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Year in Review

Golden moments before the fairytale became a nightmare

An Olympics clouded by a silver lining; skeletons springing from closets. Australian sport enters the new year hoping to bury some dark days, but first it wants to find out what caused them. Here are the year's best stories, according to Steve Larkin and Lee Gaskin


Australia arrived bold, but departed with few gold.

The lowest medal haul in 20 years - seven gold, 16 silver and 12 bronze medals - only just secured a seat at the top 10 medal table.

Two tenacious women turned their steel into gold, with hurdler Sally Pearson and sprint cyclist Anna Meares triumphing in fabled fashion. But only one other Australian won an individual gold, sailor Tom Slingsby in the laser class.

Sailors also delivered gold in the 470 men and 49er men events, and Australia's kayak four team won the men's 1000m.

Elsewhere, Australians failed to make a splash, especially in the pool where there was no individual Olympic gold medallist for the first time in three decades.

World champion talker and freestyler James Magnussen's bullet-proof persona was pierced and only the women's 4x100m freestyle relay team won gold.


Amid claims of pranksters, social media addicts and lack of leadership, an independent panel has been charged with reviewing the swim program and the sport's governance and administration

The overall result in London left Australian Olympic Committee president John Coates, red-faced after predicting 15 gold medals, searching for answers.

''I am absolutely certain that the sports have to look at themselves, rather than look for more money,'' he said.


The magnificent mare captivated the nation by taking her winning streak to 22 races with a blend of unprecedented horse power and sheer grace.

Black Caviar went from champion to legend to national treasure, as spectators flocked to racecourses, some for the first time in decades.

The celebrity horse was feted everywhere - she adorned the cover of a women's fashion magazine; had a Lego toy made of her; a range of hair shampoo and conditioner released in her name - for horses, not humans.

Peter Moody's trump went to England's Royal Ascot and won, though only just. ''She has nothing left to prove,'' Moody said.

True, but a glorious autumn farewell tour is in the offing.


Australia's most successful Olympian summed it up perfectly: ''The fairytale has turned into a nightmare.''

Thorpe conceded his image was tarnished after falling flat in his hyped comeback to competitive swimming, when the five-time Olympic gold medallist failed to make the team for the London Games. But he vowed to swim on while also revealing a long-term battle with depression.

With just a solitary gold medal from the pool, questions were always going to be asked about the performance of the Australian swimming team at London.

But no one could have guessed the answers would have included bonding rituals involving the sleeping drug Stilnox and bullying from the Australian men's 4x100m team, featuring golden boy Magnussen, towards other team members. An independent review has been commissioned to investigate all aspects of the disappointing return from the London Olympics.


The jockey was banned for 10 months after admitting placing a $10,000 bet on another horse in a 2010 race.

The horse he backed won, while he came second on his mount.

The two-time Melbourne Cup-winning jockey claimed it was a spur of the moment gamble during the bleakest period of his life, blaming stress, injury and a marriage breakdown for his ''misdeed and lack of judgment''.

Conveniently, his suspension ends before next year's spring carnival.


Lance Armstrong took down some Australians in a drug-tainted free fall.

The American cyclist gave up fighting doping accusations as damning evidence against him also uncovered doped skeletons in the closet of two top Cycling Australia officials.

Coach Matt White and vice-president Stephen Hodge both quit the sport's governing body after admitting they took drugs during their cycling careers.

Like swimming, Australian cycling is now the subject of an independent review.


The Adelaide Crows broke AFL salary cap and draft rules in a deal with forward Kurt Tippett they had kept secret for three years.

The Crows only came clean after Tippett walked out of the club.

The AFL delivered sanctions including suspending Tippett for the initial 11 games of the 2013 season, banning Adelaide's chief executive Steven Trigg for six months, football operations manager Phil Harper for two months and fining the Crows $300,000.


The Australian Test cricket captain will never again be accused of having more style than substance but his true test awaits.

Clarke turned his image around with an unprecedented run-scoring spree of the highest calibre, becoming the first Test batman to pass 200 four times in a calendar year.

But the series of his life beckons, trying to win back the Ashes on a much-awaited tour of England.


World champion and pipe master in one day. In the world of professional surfing it simply doesn't get any better than that.

The 31-year-old Parkinson - so often the bridesmaid to his best mate Mick Fanning or legendary American Kelly Slater - finally claimed his first world title after 12 years on tour.

