2014

It is that time of year again. The time that brings presents, food, and articles titled “The Year That Was…” This is one of those articles (sans title). It is time to acknowledge the awesome things for the year 2014 that just so happened to be my favourite (or least favourite)*

Best Female Anything

Jennifer Lawrence. I know, I know. You’ve already read so much about her, and really if any year was her year, wouldn’t it be 2013? Of course it was. But I have news for you, she has just gone back to back after a brilliant 2014 too. Sure she was only nominated for an Oscar this year, and only won a Best Supporting Actress Golden Globe.** But she also became the highest grossing female action hero of all time. She also broke the internet for real (as opposed to the forced and unsuccessful rubbish of that Kardashian shoot) when the fappening happened. She looked better in her selfies than some other (previously mentioned) celebrities did in their highly stylized advertorials/photo shoots, which caused people the world over to lose their minds. But the way she responded to that is what really gets her this award. She has long been a fantastic role model and these leaked photos do not change that at all. Can you imagine any other person being able to pull that off? I can’t. Here’s to J-Law going for a three-peat and having a fantastic 2015 too.

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Honourable Mentions: I am just using this as an apology to Victoria Azarenka. Clearly the pressure of being the 2013 winner of this column’s Best Female Tennis Performance was too much for her to bear! She had her worst year since 2010! Hope to see you on the comeback trail in 2015!

Worst Job Security

It has been a while since coaching in the NRL was considered a safe job, but it seems to be getting even worse for anyone crazy enough to back themselves at this level. Of the 16 coaches that walked into off season training with their clubs a the end of last year, only 9 of them will still be at the helm for Round 1 in 2015. Only 6 of those coaches were in their job at the start of 2013. In fact Craig Bellamy at Melbourne is the only person to have coached his team since at least 2011. Where it has gotten even worse is that once upon a time, for a coach to be fired, a team would want to have another coach lined up to take the job. A coach with strong credentials, a proven track record if possible, maybe even a ‘name’ that could be sold to the fans. Now it doesn’t even seem to be a consideration. The Assistant coach is given the job on an interim basis and the club just shrugs and says “We’ll see what this bloke can do”. In many cases that same interim coach can fail to generate any real results and be handed a multi-year contract!*** There are so many NRL clubs that just do not look to be a chance of winning a title in the next 3 years. Too many clubs have no plan. So when that no-plan brings them no success, the axe keeps falling on the coach.

Honourable Mention: Leeds United Manager. Talk about clubs with no plan. Neil Redfearn is their 5th manager of 2014. FIFTH! Additionally, he is their 9th manager since 2012. Ridiculous.

Best New TV Show

I, like many others, was extremely skeptical when I read that they were making a Fargo TV series. I, like many others, thought that it was a mistake to try and re-create anything about the quirky Coen Brothers film. I, like many others, thought that even if the script was good and it was well made, calling it Fargo put too much pressure on the show. I am happy to report that I, like many others, was completely wrong. Noah Hawley’s rendition of 2006 Minnesota shares a similar tone, a sociopathic murderer and mountains of snow with the original Fargo, and that is where the comparisons should end. Where Nic Pizzolatto’s True Detective turned out to be all style and show with no substance, Hawley didn’t have to fool us into thinking the Emporer was wearing new clothes. The direction of the series was superb. The characters that inhabited this world were both eccentric and startlingly grounded. The story itself was compelling, realistic (given the premise) and was actually able to tie up loose ends. For all of the plaudits that McConaughey got for his performance on TD, the acting in Fargo was second to nothing on the small screen this year. Billy Bob Thornton came back from the acting dead in a performance that felt so natural, I would almost guess that the role was written for him. Martin Freeman has come a long way since The Office and even the smaller acting roles (Bob Odenkirk, Adam Goldberg, the always fantastic Stephen Root) were top notch. But the biggest plaudits should be reserved for the powerhouse performance delivered by Allison Tolman. It was the breakout TV performance of the year, and it wasn’t even close. Time will tell if this was just the perfect role or not but I will be WILDLY disappointed not to see her career deservedly flourish from here.

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Honourable Mentions: Cosmos – A Spacetime Odyssey may not have technically been a “new” TV show being that it was a remake of an old series, but it was outstanding television. Visually stunning, compelling, and educational and the world could do with more of it. Also, Silicon Valley and Broad City were both powerhouse new comedies for this year in completely different ways, and I loved both of them. It is so rare for comedies to hit their stride right from the beginning, but both of these managed to and anything that gets Kumail Nanjiani and Hannibal Buress on TV will always make me happy.

