2013 - your Australian sporting headlines in advance
Architectural buff Bernard Tomic, two sides nobody should be made to watch and fry-up fan Kepler Bradley.
The year that's just about to depart brought all manner of sports stories: tragedy (John McCarthy and the Javon Belcher situation), triumph (Andy Murray's long-awaited maiden Grand Slam win, LeBron James' championship), staggering athleticism (Usain Bolt and Frankel), controversy (Lance Armstrong) and flat-out comedy (oh wait, Tom Swift really did retire to become a doctor? My bad).
But looking in the rear-view mirror for too long is like texting while driving - dangerous and it won't really get you anywhere.
Far better, then, to look ahead at the sporting headlines that hopefully await us in 2013.
January - Growing up in public: The Bernard Tomic story
Reformed superbrat Tomic starts the year by showing a more rounded side to his personality, including a hidden passion for architecture. "That's the stupidest looking building I've seen since that tower in Italy that won't stand up straight," Tomic seethes after Australia finishes the first Hopman Cup at the new Perth Arena with a loss to Italy.
Tomic goes on to tease local tennis fans once again at the Australian Open, breezing through the first three rounds before a listless, petulant and mercifully quick fourth round loss to a player nobody has heard of. "When I was his age, I was SO much more mature," Lleyton Hewitt notes from the commentary booth.
February - There is nothing to see here
I mean, literally! New research reveals absolutely nothing of any sporting consequence happens in Australia in February - proving academics give as much as a stuff about the NAB Cup as AFL fans do.
The revelation prompts a flood of scheduling changes by smaller sports, looking to cash in on the gap in the calendar. Sadly the NBL's attempt to have a second all-star fixture proves to be an epic fail, when it schedules the match for February 30.
Ballas and Glassy, back when they were on more friendly terms.
March - Any Port in a technological storm
The AFL wows techno-nerds around the world with a ground-breaking move to super-impose a virtual crowd at the round one clash at the MCG between Port Adelaide and Melbourne. The execution draws rave reviews from Hollywood experts but fails to convince loungeroom-bound footy fans, who point out the holo-crowd looks way too interested to actually be watching the Power and Demons.
Meanwhile, the blockbuster season-opening western derby ends in a dramatic draw. The tension carries on to the joint post-match media commitments, where the normally mild-mannered Darren Glass punches on with Hayden Ballantyne. The feisty Docker later insists his sideways glance at Glass while describing the result as "like kissing your sister" was meant completely without insinuation.
April - Tony, the one and only
Tony Sage continues his campaign to be Australia's biggest minority professional sports owner by buying the licence for a WA team in a fledgling national underwater hockey league.
Sage uses the occasion of the team's first game to launch a blistering attack on the redevelopment of Beatty Park. "We could get 200 in through the turnstiles but this work is limiting our crowd to 100. It's costing us big time and we'll be taking legal action," Sage rants, before muttering something about bringing in Jacques Cousteau as a marquee player. The mining millionaire later threatens to move the White Pointers, as the team has been named, to one of the two pools at his City Beach mansion.
May - Kep gets some extra pep
In a development that initially astounds footy followers across the country, the AFL announces Fremantle's Kepler Bradley has registered a third strike under the competition's drug-testing regime. The shock abates somewhat, when it is revealed the awkward-moving utility has actually tested positive to hallucinogenic substances and that there will be no penalty for his trangressions - which are apparently a by-product of including those nice-looking mushrooms from down the end of the garden in his traditional pre-match fry-up. Thousands of Dockers fans simultaneously sight "ah Kepler" and figure they may finally have an explanation for Bradley's less-than-smooth goal-kicking technique. Naturally, a "straight Kepler" comes out the next week against Collingwood and boots 0.6.
Dennis and Bruce - an explosive ending to an entertaining partnership.
June - Bruce goes boom
After a particularly tantalising piece of Friday night play by Hawthorn - in which Luke Hodge kicks loooooooooong to Cyril Rioli, who delivers deliciously to Buddy Franklin - comentary doyen Bruce McAvaney actually self-combusts in the Channel Seven box. In the media maelstrom that follows, Dennis Cometti cops widespread flak for his quick-witted assessment of his off-sider's demise: "Well, I was about to say Bruce was on fire but it appears he might have beaten me to it". "Too soon?" Cometti later asks, knowing that his Twitter alter ego is going to say it anyway.
There is significant relief among Olympic fans when Ian Thorpe announces he won't continue to tarnish his legacy with a comeback to competitive swimming. Relief soon gives way to consternation, however, when it becomes apparent Thorpie is only hanging up his goggles in order to resurrect Undercover Angels.
