2021 was a phenomenal year for Australian sport, both at home and away. It was one of our most successful years in recent history, with our favourite sporting heroes doing a nation proud.
Just to emphasise how spectacular 2021 was,Edge of the Crowd'soriginal list was over 40 entries long. Moments like Peter Bol's 800m final, Ash Moloney's decathlon bronze, and Australia's hockey dominance at Tokyo 2020, unfortunately, missed the final cut.
So without further ado, here are our 21 best Australian sporting moments of 2021.
21. Brisbane secures the 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games
The Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games have found a home in Brisbane for 2032, after a successful, but largely unchallenged bid. It will join Melbourne and Sydney as the third Australian host city for the Games.
In February, Brisbane was announced as the preferred bid, receiving approval from the International Olympic Committee in June. However,on 21 July, two days out from Tokyo 2020, it was officially selected and announced as the host city for 2032.
Brisbane secured the games through a vote involving 80 IOC delegates. Of those 80, 72 voted yes, five voted no, and three abstained.
Various sporting organisations, including the International Rugby League, World Netball, and the International Cricket Council are pursuing bids for their respective sports’ inclusion.
Additionally, facilities across southeast Queensland, including the Gabba, are set to undergo government-funded renovations to prepare for the Games.
The announcement was one of the best Australian sporting moments of 2021, and will for sure produce some of 2032's best.
20. Queensland get the Blues as NSW dominates State of Origin
After concerns about the viability of State of Origin amid the Covid lockdown in NSW, a last-minute decision was made for the entire series to be played in Queensland.
Despite the home-field advantage, the Maroons were blown off the park in Game 1, losing 50-6. The margin was the second biggest result in the history of State of Origin, as Latrell Mitchell and Tom Trbojevic dominated their opponents.
Trbojevic may have set himself up for a place in the debate about the greatest Origin fullbacks to wear the blue jersey, as he was the clear Player of the Series. He, Mitchell and a number of other NSW stars may be setting themselves up for a decade of dominance of their own.
Despite that, after NSW was depleted by injuries, Queensland, under Daly Cherry-Evans’ leadership reminded NSW that Origin is never easy, as they eked out a narrow win to add respectability to the series.
19. A-League Finals: A story of almost there for Sydney FC
Both A-League Women's semi-finals were one-sided. Premier plate winners Sydney FC overcame a Canberra United side before Melbourne Victory defeated Brisbane Roar6-2, shorn of Emily Gielnik and Clare Polkinghorne.
The Grand Final saw a tense battle that went all the way to the death. With penalties beckoning, teenage star Kyra Cooney-Cross bent an Olimpico into the net to clinch the title for Melbourne Victory in the most dramatic circumstances.
In the A-League Men's, it was a maiden title for Melbourne City who ran over the top of the A-League's most consistent side, Sydney FC.
Sydney couldn’t add to their six titles in front of a COVID reduced crowd of 14,017 at AAMI Park. City went down early thanks to a powerful shot from outside the box from Kosta Barbarouses. Sydney midfielder Luke Brattan was sent off at the 35thminute which then allowed City to dominate with Scott Jamieson and Scott Galloway scoring the sealing goals to give Melbourne City their first title.
18. Swifts' sweep the Suncorp Super Netball
After 67 days on the road, across four states, the New South Wales Swifts were able to secure the club's second premiership win in three years, defeating Giants Netball 63-59.
They managed to dominate from the first whistle, with Sam Wallace unstoppable in the goal circle, leaving the Giants without a way to stop her and Maddy Turner shutting down rising star Sophie Dwyer at the other end.
Turner’s performance saw her claim the Most Valuable Player for the match and captain Maddy Proud was finally able to have a premiership medal around her neck, after missing the 2019 Premiership win after tearing her ACL earlier that year.
17. Oscar Piastri gets his hat trick
In his rookie season, racing sensation Oscar Piastri secured the 2021 Formula 2 championship in convincing fashion to earn his third consecutive title.
He came into 2021 in red hot form, having won the Formula Renault and Formula 3 championships in 2019 and 2020 respectively.
The 20-year-old won six races and had an additional five podiums across the season, earning him 252.5 points. He was 60.5 points ahead of the runner-up, his Prema Racing teammate Robert Shwartzman.
To top it off, he received the coveted FIA Rookie of the Year Award in recognition of his stellar season. Past winners include Max Verstappen, Charles Leclerc, and Yuki Tsunoda, which only highlights Piastri's potential.
Piastri will bide his time as Alpine’s Reserve Driver in 2022 as he awaits the opportunity to be Australia’s next Formula One driver.