Best Rivalry

Aussie Basketball Potential v Boomer Reality wins this one. Ever since Shane Heal stood up to Charles Barkley in a 1996 friendly, Australia has fancied itself on the world stage of basketball. There have been many lean years since that 96 team played off for a Bronze medal in Atlanta, but as the years go by and more and more players begin to get meaningful minutes in the NBA and College basketball systems, the hopes of the nation rise again. We’ve never had a full starting line-up of NBA players but as the last NBA season wound down, we were as close as we had ever been with a starting line-up that could boast 4 NBA players. Of course as we moved closer to the Basketball World Cup, the same thing happened that always happens. Our star Centre and defensive lynchpin, Andrew Bogut pulled out. Then our star scorer and freshly crowned NBA champion, Patty Mills pulled out. Then we tanked a game to avoid playing the US until the Semi Finals, and lost to Turkey anyway. Boomer Reality beats down The Potential and continues its winning streak. But as ever, there is hope for the future. The 2016 Olympics hold an opportunity for the greatest ever assembled Boomers team to really have a run at a medal. A starting five of Bogut, Aron Baynes, Joe Ingles, Mills and Matthew Delavadova has solid NBA experience. Fellow NBA player Dante Exum will have developed into the type of player that could lead a second unit off the bench. A bench which could contain Chicago Bulls PF Cameron Bairstow, Zaragosa guard Chris Goulding as well as two of the top NBA Prospects over the next couple of years in Ben Simmons and Thon Maker (who are currently only 18 and 17 respectively) if they are even good enough to make the squad (something that wouldn’t even be up for question just a few years ago). It is the Boomers’ time. At least until reality kicks in anyway.

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Honourable Mention: You can take your pick between;

Wanderers vs attractive football – The run to win the Asian Champions League made Greece in 2004 look like Spain in 2010.

Wanderers players vs owners – for it to all come to a head right before the World Club Challenge was embarrassing for all.

Wanderers vs Al Spitty – Rivalries, both at home and continentally, are what makes football clubs. The Wanderers are now on their way to moving from a franchise to a club. Good for them.

Best Music that I actually paid for this year

This comes with the usual disclaimer that I almost never get to hear music the year that it comes out, and that my musical taste is far from ordinary etc etc. But for 2014 nothing really blew me away.

This has been the hardest section for me to write. I didn’t have high hopes for Opeth’s Pale Communion or Cynic’s Kindly Bent To Free Us, but both of them turned out far more interesting and fun than I expected, though still not as good as previous releases. I was heavily anticipating the new Bloodbath album, but the vocals from newcomer Nick Holmes have left the album falling a bit flat. I enjoyed Citadel by Ne Obliviscaris, but have not actually purchased it, so it is ineligible for this award. So when I look through my purchases for this year, the album that stands out the most for this year is not a musical album, but a comedy album. Hannibal Buress released his Live From Chicago album before he recently got some odd fame through his Bill Cosby rape jokes instigating some proper investigation into the decades of allegations against one of America’s most beloved comedians.  There is nothing particularly controversial on the album, but it is an interesting and hilarious look at Hannibal’s world. From gods real problems and unrequited love to just how weird it is to be a comedian, Hannibal’s unique delivery thankfully doesn’t wear thin and keeps the laughs coming for a solid hour. I really hope that this Cosby stuff doesn’t end up hurting the man that is probably our next great stand-up comedian^

Honourable Mentions: See above

Feel Good Story

The 2014 Football World Cup set records for goals scored and the whole group stage of the tournament was absolutely riveting. Spain getting demolished in their opening match and never recovering? Fantastic. Italy and England BOTH not getting out of the same group? Magnificent. Cristiano Ronaldo sulking his way to another early exit? Outstanding. Costa Rica being a Penalty save away from making the final four? Superb. Germany absolutely humiliating the host nation in the semifinal after Brazil had so many calls go their way earlier in the tournament? Delicious. But those few minutes that the Socceroos led the white hot Netherlands in a World Cup match? Absolutely glorious. We may not have got a point in the tournament, but we’ll always have that Timmy Cahill goal and that feeling inside of us that we were better than Pim Verbeek or Holger Osiek allowed us to be. That felt good.

Honourable Mention: The recent Martin Place tragedy seems to have brought out the best in more people than a misanthrope such as myself expected. The #illridewithyou campaign was good, but what was great is that it appears as though it wasn’t really needed!

