Heartstoppers and nail biters

Some of the most thrilling and dramatic sporting finishes.

Winning or losing a game in the dying seconds is great theatre and damn exciting.

However if the game is a final or title match then it changes lives. For better or worse.

If your team wasn’t actually playing then it’s simply immense satisfaction as having just witnessed “a classic”.

If your team won then it’s a time for kissing strangers and embarking on a week-long bender. Then maybe a tattoo and re-watching replays four times a day.

If however, your team lost in the final seconds then it can get ugly. Smashed TVs are the least of it. Some fans go into a month-long depression, losing their job and drinking alone in the dark, listening to Johnny Cash. Many never recover.

If they’re smart, the athletes who pulled off the miracle plays can live off their fame forever and milk it for all it’s worth. Never again pay for a drink or meal and park wherever they like.

Here are six memorable life changers.

Sergio Aguero goal for Manchester City: 2012 Premier League decider

Significance: First ever title for City

It was the final round of the 2011-2012 Premier League. Manchester City was tied in first place with bitter across-town rivals Manchester United.

Yes Man U, the most successful team in Premier League history was level with Man City – who had never won the title. Indeed, they’d spent much of the past 20 years in and out of the top division.

It was a cash injection from UAE investors that finally enabled Man City to compete with the big boys.

Going into the last round, both teams were tied on points however Man City held a slight advantage in goal differences.

This meant that if both teams won then Man City would win the title – unless Man Utd won by something ridiculous like 10 goals.

Conversely, if one team lost and the other won then it was also all over.

Man U were playing lowly Sunderland and Man City were facing off against the equally unintimidating Queens Park Rangers.

Both were expected to win.

Man City and QPR kicked things off in front of 48,000 raucous fans at Ethiad Stadium.

Despite a shaky start, Man City scored the opener and fans let out a mighty relieved roar.

Meanwhile, Man Utd had scored and were leading against Sunderland.

Things took a grim turn though, when QPR scored twice. Man City were down 2-1 and fulltime was approaching. It seemed inevitable the despised Red Devils would win yet another title.

Then 2 minutes into injury time, Man City scored to equalize. 2-2.

3 minutes remaining of injury time. Man City needed to score.

With literally seconds remaining, Sergio Aguero got the ball near the penalty box. He passed to Mario Balotelli who immediately passed it back.

Aguero blasted a rocket past the keeper into the net. City win 3-2.

The crowd erupted and City players and officials ran around the field like madmen.

The “Agueroooooo” goal has often been described as the greatest moment in Premier League history.

Michael Bevan hits four for Australia on last ball: 1996 One Day International

Significance: Australia’s win sees them go on to claim the Tri Nations title.

Cricket one day internationals have delivered their fair share of exciting finishes. It can often come down to the very last ball of the match to decide the winner.

Few were decided in such emphatic fashion as when Australia played the West Indies in 1996 at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

The West Indies batted first and set Australia a target of 173 to win. The Aussies liked their chances in front of a heaving home crowd of 40,000. This was in the good old days when full-strength alcohol was still being served in the hot sun.

Australia started poorly though, with their star batsmen all being dismissed cheaply. The crowd went quiet, grumbling in their seats.

Enter the livewire Michael Bevan. When it came to one day cricket, Bevan just got it. He was always looking to run and more than capable of a big hit for 4 or 6 runs.

His job was to stay in and get Australia close enough by the last 10 or so balls. Bevan’s partners kept falling though and the smart money was on the West Indies.

Bevan found unexpected support in tailender Paul Reiffel who bashed out a valuable 34 runs.

Reiffel was eventually dismissed and Australia was down to its last out. They’d managed to fight their way back into the game.

Suddenly the crowd was very much awake.

It came down to the very last ball of the match. Australia were 169. Trailing by 3. Hitting a four to the boundary would win it. Easy enough to say, extremely hard to do while surrounded by fielders and screaming fans.

The West Indies pushed their fielders back to prevent the four.

The ball came to Bevan and as cool as you like he smashed it straight back down to the ground.

Into the boundary fence for four runs.

With one swing of the bat Bevan earned himself free drinks in Australia for life.

David Ortiz home run for the Boston Red Sox: 2004 American League Game 4

Significance: Kept Boston alive and they went on to win the World Series.

The Boston Red Sox were cursed. They hadn’t won a World Series for 83 years – the longest drought in baseball history. Sure, they’d come close many a time but just…choked.

Here they were again in 2004 in another American League showdown. This time it was against their arch enemies the New York Yankees. The winner would go on to play the National League champion in the World Series.

The Yankees were a team stacked with swaggering superstars on superstar salaries who took themselves super seriously.

The Red Sox were a bunch of long-haired misfits. But they had fun. And in 2004 they just kept on winning. Right up until the American League Series when things started to fall apart. The series is a best of 7 showdown to decide baseball’s ultimate bragging rights.

The Yankees came firing out of the blocks and won the first three before Boston knew what had hit them.

Game 4 was it. Last chance. A packed house in Boston watched their team take the field. To lose would see the loathsome Yankees gloat all the way back to NYC.

Typically, the Red Sox looked relaxed as they took the field. It could have been a Tuesday in June against Kansas for all the nerves they showed.

The game was close and at the end of the 9th innings, the Red Sox managed to tie the game 4-4. We were going to extra innings. Another Red Sox choke surely lay ahead.

