From drought-breaking moments to the downright impossible, we run through Australia’s greatest sporting moments, ranked 10-1.
Get ready, Aussie sports fans; we’re about to take you on a thrilling journey down memory lane.
Over the years, we’ve witnessed some remarkable drama. From incredible acts of bravery and thrilling come-from-behind victories, to unexpected miracles and passionate moments in time that have united the country. Some events will stay with us forever.
So as hard as it was to settle on just 10 and then order them, after hours of trawling through the archives, that’s what we’ve done. Here are Australian sport’s greatest moments, ranked from 10 down to one.
Australian sport’s greatest moments, 10-1
When creating this list, we looked predominantly at the magnitude of the moment, taking into account the gravitas of the event, the pressure the individuals were under at the time, and the degree to which it changed the landscape of the sport and wider society. So let’s proceed.
10. John Eales kicks Australia to Bledisloe Cup glory
In 2000, Wallabies captain John Eales did something many Aussie children dream of; winning Australia a Bledisloe Cup with the last kick of the match.
Facing a hostile crowd in Wellington, with 84 minutes played and trailing 23-21, the Aussies were awarded a penalty. As Stirling Mortlock, the regular kicker, was off the pitch, Eales took it upon himself. He duly slotted it between the sticks in the dying seconds to cue delirium among the Australian team — still one of their most recent Bledisloe wins.
9. Cadel Evans wins the Tour de France
Cadel Evans winning the Tour de France should probably feature at number one in this list for the sheer physical demand involved in doing so. Not least because he was 34 back in 2001, making him the oldest cyclist since WWII to take out the yellow jersey.
Cadel triumphed after 21 gruelling stages, cycling 3,500km through France’s most challenging and treacherous landscapes. He didn’t actually hold the overall lead in the competition until the second-last stage, off the back of a mammoth time trial, making his achievement one of the greatest moments since the turn of the millennium.
8. Aloisi books Australia’s ticket to the 2006 Fifa World Cup finals
While it happened for the first time in 1974, late heartbreak against Iran in the qualification play-off in 1997 and a disappointing defeat to Uruguay in 2001 had left some fans wondering if the Socceroos would ever qualify for the World Cup again. So 2005 is one of those unforgettable moments for so many.
John Aloisi’s nerve-shredding, decisive kick in the 2005 rematch against Uruguay, having lost the away leg 1-0, cued utter euphoria in Sydney. Mark Bresciano was the star that levelled the tie earlier and keeper Mark Schwarzer then pulled off two brilliant saves, leaving Aloisi the ‘simple’ task of netting the Aussies into sporting folklore.
7. Adam Scott’s drought-breaking US Masters win
For Australian golfers, ‘Everest’ was the US Masters Golf Tournament. Before 2013, no Aussie ever wore a green jacket.
So when Adam Scott sunk a birdie putt to beat Angel Cabrera in the second playoff hole of the final day, as Augusta’s night sky continued to darken, Scott lifted a hoo-doo for Australian sport and provided one of the championship’s most memorable and tense finishes ever.
6. Steven Bradbury’s miracle on ice
It’s amazing how a person’s life can change in a milli-second. Steven Bradbury was given no chance of winning any gold medals at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.
Competing in the 1000 metres speed skating event, he was there to make up the numbers. Midway through the final, all was going to form and he was trailing the rest of the field… before the unimaginable emerged. Then the unimaginable occurred, as he watched every skating competitor get tangled and crash to the ice; clearing the Queenslander’s path to one of the most insane Olympic gold medals we’ve ever seen.
5. Shane Warne’s Ball of the Century
Shane Warne could have his own list of memorable sporting moments. However, it doesn’t get much better that his ‘Ball of the Century’ at Old Trafford in the first 1993 Ashes test in England.
Completely bamboozling England’s Mike Gatting, the King of Spin produced an absolute pearl — the flight, bounce, and turn of which was scarcely believable.
There had never been a delivery like that before in Test cricket, and probably never will be again. And it doesn’t end there; it was first ever delivery in a Test on English soil! The effort breathed new life into leg spin, a dying art at the time in Australian cricket.
4. Australia wins the Men’s 4x100m Gold at the Sydney 2000 Games
‘We’re going to smash them like guitars’, exclaimed outlandish American swimmer Gary Hall Jr before the final of 4 x 100 metre freestyle relay at the Sydney Olympics. And having never lost previously in the entire history of the games, you can see why the then-sprint champion had the confidence to predict the outcome.
But he failed to calculate the combined speed and ticket of Michael Klim, Chris Fydler, and Ashley Callus to keep Australia well and truly in the hunt, coming down to the final change. And then something incomprehensible happened; Ian Thorpe showed truly rare heart and courage to overcome half a body length over the final 50 to beat Hall.
The Australian team celebrated pool-side by playing air guitar, in reference to the American’s pre-race prediction.
3. Australia II wins the 1983 America’s Cup
The longest winning streak in the history of competitive professional sport was shattered in 1983 when a group of sailors from Fremantle shocked the yachting world by sailing ‘Australia II’ to victory in the America’s Cup.
Sporting a flag in the rigging that featured a boxing kangaroo, the yacht was ingeniously designed with a winged keel that provided the 12-metre vessel with far superior speed than their American rivals.
Having clawed back into contention from three races to one down, Australia II dramatically overcame a 45-second deficit to win the final race – causing Australian Premier Bob Hawke to utter those immortal words ‘any boss who sacks anyone for not turning up today is a bum’.
2. Peter Norman’s stand
Peter Norman, Australia’s greatest ever 200 metre sprinter, did not win an Olympic gold medal. But he will forever be remembered in sporting history for his incredible act, making a stand against racial inequality at the Mexico City Olympics in 1968.
Having finished second in the race, he duly supported Black athletes Tommie Smith – the winner – and John Carlos during their infamous protest against racism in the USA. Both Americans wore black gloves and raised one fist in the air – a known Black Panther Party salute – while Norman in solidarity, donned a human rights badge. This powerful gesture resulted in one of the most iconic sporting photographs ever taken.
Sadly for Norman, Australia had its own racial inequality issues at the time and, the general public didn’t take too kindly to his stance. Subsequently, he was defunded, exiled, and ostracised, and struggled to find work. Perhaps most sadly of all, 32 years later when the Olympics were held in Sydney, Norman was not invited by the Australian Olympic Federation to feature in the opening ceremony.
WATCH IT HERE:
1. Cathy Freeman wins Gold
It’s been over 20 years since we saw Cathy Freeman famously win gold in the 400 metre final at the Sydney Olympic Games, but the memory still lives fresh in many people’s memories.
With the weight of a nation’s expectations on her shoulders, after being handed the immense honour of lighting the flame on the Sydney 2000 Games at the Opening Ceremony, Cathy uncoiled the hood on her instantly iconic body suit and ran the perfect race around, untouched. Amidst Europhic celebrations, the sight of Freeman doing a lap of honour around the Stadium Australia track draped in both the Australian and Aboriginal Flags was enough to bring many people around the world to sobbing tears.
It was everything.
Can you feel those goosebumps?
We hope you have enjoyed this list of memorable sporting moments. Here’s hoping there will be many more to come in the next few years for Aussie sports lovers.