WORST THING OF THE YEAR

The NFL is a multi-billion dollar enterprise that is run by very successful and intelligent businessmen (basically the 32 owners). So, how they could allow Roger Goodall, as commissioner of the league, to just be SO FAR off on the issues that have come through his office this year is really beyond me. The issue of domestic violence in the NFL may not be any higher than it is in society, but the handling of the Ray Rice situation (among others) was simply baffling. The brutal video that came out and FORCED the NFL to change the punishment was an embarrassment to the league. It is difficult to tell what is worse – that they almost certainly knew about the video and hoped it would go away, or that they didn’t take the issue seriously enough to track down that video.

BEST THING OF THE YEAR

In one of the great turn-arounds of the 21st century, the NRL Grand Final went from last year’s worst thing of the year to this year’s best. Is this wildly biased because I have waited my entire life for South Sydney to win the competition? Sure. Is this a list of MY favourite things of 2014? Definitely. The Bunnies are the most successful team in the history of the competition. So successful in fact that they have kept that mantle in spite of going 43 years between Grand Final wins. But besides all of that, the NRL Grand Final was a winner this year because for the first time in a few years, a likeable team won the competition. Credit should also go to the Bulldogs fans who, in spite of their poor reputation, were exemplary on the night and a credit to their club. I sat right behind them and didn’t hear or see a single negative thing from them all night. Gracious in defeat and friendly all day.  Penrith weren’t able to knock over the Bulldogs to give us our first Grand Final since 2005 where BOTH teams were likeable, but the Rabbitohs ensured the right result was had, and the streets of Redfern became the party of the year.

NRL GRAND FINAL RABBITOHS BULLDOGS

Let me know what your favourite things of 2014 were. What did I miss?

*As with last year that is deliberately broad

**Sounds like a pretty bad year so far! *rolleyes emoji*

***Which, as you may have guessed, does not provide the job security that it implies

^As we entered this new Millenium, Chris Rock was the reigning Heavyweight Champion of the World in Stand-Up comedy. I simply will not enter into any debate that he wasn’t. To be the Heavyweight Champion of the World in stand up, you have to be both the biggest and the best. Being good isn’t good enough. You also have to be big. But being big isn’t big enough. You also have to be good. Examples here are numerous. People like Dave Attell, Colin Quinn, Patrice O’Neal or Jim Norton are some of the funniest people to ever have lived, but without that next level of success in terms of being big, they can’t be the Heavyweight Title holders. But by the same token, Jeff Dunham may sell as many tickets as anyone on the planet, but when the comedy is lazy, safe, lowest-common-denominator stuff, then that also doesn’t get you the belt. With that in mind, by my reckoning, since 2000 the belt has gone at various times and for various amounts of time to the following people – Dave Chappelle, Dane Cook, Patton Oswalt, Zach Galifianakis, Russell Peters, Kevin Hart, Louis CK and Bill Burr. I think Hannibal has the talent to reach this level in the next few years.

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Aussie Globetrotters

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Growing up as a kid in Australia, playing team sports is wildly popular. Most kids, at some point or another are involved in the local sports team or play for a side in school sport. This ingrained culture is built into us at a young age, and as a result we, as a country, tend to punch above our weight in international competition.

But sport is about more than just competing at the VERY highest level. You see, as surprising as this may sound, sports people are like the rest of us. Some of them want to raise families at home, some are determined to make it to the very top and earn a lot of money. Some like to get drunk on the weekend and feel the consequences the next day* while others would like to have an opportunity to travel and work all over the world. For some players it has provided this opportunity to travel the earth being a paid professional, residing in global cities in every corner of each continent, and for some that almost seems to be the whole reason they do it.

But for any kid growing up in Australia, those opportunities don’t present themselves in the same way as someone growing up in a different part of the world. For example, a child could grow up in Germany playing football and get to ply his trade living in different European cities and even venture his way to different parts of the globe depending on his ability, however a player in Australia, has far less exposure or opportunity to do that with the game of football. Talent scouts from Europe aren’t exactly scrambling for the next 20 hour flight to come and see some middling players that could struggle to get a work VISA.

But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible, if that’s what you want to do with your life. Surprisingly, there are some opportunities even for people that start in very insular Australian sports such as AFL. Below are some of the Australian sports people that have taken their opportunity to see the world on a working holiday and provide a precedent for any other young Australians that might want to follow in their footsteps.