16. Third time lucky for Lions' ladies
After falling short at the final hurdle two times before, the Brisbane Lions were finally crowned Queens of the Jungle after defeating the Adelaide Crows by 18 points (6.2- 38 to 3.2-20) in front of a packed out Adelaide Oval.
Goalsneak Courtney Hodder set the Adelaide Oval alight with two fantastic goals as fellow forward Jess Wuetschner putting on a clinic up forward.
The Lions' unstoppable defence was back at it with Kate Lutkins, Emily Bates and Bre Koenen making it hard for the Crows to get the game on their terms, with Lutkins named best on ground.
It was a fairytale end for Lauren Arnell and Emma Zielke who called time on their fantastic careers after the Grand Final win.
15. Panthers finally get it done
After losing in the 2020 NRL Grand Final, the Panthers were out for blood all season. After a Covid-struck season, the Panthers reasserted their dominance over the league, led by superstar halfback, Nathan Cleary, with 12 straight wins to start the season.
With a Dally M Halfback of the Year performance, Cleary and his father and coach Ivan Cleary steered the Panthers into their second consecutive grand final. Penrith went through a tumultuous finals run, losing in the first round against grand final opponents South Sydney Rabbitohs.
The Panthers ground out two injury-riddled performances against Parramatta Eels and the Melbourne Storm to book their place in the Grand Final, showing their toughness and depth.
With a narrow victory in the Grand Final 14-12, the Panther’s determination was on full display as they clinched the Premiership after heartbreak in 2020. Cleary led the team to a fairytale victory, winning the Clive Churchill Medal on the day.
14. 'Never Say Die' Matildas waltz past Great Britain
It wouldn't be a list of the best Australian sporting moments of 2021 if we didn't include the Matildas.
Australia went into this quarter-final against Great Britain equalling their best run in the Olympic Games, but over the course of 120 minutes of dramatic football, they earned their place in the record books both on and off the pitch.
A TV audience of 2.24 million, at the time, the largest figures for women’s team sport in Australian history, watched apprehensively as the game moved towards the final minute of normal time. Then Sam Kerr chested the ball down and got a shot away at the second attempt to level the score.
This encounter was eventually decided during an incredible 11-minute spell in extra time which saw Teagan Micah save a Great Britain penalty and two goals, first from Mary Fowler, and then Kerr once more which sealed Australia’s 4-2 win, and with it a place in the Olympic Games semi-finals.
13. Australia secures new medals in new Olympic sports
Medals in three of the new sports added to the Olympic program were won by three Aussie athletes at the Tokyo Games.
With an incredible story of recovery from a traumatic brain injury after a wipeout in 2015, Owen Wright won Australia’s first Surfing medal at the Olympics defeating Brazilian Gabriel Medina for Bronze.
The BMX Freestyle was added to the cycling schedule for the first time and the favourite was reigning World Champion in the Park style competition, Australian Logan Martin.
Martin ranked first in qualifying, so had the luxury of going last in the Final. He posted a score of 93.30 in his first run and knew ahead of his second, he’d won Gold, which made for a fun, celebratory final ride.
Finally, 18-year-old Keegan Palmer won the Men’s Park Skateboarding event. Although he had won ahead of his second run, Palmer’s victory lap saw him improve his score to a 95.83 as he took Gold.
12. Daniel Ricciardo's silver lining victory
Australia and F1 fans rejoiced as Daniel Ricciardo won the Italian Grand Prix - his first win since Monaco 2018.
Ricciardo’s first season at McLaren was not going to plan, as he struggled to recapture old form, and had yet to secure a podium. Something clicked that weekend, as a Ricciardo of old re-emerged and produced the perfect drive at the Temple of Speed.
The Aussie started in P2, locking out the first row with eventual world champion Max Verstappen. At turn one, he overtook his former teammate to take the lead and didn’t look back until the chequered flag waved.
On top of that, he won the driver of the day vote, drove the fastest lap, and helped McLaren clinch its’ first 1-2 victory since 2010.
2021 was a thrilling season for F1, and this welcomed win was undoubtedly a major highlight, for Ricciardo and the competition in general.
11. Melbourne's grand new flag
In 2021, Melbourne won its first premiership since 1964, ending the longest active premiership drought in the league.
Melbourne defeated the Western Bulldogs by 74 points, after delivering a phenomenal second-half performance at Optus Stadium.
Simon Goodwin’s men had been building towards a flag all season, winning the minor premiership with 17 wins, and looking unstoppable in finals.
Before half time, Melbourne and the Bulldogs led at the quarter and half time breaks respectively, so the result could’ve swung either way. But Melbourne came out blazing in the third quarter, kicking 16 second-half goals to overwhelm the Bulldogs and clinch a certain premiership.
