The demise of Australian sporting prowess…or how they went from champs to chumps

france v australiaJust what has happened to Australia’s sporting prowess?

Over the weekend, the Soccerros lost 6-0 to France to accumulate a 12-0 scoreline when you tally the previous result against Brazil.

It’s been 11 years since the Wallabies last won the Bledisloe Cup and 14 years since they last won the World Cup.

The cricket team has lost three Ashes series in a row, it lost 4-0 to India earlier this year and before that lost a test series at home to South Africa.

The Olympic team won just 8 gold medals in London, its worst haul since 1988 and half the number of golds they won at Beijing.

Once a tennis powerhouse, Australia has only just returned to the David Cup world group after a six year hiatus.

Blimey, even the last two horses to win the Melbourne Cup were trained in France.

Compare this two twenty years ago.

As a once-mad South African cricket and rugby supporter, a sense of dread would come over me every time our national team played the Wallabies or the Baggy Greens throughout the 1990s and 2000s. Let’s play anyone but the Australians was my motto.

Because Australia was so damn good at cricket and rugby and just about any other sport you could think of.

It was not just they’re sporting skill and dexterity, it was a mental toughness they possessed (typified none more so than by the likes of Steve Waugh or John Eales), a do-or-die attitude that left one of the most painful of sporting moments indelibly tattooed on my brain: tieing the 1999 Cricket World Cup semi-final, a game we could not, it seemed, lose, yet somehow managed to do so (I recall celebrating victory only for it to be snatched away so cruelly by lunacy).

Tough as nails, the fiercest of competitors: Steve waugh

Tough as nails, the fiercest of competitors: Steve waugh

Beating Australia meant you had to play at your very best and when you did beat them, it almost always felt like a remarkable achievement, one where you matched both their physical abilities and were stronger mentally.

Now you can do it hardly even trying it seems.

What exactly has happened to this once proud sporting nation? Is it just going through a very bad downward patch or has their being a seismic shift in the world order?

Certainly the Socceroos were not expected to win their games against football powerhouses like France and Brazil, but they were expected to at least put up a good fight.What happened to the team that eight years ago pushed Italy all the way for a quarter-final spot at the 2006 World Cup?

The slide in rugby and cricket has been even worse, these being sports where Australia dominated on the world stage. Yes, teams go up and down, but the fall from grace has been spectacular to the say the least.

But it goes beyond results.

Just how many major sporting scandals have made the front pages of newspapers recently? I’ve lost count. It seems there’s hardly a national sport that has not been tainted lately by something or other.

There’s been the AFL and NRL doping scandals, the numerous punch-ups and bust ups in the cricket team, the bad behaviour among rugby players (James O’Connor, Kurtley Beale). Christ, even sports you’d never associate with anything remotely scurrilous have had their share of public image failures most notably the men’s swimming team, and the sleeping pill scandal. (Not to mention their complete failure to win a gold medal at the Olympics) and the recent admissions by cycling great, Stuart O’Grady that he was a drug’s cheat.

Of course I should mention there have been some exceptions: Australian golf is very strong led by Master’s champion Adam Scott and regular major challenger Jason Day plus a string of other players capable of winning big tournaments. Sam Stosur won the US Open a few years back and Australia continues to dominate at surfing and ahem…netball.

Apart from netball though, these are all individual sports and, they seem to be more the exception then the rule.

It appears that Australian sports teams have been out-psyched or perhaps they’ve out-psyched themselves, believing they’re better at losing than winning. Perhaps the endless succession of scandals can be read as a desperate attempt for them to get back to winning ways.

This is also typified in the apparent necessity to spend millions of dollars appointing overseas coaches to national teams. We’ve had a New Zealander (Robbie Deans) coach the Wallabies, a succession of foreign nationals coach the Socceroos, and a South African (Mickey Arthur) coach the cricket team with varying degrees of success. This speaks volumes about confidence and a lack of belief in the talent of local coaches and managers.

And once again, having sacked German coach Holger Osieck, the Socceroos have considered trying to literally turn back the clock and re-appoint Gus Hiddink, the Dutchman who guided them to the fourth round at the World Cup in 2006. It seems some sensibility has returned with Melbourne Victory coach Ange Postercoglou (Australian despite the exotic sounding name) set to take on the role.

All these teams will no doubt bounce back.

But the days of Australia as a sporting powerhouse, punching way above its weight and utterly dominating their rivals, appear to be over.

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4 thoughts on “The demise of Australian sporting prowess…or how they went from champs to chumps

  1. Well for one the Socceroos are a much different and better team under Ange than under Holger Osieck. Appointing an Australian coach was the right call and having defeated Costa Rica (a team that finished second behind USA in qualifiers) 1:0 this was a credible result and a huge step forward. We are now optimistic with the Socceroos and it seemed a change of coach has temporarily lifted our hopes. More games will be needed to get a better indication but from watching the game they were playing the Australian way.

    As for tennis Bernard Tomic has the potential to be in the top 10 but something needs to be done sooner rather than later otherwise we will keep talking about it. Nick Krygios looks like a star in the making and is not far from the top 100. We currently have 4 players in the top 100, but they are not world beaters. Tomic at Wimbledon and the Australian Open this year looked very impressive and the closest we have to a world beater. Nick Krygios won his first round match at the French Open in straight sets against Radek Stepanek (singles player for Czech Republic and has been involved in 2 Davis cup wins in a row) and loss to David Ferrrer (number 4 in the world) in US OPen 1st round but not before Federer said he could be a very good player. Then there is Thanassi Kokkinakis who shows promise. So if our players reach their potential Australia may be winning Davis cups before you know it. The issue surrounding tennis and our players not transitioning to the seniors is what Paul McNamee said about coaches losing their players to the system and its coaches. So we need to get rid of this system.

    Golf, and surfing is fine. We are doing very well.

    Cricket is a mixed bag. We show glimpse of being world beaters but this is not happening every game. If Australia wins the upcoming Ashes we may be headed towards dominance in cricket again soon.

    Rugby Union looks like the All Blacks will continue beating the Wallabies time after time.But the Wallabies have improved, but are not the side they once were. Okay the Wallabies had an impressive win in Ireland against Ireland 32-15 but they surely can’t be number 1 in the world if they can’t beat the All Blacks.

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  2. I can guarantee you that if we play France and Brazil again under Ange the scoreline would be completely different. In fact I reckon we may be able to compete. Holger Osieck has been the worst coach Australia has ever had and now he is gone the team is much better.

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  3. I’m so happy!
    As a an Asian Australian watching the arrogant sportsman ship of many of out sporting teams, especially Rugby, Cricket, plus the arrogance of many individuals it’s been annoying to see Australia dominate. Seeing the racism and and arrogant behavior and the idol worship of this bogans has been sickening. Arsetralia is on the downward slide and it’s to do with 1 major factor:

    Many countries can afford to play, gone has the small pond Australia’s swam in.

    Cycling, Swimming, Athletics, Tennis have more countries than ever – China. Japan, Brazil, S.Korea, Kazakhstan, Eastern Bloc countries have all emerged as significant players due to increase wealth and funding

    Furthermore, for many sports, countries put a lot of significance on a few sports and aim to be good at it -Cricket and the subcontinent, racquet sports and South and East Asia (Squash, table tennis, badminton).

    Australia had it very good for very long, now we are going to be very mediocre. As some countries like India, Brazil, South Africa etc increase wealth and there are rich individuals this will also chip away even more.

    One day the olympics Australia will be lucky to win 2 gold medals and I will laugh my ass off. And those medals will probably be from non-whites ^^

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