Netball – Julie Corletto (@JulieCorletto)

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The opportunities for women to play professional team sports internationally are comparatively tiny so it takes being at the very top of your sport to get there. Luckily for Julie Corletto, she is at the top of the heap as one of Australia’s best netballers.
Growing up in country Victoria, she was a standout player and made her debut in the Australian National Netball competition at the age of just 16 for the Melbourne Vixens. In 2007 at just 21 years old she debuted for the Australian Diamonds National Team. She participated in the inaugural season of the ANZ Championship in 2008 where she remained in Melbourne, playing for the Vixens. She won a title in 2009, the World Championships in 2011 and following a narrow Grand Final loss last season, she decided to follow her husband (Basketballer Daryl Corletto) to NZ and joined the Northern Mystics who are based in Auckland. The Mystics had a wildly disappointing season, in spite of their star signing, but Julie has provided the team with something to build around and in the process has given herself a chance to live and work in a foreign country.
The ANZ Championship is the toughest competition in the world for Netball, so it’s unlikely that there will be any other foreign opportunities for Corletto, so it’s great that she’s taken this opportunity with both hands.

Final count – 2 Countries, 1 Continent

AFL – Ben Graham (@bengraham7)

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To classify this under AFL alone is a bit of a cheat, because to make his move overseas, Graham had to change sports**. As an AFL player, Graham was a versatile star for Geelong who could play as a forward or a defender. He kicked 145 goals in his career and was known for having a mammoth boot that meant that if he was playing at Centre Half-Forward, he was a threat to goal from a distance that most were not, and if he was playing as a Centre Half-Back, he was capable of clearing the ball half way up the field. This eventually caught the eye of NFL talent scouts from the New York Jets who, after initially offering him a trial in 1997 (which was turned down), were happy to have him change his mind at the end of 2004. There have been several AFL players to take this path, but few have done it as successfully as Graham.
He spent the first few years after his move playing for the New York Jets before stints in New Orleans and Arizona as well as finishing up in Detroit. While the last 2 might not be everyone’s cup of tea, living in New York and New Orleans (with money) is a long way to go for a boy from Geelong.
When you add to all of this that throughout his sporting career (which to be fair, did last 20 years) he got to play in the International Rules series for Australia (1999) as well as a Superbowl for the Cardinals (2008) I think it’s fair to say that he’s probably got more out of his sporting prowess than most others that choose AFL from a young age.

Final count – 2 Countries, 2 Continents

Rugby League – Steve Menzies (@SteveMenzies11)

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Born just one month after Ben Graham (and somehow still playing professionally just 3 weeks ago aged almost 40), Menzies has had an illustrious career filled with unusual occurrences. He has scored more tries than any other forward in the history of Australian Rugby League, (and is second on the all-time try scoring list, regardless of position). He has the rare honour of being a one club man, who technically played for 2 clubs***. He has a nickname, that I’m certain wouldn’t fly anywhere else in world sports, and lastly, he has scored at least 100 points for every team he’s ever played for – and that includes if you separate the Northern Eagles.
A player with 19 matches for Australia and 20 for NSW, he left the NRL in 2008, but by no means did he stop playing at the highest level.
He took his talents to the North of England in Bradford and continued on without missing a beat for 2 seasons, before accepting a contract to play for Catalans Dragons in France from 2011 – 2013. His retirement just a few weeks ago brought to an end a 21 year professional playing career, but it also brought about one of the more peculiar situations that only sports can make happen.
After losing their semi-final match against Hull on September 13, Menzies did a lap of honour to commemorate his astonishing playing career. Now you might not think that this is a particularly unusual thing to happen, but I failed to mention one thing. The Dragons were not playing at home. They were not even playing in their own country. The match was at Hull’s home ground, the KC Stadium. Menzies had never played for Hull, yet such was his standing in the game that the away crowd were still going to honour him. He has had a distinguished career no matter how you slice it, and on top of that, he’s had an opportunity to see the sights along the way.

Final Count – 3 Countries, 2 Continents

Basketball – David Andersen (@daveandersen13)