Christian Petracca earned full votes to win the Norm Smith Medal, while teammate Bailey Fritsch came runner up after kicking six goals.
The grand final was played at Optus Stadium in Perth, but Victorian fans were able to celebrate with the team months later at the MCG after COVID restrictions were lifted.
The sentiment behind the flag alone makes it one of the best Australian domestic sporting moments of 2021.
10. Australia's 'Hour of Power'
In just 60 minutes of incredible Olympic competition, Australia secured three gold medals on July 28, all found in the waters of Tokyo.
It started with the Women’s Coxless Fours, where Lucy Stephan, Rosie Popa, Jessica Morrison, and Annabelle McIntyre held off a fast-finishing Netherlands’ boat for Australia’s first gold in what would become the ‘golden hour’.
The success continued in the Men’s Coxless Fours with the Australian boat following in the strokes of the Oarsome Foursome of the 1990s.
Jack Hargreaves, Alex Purnell, Alex Hill, and Spencer Turrin regained the Men’s Fours title from Great Britain.
To top it off, the success crossed to the pool at the Tokyo Aquatic Centre, where Ariarne Titmus triumphed in the 200m freestyle, adding to her 400m freestyle Gold.
It was the fifth time Australia had won three golds on a single Olympic day, the last of which was at Beijing 2008.
9. Australia's golden T20 surprise
No one expected Australia to even come close to the finals of the World Cup let alone win it, but thanks to a Mitch Marsh masterclass, Australia brought the trophy home.
Mitch Marsh was the only shining light from two warm-up series in the West Indies and Bangladesh, top-scoring in both before being named player of the World Cup final.
That being said it wasn't all smooth sailing for the Aussies, they almost lost their opening match against South Africa then went on to lose against England.
In the semi-final, Australia looked too far behind the game before Matthew Wade stood up and smashed three sixes off a Shaheen Afridi over to secure a final position.
In a somewhat anticlimactic final, the Aussies cruised home by eight wickets, Mitch Marsh putting on a masterclass of 77 from 50 balls to secure the victory and bring the coach Justin Langer his first huge victory.
It was a moment we didn't expect to see in the list of best Australian sporting moments of 2021, but nonetheless, it is certainly a welcome entry.
8. Golden girl Jess Fox can(d)oe no wrong
The weight of the nation was on Jessica Fox’s shoulders as she commenced the K1 final at the Tokyo Olympics. Having previously won silver and bronze in the K1 event, Fox went into Tokyo as one of the favourites, but two errors in the final relegated her to a bronze medal.
Two days later, she found herself at the top of the course again, this time for the C1 final, in the event’s debut in the Olympics. Fox had campaigned for years for the Women’s C1 to be added to the Olympic program, and she waited at the top, focused and present.
Australia held its breath, watching, as Fox navigated the course. In homes across Australia, her father, Richard Fox, was commentating on the event as part of the Channel 7 coverage.
At the bottom, Fox was crowned the inaugural gold medalist in the C1 event, celebrating one of the highlights of her career.
7. The Boomers' rose gold
The Tokyo Olympics were historic in more ways than one and this moment was no different, with the Boomers claiming Australia's first Olympic medal in Men’s Basketball.
After a heartbreaking semi-final loss to Team USA, the Boomers were able to regroup, and go out and play a match that will go down in history.
Leading from the front was Australian captain Patty Mills scoring 42 points, not far behind him was Joe Ingles on 16 and Jock Landale on 14. These contributions lead Australia to come away with a 14-point win over Slovenia.
There were emotional scenes post-match from not just the players but Australian Basketball legend Andrew Gaze. When asked about the medal win, he was brought to tears as the Boomers etched themselves into the history books.
6. The Barty Party in full swing after Wimbledon
All of Ash Barty’s childhood dreams came true on July 10, when the Australian won her first Wimbledon Grand Slam title defeating Karolina Plíšková 6-3 6-7 6-3.
In a nerve-wracking final that finished in the early hours of the morning for Australians watching on at home, Barty regained her composure after dropping the second set tie-break to close out the match and win her maiden Wimbledon Ladies’ title.
The world number one dropped just one set on her way to the Final, giving herself great confidence on her favoured grass surface where she won the girls’ singles title 10 years prior.
On the journey to lifting the Venus Rosewater Dish, Barty beat fellow Australian Ajla Tomljanović in the quarter-final, 6-1 6-3.
It was fitting that Barty was wearing a Fila dress inspired by her Indigenous idol Evonne Goolagong Cawley’s 1971 outfit, and won the title exactly 50 years after Goolagong Cawley won her first.
