Australia’s greatest ever woolly ball exports. And that time arrived at Wimbledon.

Coming in as the top seed, Barty dropped a set in her opening round match with beloved veteran Carla Suarez Navarro but didn’t lose another until the final, when she came up against her third Czech opponent of the tournament – former world No.1 Karolina Pliskova.

With an astonishing two million Aussies staying up past midnight to watch the final, Barty claimed the opening set 6-3, then dropped the second in a 6-7(4) tie-break, before roaring home to win the final set 6-3 – and claim the title she’d been dreaming of since childhood.

She became one of a dozen women to ever win both the French Open and Wimbledon and the first Aussie woman to win on the famed grass courts since Evonne Goolagong-Cawley 41 years earlier; a fitting note for the two Indigenous stars.

“I hope I made Evonne proud,” Barty said tearfully after her win.

She did. And she made all of us proud, too.

– Max Laughton

The queen of Wimbledon. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)Source: The Weekend Australian Magazine

MILLS LEADS BOOMERS TO ‘ROSE GOLD’

Patty Mills was already one of Australia’s most beloved sporting icons. But he cemented his legacy in its sporting folklore with a 42-point explosion in the Boomers’ bronze medal triumph over Luka Doncic’s Slovenia 107-93 at the Tokyo Olympics, the nation’s first men’s basketball medal.

The Boomers had been on the precipice of winning a medal for some time including a heartbreaking 95-88 loss to Spain at the 2019 FIBA World Cup, but the clock was ticking with the current squad.

And it was only fitting that Mills was the man to lead the country to glory for the first time as its superstar leader for so many years. His 42 points marked the 10th-highest of all-time at the Olympics and the second-most ever by an Aussie.

– Ben Cotton

Patty Mills led Australia to a long-awaited men’s basketball Olympic medal. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

AFL’S LONGEST FLAG DROUGHT BROKEN

Few predicted Melbourne would make the finals in 2021, let alone challenge for a premiership. But on the last Saturday of September, Simon Goodwin’s side produced one of the AFL’s most famous Grand Final victories to break a 57-year flag drought.

When Western Bulldogs skipper Marcus Bontempelli kicked his second goal 12 minutes into the third quarter, Melbourne fans began dreading familiar heartbreak. Cue an exhilarating 51-minute blitz that saw the Dees kick 16 goals to one and turn a 19-point deficit into a 74-point victory.

Star midfielder Christian Petracca played one of the all-time great individual Grand Finals, finishing with an equal-record 39 disposals, 24 contested possessions, 15 score involvements, 11 inside 50s, nine clearances and two goals to claim the Norm Smith medal.

The only downside to the night was the fact the Dees weren’t able to lift the premiership cup aloft on the hallowed turf at the MCG in front of Melbourne-based fans as Victoria was in the midst of a significant Covid outbreak at the time of the Grand Final. But with more games set to be played in Melbourne next year and the Demons expected to challenge again, loyal fans could see a Dees premiership live after all.

– Ben Waterworth

The AFL’s longest active flag drought finally ended. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

NATION IN TEARS AS FOX PROVES HER GOAT STATUS

The crown of “greatest of all-time” is heavy, especially when you haven’t even won an Olympic gold medal yet.

Expectations were high for canoeist Jess Fox heading into Tokyo, given she was already a seven-time world champion, but had ‘only’ a silver and a bronze to her name at the Games.

With her dad commentating on TV, Australia was heartbroken when Fox went fastest in the K1 event but earned a penalty which dropped her down to bronze; another chance was gone. Yet she bravely rebounded, and soared to glory in the inaugural Olympic C1 final, finally claiming the gold she so richly deserved.

“It’s relief. It’s, like, yeah. You know, she’s such a good paddler. Such a good person,” her dad Richard said on commentary, breaking down in quiet tears – as the rest of the nation did with him.

– Max Laughton

Jess Fox celebrates after winning her gold medal in Tokyo. Picture: Alex CoppelSource: News Corp Australia

SUPER SAM IGNITES MATILDAS

The Matildas’ talismanic skipper Sam Kerr claimed the league, league cup, and the FA Cup with Chelsea, and guided Australia to a best-ever fourth-place finish in the Olympics – while becoming the nation’s all-time top scorer.

Oh, and she was voted the third best player in the world, only behind Barcelona pair Alexia Putellas and Jennifer Hermosos in the Ballon d’Or Féminin.

And to cap it all off she delivered her best Andrew Symonds impression to flatten a pitch invader. Proving there’s nothing she can’t do, she also published a children’s book.

– Zac Rayson

Sam Kerr is one of the best on the planet. (Photo by Alex Pantling/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

TOMMY TURBO’S ALL TIME RUN OF FORM

Tom Trbojevic pledged to make it up to his team when he was bizarrely ruled out for the first month of the 2021 season due to a slip in the shower, the morning after racing a punter in the Manly corso.