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Growing up in Carlton with a Danish father and Australian mother, David likely didn’t realise how much having a European passport would come in handy in his future career. After starting with the Woolongong Hawks, Andersen scored his first overseas move when he signed to play for Virtus Pallacanestro Bologna in Italy in 1999. There he won multiple Italian titles as well as a Euroleague Championship in 2001, where he played alongside superstar Manu Ginobli. But financial problems saw Bologna relegated and Andersen in need of a new team. He ended up staying in Italy with Mens Sana Basket where he won another Italian title, and also took home the Finals MVP trophy. This kind of success meant that he was able to expand his horizons and when an offer came in to play for European powerhouse CSKA Moscow for the 04-05 season, he took it. It was a smart decision as Andersen had the best spell of his entire career. He was named to the All-Euro First Team in 2005, won the Euroleague Championship for a second time in 2006 and then for a third time in 2008. After 4 years in the Russian capital, he transferred to FC Barcelona**** where he had even more success, winning a Spanish Cup. His next move was to finally fulfill his NBA ambition (after being drafted in 2002 but never getting a shot to play) by moving to the Houston Rockets. He played one season in Texas before being traded North of the border to Toronto, for only a short stint before again being traded on to New Orleans. His time in the NBA was far from glittering and his minutes on the court were minimal. In preparation for the 2012 Olympics, Andersen got himself more court time by heading back to Italy and playing for his old team Montepaschi Siena where he won the 2012 Italian Cup. He spent last year playing in yet another country and winning another trophy as Fenerbahçe Ülker finished with the Turkish Cup.
Truth be told, David Andersen is a player of a limited type of ability. For his height he is not a great rebounder or fearsome defender, but with the propensity for NBA teams to play ‘small ball’ these days, his ability to hit a three pointer and therefore stretch the floor for opposition defences would mean that he could be a useful puzzle piece. However at age 33, I fear he may have missed his shot to make an impact in the world’s biggest league.
But the thing is, if he was born 8 years later and was coming through now, he may have spent his whole career on the NBA fringes and missed an amazing opportunity to travel the world on his talents and win a bunch of trophies along the way.
I actually think he’s better off as it has played out.

Final Count – 7 Countries, 3 Continents

Football – David Carney

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The One Foot Wonder. The White Pele. Whatever you call him, the boy from Western Sydney has turned his talent for using his left foot into a round the world ticket. 

At just 16 years old he was able to secure a move to Everton in England and begin his worldly journeys. From there he had short stints at Oldham and Halifax before continuing on his northern trajectory and moving to Scotland to play for Hamilton Academical.
But it was his move back home to play for the newly formed Sydney FC that launched his career and his real world travels. His successful stint in Sydney, where he won a title in the inaugural A-League season, attracted offers from Germany which Carney turned down to stay in Australia. A year later he made his debut for the Socceroos and further offers came in from Europe. Carney eventually settled for Sheffield United in the familiar north of England. A change of management there saw Carney frozen out of the first team and he was able to obtain a loan to Norwich City, finally venturing South of Liverpool and giving Carney a taste of something other than the often bleak northern UK. Subsequently when an opportunity came up to move out of England all together and head to FC Twente in the Netherlands, Carney took it. He spent a season there, where they won the Eredivisie title but the lure of the North called him once again and he ended up in Blackpool the following season – but this time playing Premier League football. But the dream didn’t last as the seasiders were relegated and it was time for Carney to move on again. The next stop in his adventure saw him land in the middle of Spain in one of the world’s footballing capitals – Madrid.
He wasn’t playing for the big club (Real Madrid), and he wasn’t playing for the next big club (Atletico Madrid) in fact I don’t know how far down the rungs AD Alcorcon are, but that’s where he ended up, and either way, he was living in Madrid. But it wasn’t a happy marriage at club level and it looked like Dave was looking for one more great adventure – and what a left field adventure he would get. 
He signed on at FC Bunyodkor in Uzbekistan. But as was becoming a familiar tale, it didn’t work out for Carney, and it looked like that would be the end of his career when he hadn’t picked up a new club and nobody had heard much about him for a good 10 months after being released from Bunyodkor.
Then in probably the most left field move of his entire career, somehow, David Carney signed on to play for the New York Red Bulls alongside fellow international Tim Cahill and footballing legend Thierry Henry. I don’t think even David Carney himself saw that one coming. On top of that it has put him back into National team contention^ as he was named in the most recent squad.
Let’s just recap here – Carney has gotten to play football VERY OCCASIONALLY for a living while residing in cities such as Sydney, Madrid and New York^^. What a life. I don’t think I’ve ever been more jealous of someone.

Final Count – 7 countries (12 cities), 4 continents

 

As well travelled as David Carney is, there is one man in particular that outdoes him – though he’s not Australian. I really don’t have time to go into detail on his career, but here is his Wikipedia page – Lutz Pfannenstiel – and his final count is 13 countries, 6 continents.

He’s my latest hero, and he’ll soon be yours.

 

 

 

 

*For us it’s with hangovers, for them it’s with newspaper headlines.

**I tried to find an Australian player that had started in AFL and made the move to Gaelic Football given how similar they are, but apparently there is no such player, and AFL is only really played here…

***Does anyone consider the Northern Eagles anything other than Manly? Technically they are separate, but in reality, they’re one and the same.

****Yes, the Basketball team is still called FC. I don’t know. Ask Spain.

^Amazingly, since he made his debut for the national team in 2006, Carney has played 46 times for the Socceroos. Yet at club level he has only played 77 times (in 8 years).

^^If you are a young player, I urge you to make David Carney’s manager your manager.