17 December 2020

2020 Year in Review: Top 10 unmissable sport stories

| Kim Treasure
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Sport in 2020 was a bit of a hit-and-miss affair. Competitions started, stalled and then restarted as COVID-19 took its toll.

We saw professional matches without the crowds, grand finals moved interstate, teams in lockdown bubbles and events cancelled or postponed. What didn’t change was the passion and commitment of those behind the scenes, and the stories of triumph and tragedy.

Read on for a look back at a sporting year like no other. Can you pick our top story?

10. Moruya legend Ack Weyman to be honoured in bronze alongside his son, Mick

Ack and Mick Weyman holding NRL Premiership trophy.

Ack Weyman (left) and Mick Weyman (right) with the NRL Premiership trophy after the Dragons won the 2010 NRL grand final. Photo: Supplied.

Ack Weyman only missed two games of his son, Michael’s, rugby league career in Australia.

This was a fair effort considering Mick Weyman was a teenage prodigy who captained the Australian Schoolboys team before playing 141 NRL games for the Raiders and Dragons. He also played in four State of Origin games and one Test for Australia.

Ack was there for every step of his son’s rugby league career so it’s fitting he’ll also be honoured with a statue alongside Michael in Moruya.

9. Canberra runner Emily Brichacek puts the postponed Tokyo Olympics into perspective

Emily Brichacek competing in running event.

Canberra-born Emily Brichacek is still training hard for the postponed Olympic Games in Toky0. Photo: Supplied.

You’d be hard-pressed to find an athlete with more of a positive outlook and balanced perspective than Canberra middle-distance runner Emily Brichacek.

She has faced injury and a disappointing setback because of COVID-19 and the postponed 2020 Olympic Games, but she is looking on the bright side as she awaits her next opportunity to make it to the Olympics.

8. Hockeyroos co-captain’s 67-year-old aunt makes history with Central Hockey Club

Catherine Dooley holding hockey stick.

Catherine Dooley has played more than 800 games for Central Hockey Club in Canberra since 1971. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

Canberra’s Catherine Dooley reached an astounding milestone in 2020, notching up 800 games for Central Hockey Club – at the age of 67.

In the process, she may have set a new record for Australian hockey.

The aunt of Hockeyroos co-captain Emily Chalker celebrated her 800th game for the club on Sunday, 27 September. And that figure only includes field hockey games – Catherine has played close to double that number when including indoor hockey.

She started playing the sport at the age of seven for the under-8s team in the NSW town of Crookwell.

7. League fans mourn death of Don Furner Sr at 87

Don Furner Sr.

Don Furner Sr was a stalwart of rugby league in Canberra and Queanbeyan. Photo: Supplied.

Don Furner Sr, one of the driving forces behind the establishment of the Canberra Raiders, died in 2020 at age 87 after a long illness.

As a coach, Furner steered the Canberra Raiders through the start of its golden era, from 1982 to 1987. He was head coach until the end of 1986 and took the team to a grand final in 1987 with co-coach Wayne Bennett.

6. The top sporting events that no longer take place in Canberra

Canberra's Birdman Rally.

The Birdman Rally attracted a variety of homemade constructions that were meant to fly. Most didn’t. Photo: Supplied.

Tim Gavel recalls the major sporting events Canberra used to host, from Supercars racing around Parliament House to the beloved Birdman Rally at Lake Burley Griffin. Are there any he missed?

5. Canberra’s greats return home after hitting career highlights

Matt Giteau. Photo: Jaye Grieshaber.

Former Wallabies player Matt Giteau returned to Canberra in 2020 to play for Gungahlin Eagles, the first time he’d taken the field in a local ACT competition since 2006. Photo: Jaye Grieshaber.

In the wake of Matt Giteau’s return to play in the John I Dent Cup for the Gungahlin Eagles, we took a look at the great comebacks to grassroots sport in Canberra.

One was Michael Matthews, who returned to Canberra in October 2017 for a short break three months after winning the green sprinter’s jersey at the Tour de France. He went on a bunch ride rather than enjoy a Civic reception.

4. Bounce for footy in the Valley as Tuggeranong clubs merge

TVAFC senior coach Jim Rice (left) and club president Leo Lahey (right).

Newly formed Tuggeranong Valley Australian Football Club’s senior coach Jim Rice (left), and president Leo Lahey (right). Photo: Supplied.

Amid the shutdown of sport during the COVID-19 pandemic, many community-based sporting clubs are in survival mode, just hoping to emerge in a position to continue.

Without the support of sponsors and registrations, a number of clubs across a range of sports in Canberra have expressed concern about their ongoing viability.

However, with Australian Rules football in the Tuggeranong Valley, the opposite appears to be happening. There, four clubs amalgamated to form Tuggeranong Valley Australian Football Club.

3. Forty years on, our epic victory over the VFL deserves to be remembered

ACT Aussie Rules team photo.

The ACT beating the VFL 40 years ago at Manuka Oval should be celebrated as one of the ACT’s great sporting moments. Photo: Supplied.

Forty years ago, the VFL drafted three representative teams to play interstate opponents. The Victorian team won by 21 points against WA, and the VFL side beat Queensland by 80 points. But it was a different story at Manuka Oval.

The ACT team, featuring a mix of players who plied their trade in the local competition and former Canberra players recruited by VFL teams, beat the might of the VFL.

2. Australia’s greatest ever sportswoman is still going strong in Queanbeyan

Heather McKay at Reid Tennis Club.

Heather McKay at Reid Tennis Club. Photo: Tim Gavel.

Such is her long list of sporting accomplishments, Heather McKay concedes she had to go to a website the other day to remind herself of her achievements in tennis.

The website heralds her considerable feats in four sports: squash, tennis, racquetball and hockey. But tennis is her passion these days, playing socially four times a week with the social aspect just as appealing as the competition.

The Queanbeyan resident could easily lay claim to being Australia’s greatest ever sportswoman – and she’s still going strong at the age of 79.

1. How basketballers ended the Paralympic career of a Canberra swimming legend

Siobhan and Glen Fowler in 1997.

Siobhan and Glen Fowler at the 1997 Australian Paralympian Committee’s Paralympian of the Year Awards, where Siobhan won the Developing Paralympian of the Year award. Photo: Supplied.

Standing atop the podium at the 2000 Sydney Paralympics for the sixth time in the space of a week, 17-year-old Canberra student Siobhan Paton was beaming.

Siobhan was the queen of the Paralympic pool, winning a then-record six gold medals in events ranging from the 50m freestyle to the 200m individual medley, and breaking nine world records along the way.

Surely this was the start of an incredible ride.

Then it came to an end.

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