A man of his word, Trbojevic did so and then some, producing arguably the greatest run of form in NRL history – edging out Jarryd Hayne’s spectacular 2009 season and Ben Barba’s year in 2012.

Trbojevic finished the season with the second-most try assists (31), the second-most tries (28), the third-most linebreaks (32) and the third-most tackle busts (131), all while playing just 18 games due to injuries.

The 25-year-old took Manly from an 0-4 start to the year without him, to only losing three more games all season with him in the side, helping the Sea Eagles to go from last place in Round 5 to the top four by year’s end.

Trbojevic was rewarded for his spectacular season when he was named the deserving winner of the game’s highest individual honour, The Dally M Medal, with 35 points from 18 games, five clear of second placed Nathan Cleary.

– Mark St John

Tom Trbojevic with the Dally M Medal. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

AUSSIES BACK ON TOP OF THE T20 WORLD

The Big Bash’s success hasn’t always equated to glory for our men’s T20 side, given that most of Australia’s big names don’t play in the domestic tournament; it’s an advantage India, in particular, often holds.

And so going into the T20 World Cup – which we would’ve hosted in 2020, if not for the pandemic – there was minimal expectation around the Aussies. After all they’d only made the final once in six attempts (2010) and failed to make it out of the groups in their last two appearances.

But the magic of T20 cricket, especially with a star-laden side like Australia’s, is that anything can happen. And so after narrowly sneaking through the groups, a thrilling semi-final saw Matthew Wade dropped before hitting three sixes in a row on route to victory, while the much-maligned Mitch Marsh combined with David Warner for a 92-run trophy-winning partnership to run down New Zealand.

– Max Laughton

Australia won the T20 World Cup for the first time. (Photo by Alex Davidson/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

PIASTRI’S TRIPLE-PLAY SETS HIM UP FOR F1 STARDOM

Only the most ardent motorsport fans would’ve known Oscar Piastri’s name before 2021, and those who only watch the F1 dash around Albert Park still may not. But they will soon enough.

The 20-year-old Melburnian isn’t in Formula 1 just yet but it appears inevitable after he claimed his third consecutive championship in a third different circuit – first the Formula Renault Eurocup, then the FIA Formula 3 crown, and now the FIA Formula 2 title; that’s the three championships leading up to F1 itself.

“He couldn’t have done a great deal more. It was really the way he dominated the Formula 2 Championship this year,” his manager and former Aussie F1 star Mark Webber said.

“We all know, there’s no one questioning that he deserves to go up to Formula 1 next year, but it’s just the way the market rolled out. There just wasn’t many seats available … he certainly went on a bit of a rampage to finish the year off. That was really special to see with the five poles in a row and plenty of wins and fastest laps and obviously no one in the field had an answer for him, which was brilliant to see.”

Only new Mercedes driver George Russell and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc had won F3 and F2 in consecutive seasons before Piastri, who will be the reserve driver at Alpine behind Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon in 2022, hoping to replace Alonso in 2023.

– Max Laughton

Oscar Piastri celebrates his F2 title with the Prema Racing team. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

KAMBOSOS CLAIMS ALL-TIME UPSET

George Kambosos Jnr was written off by the boxing world when he entered the ring against undefeated world champion Teofimo Lopez. Then the rank outsider did the unthinkable, claiming a decision victory to snatch the IBF, WBO, WBA and The Ring lightweight world championships.

It wasn’t just the result that was one of the most impressive in Australian boxing history, but his sublime performance from the first punch to the final bell.

Manny Pacquiao, a former sparring partner of Kambosos, declared how proud he was of the Aussie while local boxing writer Grantlee Kieza declared it “one of the greatest performances ever by an Aussie boxer”.

– Zac Rayson

George Kambosos returning home to Australia earlier this month. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

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McLaren boss Zak Brown ‘wouldn’t be shocked’ if Lewis Hamilton quits before 2022 season

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McLaren CEO Zak Brown says he “wouldn’t be shocked” if Lewis Hamilton chose to quit Formula One before the start of the 2022 season.

The seven-time world champion has kept his cards close to his chest since he missed out on last year’s title to Max Verstappen, who overtook him on the last lap of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in controversial circumstances.

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Speculation has been rife about Hamilton’s future after he was beaten to the world championship for the first time since 2016.

The 36-year-old and Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff snubbed the end-of-season F1 gala, even though they were required to attend.

Hamilton, who is contracted with Mercedes to the end of 2023, is yet to publicly confirm whether he will race on this year, but Wolff is hopeful his charge will return to the grid.

Brown, who is the boss of Daniel Ricciardo and Lando Norris, said he wouldn’t be surprised if Hamilton called it quits and walked away from F1.

“I wouldn’t be shocked if he stopped, so I don’t think anyone should take for granted he’s coming back,” he said.

