Over the last few years, Australian sport has taken a real battering. We pride ourselves on our ability to better much larger, more established nations in a great variety of sports. The swimming pool, the running track, the grainy sand of the beach, and the soft green of the cricket pitch are all established settings to so many Australians. But, after a glorious run following the Sydney Olympics, Australian sporting professionals have experienced diminishing returns for their efforts. A few major events spring to mind: our rugby team’s Bledisloe cup results since 2002; James Magnussen’s disappointment at the London games; the departure of many of Australia’s greatest cricketers.
But, mercifully, things finally seem to be turning around. The media’s fixation on the doping scandals that have plagued various sports on an international level have allowed Australian professionals to refresh, resurge, and refocus away from the spotlight. And now, we’re starting to see the seedlings of positivity emerge once again.
Pride comes before a fall. This mantra proved to be all-too-true following the disappointing performance displayed by Australia’s swimming team at London’s 2012 Olympic Games. Some of the old guard have since departed from professional sport in favour of Celebrity Apprentice, with exciting new talent beginning to shine through.
At November’s World Cup in Beijing, the Australian team – comprised, to an impressive extent, of new up-and-comers – put in an impressive performance. Even those who failed to meet their own self-imposed expectations in London have begun to pique curiosity once again, with James Magnussen recently professing that his confidence is starting to rebuild.
Over the last decade, Australia’s favourite game has been overshadowed by egos and wags. We haven’t won the Ashes since the 2006-07 series, and in recent months tensions within the team have grabbed headlines. In an open letter to fans of the game, Darren Lehmann – the coach of the Australian cricket team – expressed a desire to return Australia to its golden era of cricketing achievements. Let’s hope he puts this desire into action in time to effect the outcome of the current Ashes series, which began in November.
Our tennis achievements have been less dramatically changed than in some other sports. Although our status on the circuit is not as impressive as it was ten years ago, players like Sam Stosur have helped to keep us well-represented. Now, younger players like Bernard Tomic and Casey Dellacqua are beginning to deliver on the promise they have shown, with Tomic recently taking on a new coach in time for our summer tournaments.
Tennis Australia has also acknowledged the importance of recognising its highest-achieving players, with the Newcome Medal predicted to be awarded to Stosur for the fourth consecutive year. Just like any workplace rewarding its best and brightest, Tennis Australia clearly recognises the benefits of encouraging and motivating its key players.
It’s time that we regained our reputation as a truly great sporting nation. The thirst for accolades exhibited by our sporting stars reveal the way we, as Australians, thrive off of positive reinforcement. Whether it’s a globally coveted trophy, or an employee recognition plague or trophy, we love being recognised for our efforts. And we certainly love resurgence. Let’s hope the trophies – and the results – keep rolling in over the summer months.