As another journey around the sun draws to a close, it presents us with the opportunity to look back at the year that was 2016. It is a wonderful time where sporting fans can argue with one another as to what were the best moments, achievements, and performances of the year. To that end this correspondent not so humbly submits for discourse and debate, The Bozza Awards – Sport’s Stars of 2016.
In 2016 Cooper Cronk went close to winning everything on offer in Rugby League. His mantelpiece at home was crowded by the Golden Boot Award, Dally M, State of Origin and Four Nations Medals. The only item missing from a possible complete set, a Premiership Ring, he fell an agonizing 11 minutes away from claiming too.
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Melbourne were ecstatic to announce their resigning of the champion halfback for a further two seasons. While they have the Queensland Legend steering them around the park you can expect to see the Storm challenging for the ultimate prize.
Much like many of her team-mates, Charlotte Caslick had never played Rugby before being sought out by the ARU as part of their talent identification program. After coming to grips with the physical aspects of the game, she began tormenting the rest of the world with fast feet and quick hands.
Gold, Gold, Gold for Australia: Women’s Rugby 7’s
After being nominated for the World Seven’s Player of the Year award the last two seasons, in 2015/16 she stepped up to another level again. Caslick was peerless and on the back of her extraordinary performances the Australians dominated the World Series on their way to being crowned World Champions for the first time. In recognition of her performances Caslick was awarded the World Sevens Player of the Year Award.
The Pearls entered the Rio Olympics favourites to win Gold and they proved unstoppable throughout the tournament. Fittingly Caslick put the exclamation mark on their Gold Medal performance. Taking a quick tap in the second half she had her opponents hanging off of her waiting for the pass she never had to deliver and she crossed the line untouched to extend Australia’s lead to 22-5.
While perhaps not the best player in the A-League on performances alone in 2016, his impact has been seismic and may well be felt for years to come. As one of the best known and beloved Socceroos his arrival at Melbourne City has brought a priceless level of attention to the sport in this country.
That said, this has been much more than the sideshow that was Romario playing for Adelaide United 10 years ago, Cahill has delivered on-field too. Two goals from his first two Melbourne Derbys, the first quite possibly Goal of the Year, furthering his reputation for scoring when it matters most. Then there was the small matter of his trademark header in the FFA Cup Final that delivered Melbourne City their first ever piece of silverware.
The Cox Plate is the most prestigious weight for age horse race in Australia and one of its richest with $3m Prizemoney on offer. Some of the best horses converge on Moonee Valley to test their wares over 2400m and 2016 was no different. The contest was considered a race between defending champion Winx and leading challenger Hartnell.
Unfortunately for Hartnell, but a spectacular sight for those watching, Winx left the 5-year-old gelding in her wake as she destroyed the field. Entering the home straight, Winx was two lengths clear and by the winning post she had extended the lead to a Cox Plate record eight lengths. The performance was put in some perspective by the trainer of third placed Yankee Rose David Vandyke “We were a long way away but we weren’t disgraced”.
The win was Winx’s 13th consecutive victory and ninth at Group One Level. It was a performance so dominant that it prompted the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities to improve the mighty mare’s rating to 130. Only Black Caviar with 132 is the only mare to have had a higher rating bestowed upon her by the IFHA.
Eighteen-year-old schoolboy Kyle Chalmers entered the Rio pool very much in the shadow of fellow Australian 100m Freestyler Cameron McEvoy. Having recorded the fastest ever 100m in a textile suit in Olympic qualifying, McEvoy was the overwhelming favourite to win the blue riband event. While Australian eyes were focused on McEvoy, Chalmers quietly qualified second fastest for the Olympic Final.
Gold, Gold, Gold for Australia: Kyle Chalmers – 100m Freestyle
Chalmers turned at the halfway mark of the final in seventh place and while commentators had discounted him, the South Australian attacked the second fifty with his trademark surge. Speaking after the race Chalmers said “When I got to the last 15m and started burning up, I knew that I’d done so much training and could push myself.” Before adding. “I glided a little bit into the wall but I didn’t have any more to give.” Everything he had was all that was required, he had overtaken the best the world had to offer and touched home first.
After 48 long years an Australian was 100m Freestyle Olympic Champion once more. Chalmers writing his name alongside those of Henricks, Devitt and Wendon as champions of the preeminent swimming event. While not as prestigious as being named one of the Bozza Awards Sports Stars of the Year, Chalmers was also recognised by the Australian Institute of Sport as their Sportsman of the Year too.
The end of one lap of the sun is the commencement of another and with that we eagerly await which sports stars will make 2017 their own.