“My personal opinion is he’s going to (continue racing), but I don’t think we should discount or not recognise his frustration and his anger.

Lewis Hamilton’s F1 future is up in the air. (Photo by Kamran Jebreili – Pool/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

“Maybe he hasn’t made a decision and maybe what he’s doing is taking time to make that decision to make sure, because once that decision is made, that decision is made.

“So, I don’t think we should rule it out or make light of it. I just personally think he still has a burning desire to race and that will ultimately drive his decision.”

Ultimately Brown believes Hamilton will continue to race in F1, driven by the desire to win a record-breaking eighth world championship.

“I think he’ll be back,” he said.

“He’s a racing driver. I think he’s at the top of his game.

“I’m sure he’s very angry, but I think race car drivers want to race and I think he’s a fighter, and he’ll want to come back and try to win an eighth championship.

“I don’t think he’s ready to retire; this is my own personal opinion, I’ve not talked to him, because once you hang it up, you hang it up.

“I guess you could come back as some have done, but I don’t think he’s ready to hang it up and I don’t think he’s going to let an incident put him into retirement.”

Hamilton lost the 2021 world championship to Max Verstappen in controversial circumstances. (Photo by ANDREJ ISAKOVIC / AFP)Source: AFP

Brown’s comments come after former F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone predicted Hamilton will retire before the 2022 season, which begins with the Bahrain Grand Prix on March 20.

The Brit reportedly also reportedly ignored messages from newly-elected FIA president Mahamaaed Ben Sulayem as time ticks on towards the start of the 2022 season.

Hamilton is expected to attend the virtual launch of Mercedes’ 2022 car on February 18.

Meanwhile, the fallout from the dramatic season finale in Abu Dhabi has continued.

The FIA, F1’s governing body, will reveal the results of their investigation into the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on March 18, just two days before the season gets underway in Bahrain.

There have been calls for the FIA to sack Australian race director Michael Masi, after he came under fire for his use of the safety car in the dying stages of the race.

Many F1 fans criticised Masi for his decision to move only the lapped cars between Hamilton and Verstappen to set up a final lap shootout between the two rivals.

Verstappen, on fresh tyres, overtook Hamilton to win the world title.

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F1 news 2022, Lewis Hamilton, Max Verstappen, 2021 title, appeal, decision date, new season calendar, full race schedule

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Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton must wait two more months for motorsport chiefs to reveal the results of their inquiry into the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix where the Dutchman clinched the 2021 world title.

Governing body, the FIA, said Thursday that the outcome will not be revealed until March 18, just two days before the 2022 season gets underway in Bahrain.

Hamilton was poised to capture a record-breaking eighth world title at the Abu Dhabi finale in December before a controversial safety car restart allowed Verstappen to pass the British driver on the last lap.

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(Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)
(Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

The incident has led to speculation that a disillusioned 37-year-old Hamilton may be prepared to turn his back on Formula One.

On Thursday, the FIA said that team chiefs as well as representatives of the ruling body will meet on January 19 to discuss the use of the safety car.

Drivers will also be brought into the discussions, it said.

“The outcome of the detailed analysis will be presented to the F1 Commission in February, and final decisions will be announced at the World Motor Sport Council in Bahrain on 18 March,” added the FIA.

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F1 news 2022, Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, retirement, quit, latest, new contract, 2022 calendar, season

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Lewis Hamilton’s F1 future still remains unclear with just 69 days to go until the 2022 season begins as the FIA’s investigation into the how the 2021 season ended now thought to be key in his decision making.

The FIA has pledged to investigate the controversial circumstances around the final lap of the 2021 season which saw Max Verstappen pip Hamilton to the world title in Abu Dhabi.

Mercedes withdrew their appeal against the result after the FIA announced they would launch an investigation into the events surrounding the safety car procedures.

Hamilton made a cryptic reference to his future in his post-race interview with former teammate Jenson Button.

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(Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)
(Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

“We gave it everything and never gave up and that’s the most important thing. We’ll see about next year,” he said.

This pledge is now reportedly crucial in whether Hamilton decides to get into a Formula 1 car again, according to Sky Sports, and the delay in its findings are seemingly impacting the delay in the seven-time world champion’s decision.

Sky Sports News’ Craig Slater reported: “With 69 days to go until the first Grand Prix in Bahrain, it is still unclear whether Lewis Hamilton will be on the grid.

“In terms of Hamilton coming back to Formula 1, having the appetite to do so and getting over the ‘disillusionment’ that his team boss Toto Wolff said he felt after Abu Dhabi, the onus is on the FIA to deliver on the pledge they made before Christmas to investigate the happenings on that final lap and to come up with some findings.

“It is understood that Mercedes want to see something tangible. It’s been put to me like this: the longer this drags on then the worse the Lewis Hamilton situation is, and that is from a senior source.”

The 23-race 2022 season begins on March 18 with winter testing for the all-new generation of cars beginning on February 23.

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