5. Australia razes England to seal the Ashes
Australia sealed the Ashes in three matches after delivering one of the most dominant performances in recent Test history. It took just over 12 days for Australia to do so, which was the perfect start for Pat Cummins’ test captaincy era.
Mitchell Starc set the tone early, bowling English opener Rory Burns with the first ball of the summer. From there Australia fired, while England fizzled out.
At the MCG, Scott Boland debuted as the fourth Indigenous Australian to play test cricket. He took an incredible 6/7 in the second innings win the Mullagh Medal and help Australia to its quickest test win in Australia in 71 years.
Other outstanding individual performances included Cummins and Jhye Richardson's five-wicket hauls, Travis Head and Marnus Labuschagne's centuries, and wicketkeeper Alex Carey's record eight catches on debut.
With two tests remaining, Australia will hope to whitewash the series on their home soil in 2022.
4. Australian Paralympians finally receive equal pay for medals
With Australians in NSW and Victoria in lockdown, there was more attention than ever on the Paralympics and Australia’s Paralympians.
On just the first night there were six gold medals for the Australians and with those medals, Australians were made aware of the pay disparity between Olympic and Paralympic medallists.
At the start of the games, while Australia’s Olympic medal winners would receive $20,000, $15,000, and $10,000 for gold, silver, and bronze respectively, Australia’s Paralympians would receive $0 regardless of medal colour.
Thanks to media attention and campaigning of Paralympians such as Ellie Cole on September 2nd, in the middle of the Games, the Australian Government announced that Paralympians would receive equal medal bonuses to their Olympic counterparts.
The announcement came as a huge boost to Australia’s Paralympic movement and could set up further success for its home Paralympics in Brisbane 2032.
3. Women's sport on the rise
In 2021, the nation saw its favourite daughters excel on the world stage and at domestic level, delivering some of the best Australian sporting moments.
We saw record viewership and attendance numbers in AFLW, cricket, and football, and Ash Barty, Sam Kerr, Jess Fox, Ariarne Titmus, Emma McKeon, and Madison de Rozario were some of the most spoken about athletes. The Matildas and the WBBL broke live attendance numbers on the same day, while Australia took more female athletes to the Tokyo Olympics than males.
Additionally, numerous women’s sporting leagues and governing bodies in Australia pledged to improve competition standards, salaries and release visions for the future.
The AFLW and NRLW announced team expansions, Cricket Australia raised the salary for WBBL and WNCL players, and Netball Australia announced a new landmark broadcast deal and player labour agreement.
And that’s only a few examples. 2021 was a brilliant year for women’s sport, and it can only get better from here.
2. A class of three - Dylan Alcott wins Golden Slam
When an Olympic/Paralympic year rolls around two words are on tennis fans' lips from the moment the Australian Open has named its latest champions. Golden Slam.
Prior to 2021, one player had achieved the Golden Slam, Steffi Graf. But in 2021, Dutch Wheelchair Singles player Diede de Groot and Australia’s Dylan Alcott battled through four Grand Slams and the Paralympics to create history.
Alcott’s historic run started with his seventh consecutive Australian Open title and featured in three Grand Slam Finals and a Paralympic Gold Medal Match against Dutch rival Sam Schröder.
Finally, in the early hours of September 13th, Alcott defeated Dutch youngster Niels Vink in straight sets, becoming the first men’s tennis player to claim the Golden Slam.
A few weeks later, he confirmed his retirement following the 2022 Australian Open, giving Australian tennis fans one last chance to see Alcott in action. If he makes the final, he’ll play on centre court, a first for quad wheelchair tennis.
1. Australia swimming in Liquid Gold
Australia was swimming in gold medal success in Tokyo, winning nine of its 17 Olympic Gold and eight of its 21 Paralympic Gold at the pool.
At the Olympics, it was Australia’s golden girls who led the way. They had success in the freestyle and medley relays, Ariarne Titmus won the 400m and 200m freestyle, Emma McKeon took home 50m and 100m freestyle wins, and Kaylee McKeown won Gold in the 100m and 200m backstroke.
Zac Stubblety-Cook also won Gold in the men’s 200m breaststroke.
At the Paralympics, Will Martin had success in S9 400m freestyle and 100m butterfly and chimed in for the 100m freestyle relay as well.
Two of his teammates in the relay, Rowan Crothers and Ben Popham, also won their respective events, as did S14 100m freestyle swimmer Benjamin Hance.
In the women’s, Lakeisha Patterson (400m freestyle S9) and Rachael Watson (50m freestyle S14) added to Australia’s Gold tally in the pool.