July - Size does matter
Controversy at the British Open at Muirfield as, shock horror, Rory McIlroy roars to victory on the last day with the assistance of a normal-sized putter. It's the third major of the year won by a player using a traditional putter and whispers grow ever louder that the old-school blade might provide an unfair advantage (not least in the woman-pulling stakes, where hobbit-sized McIlroy continues to be lovingly dwarfed by glamourzon Carolyn Wozniacki).
Australia's gallant runner-up Adam Scott, who bogeys the last seven holes to open the door for McIlroy, is unable to comment due to a mysterious throat complaint. In a written statement he insists it's not a choke and says he's merely had a bad reaction to a sandwich handed to him the night before by Jean van de Velde at the annual Almost British Open Champions' dinner.
John Inverarity informs Mitchell Johnson he's been replaced in the Test team...by Ray Bright.
August - Sit on this and rotate
Australia's campaign to win back the Ashes goes horribly wrong, when selectors realise half-way through the tour of England that they have a squad of 20 at their disposal - not the 83 players needed to complete a full cycle of the much-maligned rotation policy. Rather than take the terrifying risk of playing an in-form fast bowler in consecutive Tests, selection chairman John Inverarity decides to come out or retirement himself, also co-opting Kerry O'Keefe, Greg Matthews, Peter Taylor, Ray Bright and Greg Matthews back into baggy greens for the final two Tests (old spinners die hard, apparently). The Aussies get spanked but as Invers gleefully tells reporters before flying home, "at least Pat Cummins hasn't injured himself again".
In not entirely unrelated news on the other side of the globe, FIFO workers in the Pilbara opt to go on strike as part of their campaign to work five days on, three weeks off. The roster becomes known as the "paceman's shift".
Nic Nat - nah, nothing special about this fella.
September - Nic Nat, give the bloke a break
West Coast ruckman Nic Natanui makes a second straight All-Australian side for an Eagle team that bows out in a preliminary final, paving the way for stats nerds nationwide to over-analyse the dreadlocked one's game and decide he's not as good as people make him out to be. Given there will never be a statistic that measures intangibles like athletic intimidation, feel free to pencil this storyline in for the next decade.
In a similar vein, the statistically marvellous Hawthorn loses a second straight grand final, this time to the not so numerically impressive Collingwood. A couple of things are proven along the way: 1) the old adage that a champion team beats a team of champions and 2) after a Coleman Medal-winning, five-goal performance from be-gloved former Eagle Quinten Lynch, that you can't win a flag with Ryan Schoenmakers playing key defence.
October - May the Force be with you...or maybe not
In a bid to shake off the tag of "Australia's most cursed sporting franchise", the Western Force schedules the first session of its pre-season with a shaman. But, in the kind of team bonding disaster not seen since Adelaide's Nigel Smart attempted to walk on fire, the session has to be called off after the Force bus is rear-ended on the way to the appointment and coach Michael Foley, who has travelled separately to his playing group, becomes trapped in an elevator. An electrical fire also results in the evacuation of the shaman's office, after which the medicine man ends his short-lived association with the luckless Super Rugby club and vows to stick to safe jobs in the future, "like working with the WA cricket team".
November - Oliver twist takes the pis$$
A suspension for Glen Boss sees Damien Oliver get a late pick-up ride on Melbourne Cup favourite Puissance De Lune, which subsequently bolts in by six lengths. Cue embarrassing post-race interviews in which viewers are repeatedly and fawningly reminded of the "great hurdles" Oliver has overcome during the last 12 months to participate on Australian racing's biggest day. A Racing Victoria spokesman scoffs when asked if Oliver's 10-month suspension for betting on a rival horse should have been longer, so as to deny him a shot at 2013 spring glory. "You're kidding right? That would be way too much like common sense," the spokesman says. "Next thing you'll be suggesting we look at doing something proactive, like allowing jockeys to have a bet, so long as they don't wager on opposing horses in races in which they are riding."
December - You've been Warned
Australia struggles through the first two Tests of England's tour, with off-spinner Nathan Lyon getting carted all round the place by a rampant Kevin Pietersen. Speaking via Skype from the Bahamas, where he is either enjoying an early Christmas holiday with Liz Hurley or having his face re-applied, Shane Warne tells journalists he believes he could still cut it at the top level - prompting an avalanche of "SOS Shane" headlines.
And you know what? The selectors take the bait, pick him and the great man makes a triumphant return to the Test arena, almost seven years after he last graced it.
Actually, that last one could seriously happen. Along with the following, perhaps slightly more serious predictions:
AFL premier: Hawthorn
Wooden spoon: GWS
Brownlow Medal: Nathan Fyfe
Ashes tour of England: Poms win 2-1
A-League champion: Adelaide United
NBA champion: Miami Heat
Melbourne Cup winner: Puissance De Lune