And he did it at the sport's most iconic venue - Banzai Pipeline on the north shore of Oahu - a surf break dear to the heart of the late Andy Irons, a three-time world champ and close friend of Parko.


Has Australia ever had two lower profile world champions than Daniel Geale and Pete Jacobs? Boxer Geale unified the middleweight division by defending his IBF title and winning the WBA title with a defeat of German Felix Sturm in September. But still he flies under the Australian sport radar, until his bout with big-mouth Anthony Mundine in Sydney in the new year. And Jacobs won the Hawaii ironman triathlon world championship in October - the sixth time in a row an Australian has taken the title.


Australia's dual MotoGP world champion retired with glowing tributes and his rarefied spot assured when inducted as an official legend of the sport.

Stoner's farewell included another stirring win on home soil, claiming the Australian MotoGP for the sixth successive time, and he appears certain to try his hand at V8 Supercars.


The Sydney Swans claimed the premiership in the AFL's Melbourne heartland; Melbourne Storm claimed the premiership in the NRL's Sydney heartland.

Brisbane Roar won consecutive A-League crowns, and New Zealand's Chiefs took their first Super Rugby title.


Italian soccer megastar Alessandro Del Piero signed a two-year deal with Sydney FC worth $4 million, and almost instantly gave the A-League that much back in free publicity.

Rugby league convert Israel Folau failed to make an on-field impact in the AFL and quit the code. And in a further twist, Folau has now chosen to have a crack at rugby union with the Waratahs - to the barely-disguised fury of NRL club Parramatta.

Australasian sport's other celebrated code-swapper is Sonny-Bill Williams, who returns to the NRL with the Sydney Roosters. But before the new season starts, Williams will continue fighting on a February card featuring Australian rugby renegade Quade Cooper.


Bagging your coach via social media is never going to win many friends; as Quade Cooper found when the outspoken Wallabies five-eighth took a potshot at coach Robbie Deans, labelling the national set-up a ''toxic environment''.

That led to speculation Cooper would leave Australian rugby, only to eventually pen a rich deal with the ARU and the Queensland Reds.

However, this was not before Cooper entered a clause which allowed him to box, with his first bout clashing with the Reds' final Super Rugby trial in February.


Rumours of Raiders coach David Furner getting the axe on Twitter sent the media into a frenzy and coincided with the club heading on an unscheduled camp on the central coast.

Speculation mounted that Furner was out the door after the Raiders' embarrassing 40-0 loss to the Tigers. Furner instilled a siege mentality into his troops, the move paying off with a morale-boosting win over Newcastle the following week.

The rumour wouldn't go away that former Raiders halfback Ricky Stuart was about to take over the coaching job at Canberra … until, of course, Stuart was appointed coach of the Parramatta Eels for 2013.

As we now know, the Raiders stormed into the finals, ending any conjecture over Furner's future.


Canberra boxer Bianca Elmir had her Olympic Games dreams shattered when she tested positive for a diuretic she claimed was taken to prevent swollen ankles on a long flight.

Elmir won the national titles in Hobart in February, before Boxing Australia imposed a provisional ban preventing her from competing at the world championships and securing qualification for London.

Elmir went to the court of arbitration for sport and had her suspension reduced to 12 months, meaning she will be eligible to qualify for the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.


Not even the benefit of slow-motion replays and numerous camera angles could help those in the NRL's video referees' box.

Mistake after mistake plagued rugby league as players, coaches and fans got fed up with the spate of errors, none more costly than Kieran Foran's knock-on in Manly's semi-final win against the North Queensland Cowboys.

Referees boss Bill Harrigan got the chop and has been replaced by former Parramatta coach Daniel Anderson in the hot seat. The contentious benefit of the doubt rule has also been scrapped.


After guiding Brisbane Roar to back-to-back A-League championships and the longest unbeaten streak in Australian sport history, Ange Postecoglou is enemy No.1 in the Sunshine State.

Postecoglou claimed his second straight title with the Roar in April before returning to his home state to take over at the Melbourne Victory.

A war of words erupted on his first game back in Queensland, with German star Thomas Broich claiming the former mentor could claim little credit for the Roar's success. The Roar struck the first blow, but went downhill quickly, moving on Postecoglou's replacement Rado Vidosic and bringing in Mike Mulvey as the champions flounder near the foot of the table.