What a year it’s been! Sports fans have been spoiled for choice with a year full of huge sporting moments. NetBet has been casting their minds back to the best of 2018…
Ireland vs All Blacks
“It’s a big piece of history and one that we wanted to tick off here in Ireland and now we have done it.”
That’s what man of the match, Peter O’Mahony said coming off the field after handing the New Zealand All Blacks their 16-9 defeat. It was a match that had every Irish man and woman gleaming with pride as their national team sailed home to victory.
It seemed to tick all the boxes for celebration. Played on home soil. There was a comfortable lead. And both sides played hard and fast to get the best of each other, making for a riveting game.
Tiger Woods’ comeback
He’s regarded as one of the best golfers in history, but recent years haven’t been kind to Tiger Woods’ career. Dogged by injuries that coincided with a string of bad choices in his personal life, his rankings started falling ten years ago when he dropped to No. 58 in the world. He then maintained a world ranking No. 1 for a record 683 weeks before succumbing to severe back problems. In 2016, Woods fell out of the top 500, a career first for him, before hitting his rock bottom at No. 1199 in 2017.
To many, his golfing career was dead in the water. But 2018 was Tiger’s year.
It was a year that saw him rise over 1,000 places in the World rankings and his crowning glory was his victory at the Tour Championship this September. That win secured him the No. 13 ranking in the world.
Is the No. 1 spot within reach for 2019?
A united Europe at the Ryder Cup
This is only the second time the Ryder Cup has been held in continental Europe but there may have been a little more than Europe’s home advantage that proved to be USA’s undoing. Whether it was not responding to mounting pressure from Europe or having too many tournament-fatigued men on their side, USA were off their game from day one.
Europe would go to win 17½ to 10½, a major margin. Even bringing Tiger Woods during his big comeback didn’t dissuade the USA’s opposition. He became the man to beat with the younger players from Europe seeking to beat their golfing hero from their childhood.
Winter sport was not at the forefront of everyone’s mind when the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang came around in February. It’s not every international tournament that leaves athletes in fear of their safety or dogged by one of the biggest doping scandals in sporting history.
Despite concerns over North Korea’s missile tests and 2017’s suspension of the Russian Olympic Committee didn’t stop the athletes from having the competition of their lives. North and South Korea presented a unified women’s ice hockey team for the first time in decades and 168 whitelisted Russian athletes competed under a neutral flag.
Retirement from cricket
English cricket saw two of its biggest players go into retirement in 2018.
Kevin Pietersen announced his upcoming retirement all the way back in January this year, seeing out the 2018 T20 season. The South-African born player is hailed as one of England’s greatest achieving the record for the fastest batsman to reach 1,000 runs during his career.
This autumn, another English great came to the crease for his last ever international cricket match. In 161 Test matches, Alistair Cook broke records, lead the England side to victory as captain, and did wonders for the sport. He said on his announcement that he had ‘nothing left in the tank’ for international cricket but will continue to play for Essex.
Tyson Fury’s comeback
Everyone thought that Tyson Fury was gone from boxing for good… including Tyson Fury.
Not every follower of boxing is a Fury fan. He was the centre of several scandals involving drugs and famously gave a car crash of an interview on YouTube in 2016. He was rambling, using language that was homophobic, misogynistic, and anti-Semitic. It was a clear sign of his spiralling mental state and he hung up his gloves later that year after two failed drugs tests. It looked dark, with many who were close to him worried whether he was going to survive, let alone box again.
In the last 12-months, Fury has pulled himself up from rock bottom and brought himself to the point where he could be back in the professional ring again. In early December, he challenged Deontay Wilder, the reigning heavyweight champion to one of the most anticipated fights of the year. It ended in a draw, but the comeback story was enough to keep his fans rooting for Tyson.
Ronda Rousey takes WWE by storm
Gold medal-winning judoka, UFC juggernaut, Hollywood actress, there seems to be no stopping Ronda Rousey.
She’s a top fighter in so many forms of martial arts and she seemed determined to try them all when she began her WWE career in 2014. She took part in a number of sporadic appearances but 2018 seems to be her biggest year in the ring yet. She signed a full time contact back in January, announcing it with a surprise appearance at the Royal Rumble.
Since her formal debut at Wrestlemania she has completely won the fans over with her entertaining style and crisp moves. She quickly rose through the ranks and beat Alexa Bliss to gain the Raw Women’s Championship title. As of writing this blog post, she has defended her title defeating The Bella Twins, Riott Squad, and Charlotte Flair.
Rooney’s farewell to international football
He’s one of England’s greatest footballers and he made sure that he played his final international match on a high.
He was the youngest player and goal scorer for England at the age of just seventeen, and in his fifteen-year international career has been a sensation. November’s friendly between the USA and England was much anticipated as we all looked to see the star player walk out in his international strip for the last time.
It would be Rooney’s 120th cap, and he made his 33rd-minute appearance when England was 2-0 up. That comfortable lead widened later that night with a goal from Wilson in the 77th minute. Rooney had a shot on target during stoppage time, but a chance at one final Rooney goal was cut short by a save from Guzan.
England at the World Cup semi-finals
This year’s World Cup was a rollercoaster ride for England fans. Early in the tournament, the majority of the population remained hopeful but realistic about England’s chances on the international stage. A few football believers were certain that it was our year though. But then the competition took us places we never dreamed of.
First it was the shock elimination of Germany in the group stages. Nobody expected that from the defending champions and it opened the competition up for some interesting matches.
Then we had to contend with something else we weren’t prepared for. Doing well in the Round of 16… on penalties! That set the whole country to root for the Three Lions as they sailed through the quarter finals, getting further than we had ever done in the World Cup since the 90s. We partied with every victory and songs were written about Southgate.
Even after going out in the semi-finals to Croatia, England came home on a high.