At the bottom of the 12th innings both teams came close to going ahead but with no cigar.

And then the nonchalant 191cm Dominican slugger David Ortiz strode casually to the plate. “Big Papi” was a crowd favorite due to his uncanny ability to deliver under pressure.

He waited patiently for a pitch he liked and found it.

WHACK!

Ortiz smashed a fastball way, way up into the seats as the Red Sox fans absolutely erupted into crazy hysterics. Their season was still alive and they had the momentum.

Goodbye curse, hello World Series.

Nick Malceski goal for the Sydney Swans: 2012 AFL Grand Final

Significance: Guaranteed the Swans the 2012 title

AFL Grand Finals are huge. They regularly draw crowds of over 80,000 fans and 2012 was a biggie indeed.

Just under 100,00 people packed into the Melbourne Cricket Ground to watch Hawthorn versus Sydney. Both sides had won titles before but it was the first time they’d come together in a “GF”.

It was a high-quality game with the lead constantly changing. Hawthorn led comfortably after the 1st quarter and then it was Sydney’s lead after the 2nd quarter. At the end of the 3rd quarter Sydney were clinging to a 1 point lead and Hawthorn were coming home with a wet sail.

Sydney appeared to be down and out when Hawthorn raced away to a 12 point lead midway through the final quarter.

They dug deep and fought back to level the score before another goal saw them take an unlikely 6 point lead.

Hawthorn were stunned and threw everything at Sydney but blew several easy chances. The Sydney lead was cut to 4 points, meaning that a Hawthorn goal could still win it.

With only 40 seconds left on the clock a pack of players were desperately scrambling for the ball about 30 meters out from Hawthorn’s goal.

The ball ended up in Nick Malceski’s hands.

There was no time to turn and face the goals for a shot. Malceski simply caught it then immediately snapped it to his right.

The ball went high and straight, it looked good, it looked great. Straight through the posts for a goal and Sydney were going home with a premiership.

Kawhi Leonard’s winning basket for the Toronto Raptors: 2019 NBA Semi Final Game 7

Significance: The win propelled the Raptors to their first NBA title.

The Raptors were a relatively young franchise, having come into the NBA in 1995. They were yet to win an NBA title.

In the 2019 semi finals they came up against the Philadelphia 76ers in a seesawing best of seven series.

With both teams winning three games they went to a deciding Game 7 at Toronto’s Scotiabank Arena. 20,000 crazed Raptor fans awaited them.

The game was predictably tight and towards the end of the final quarter it was anyone’s game. Kawhi Leonard was the Raptors’ best players and in the big games the truly great players step up.

Leonard had already racked up 39 points and was in everything. To give you an idea, 20 points a game is impressive. Anything over 30 is fantastic.

As the clock ticked down both teams were locked at 90-90. A timeout was called with a measly 4 seconds left on the clock. A tied game would send the game into a dramatic overtime.

Play resumed. In the big moments you want your best players to have the ball. Toronto got this right and the ball went straight to Leonard, in front of the free throw line.

He weaved his way along the free throw line, keeping the ball away from the 76ers defenders, then straightened up and shot.

Just as the fulltime buzzer sounded.

The ball sailed smoothly through the air and hit the rim of the basket.

Suddenly, everyone was quiet.

The ball bounced a second, third and fourth time then went in.

Raptors win.

Cue absolute mayhem.

Darren Albert’s try for the Newcastle Knights: 1997 ARL Grand Final

Significance: It won Newcastle their first ever premiership.

To be fair, this golden moment in Newcastle’s history was as much thanks to Andrew Johns as Albert. Johns set the try up but Albert was cluey enough to be hovering around expecting the ball.

The 97 Grand Final was played at the Sydney Football Stadium. Newcastle were playing premiership giants Manly. Manly were the reigning premiers and were narrowly beaten in the 95 Grand Final.

Neither side was particularly fond of each other and the bashathon soon began. Plenty of late shots, elbows, headbutts, all on live national TV.

Newcastle were too fired up and Manly’s cooler heads saw them soon coast to a 10-0 lead.

The Knights regrouped, calmed down and started to play the free-flowing style that got them there in the first place.

Midway through the second half Manly were still ahead 16-8 but it was all Knights. Manly were playing too conservatively and Newcastle could smell points.

With five minutes to go the masterful Johns pivoted, stepped and put his fullback over to score.

16-16.

Manly just couldn’t get the ball down the other end of the field but Newcastle just couldn’t close it. Attempted field goals missed and passes went to ground.

With 10 seconds left on the clock, Johns unexpectedly ran down the narrow blind side, catching the defence off guard.

He looked inside and found Albert who took the pass and raced over to score, just as the fulltime siren sounded.

Newcastle had won their first title. The players, fans at the ground and entire city went nuts and so began a party that is still kicking on today.


THE try is at around 2:15 but why not enjoy all the highlights? Less than 3 minutes!

2 Comments

  1. Lots of heart stoppers & nail biters in sports matches & I know I have to turn away when that crucial goal or strike means a win or a loss for my favourite team.
    There are solitary pursuits which can have some of us biting our nails or having our hearts skip a beat too & no fans to cheer us on.
    Great topic, especially when many of us are in lockdowns, or solitary confinement.
    Maybe another episode & perhaps a women’s sport/event? Winter Olympics?
    As we say here after a win or a good blog post, “good on ya”. Now to YouTube.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s