20 to 1 – the sporting year that was (part two – 10 to 1)

Cronulla's Connor O'Leary in action during his debut WSL CT season. Picture: WSL
Cronulla's Connor O'Leary in action during his debut WSL CT season. Picture: WSL

Leader sports editor Andrew Parkinson has had a look back at some of his favourite stories from 2017.​ They are not ranked as the best or biggest stories of the year. Just a list of favourites. You can see part one here.

Thank you to all the teams, players, coaches and administrators who have been so generous with their time this year. Also thanks to anyone and everyone who has read the paper or read an article online. Thanks for your support. See you all again in 2018.

10 – Sharks hat-trick of 300s

Paul Gallen ahead of his 300th NRL game. Picture: John Veage

Paul Gallen ahead of his 300th NRL game. Picture: John Veage

This was a great coincidence – but also a testament to the experience and quality of Cronulla’s forward pack.

Captain Paul Gallen, Luke Lewis and Chris Heighington all notched up 300 NRL games in 2017. They had mixed results on their big days, with Gal enduring a night to forget as the Sharks were thumped by Brisbane. Lewis was able to celebrate after Cronulla downed South Sydney, while the Sharks snuck home against the Knights in Heighington’s milestone match.

9 – George Kambosos Junior

George Kambosos Junior works with legendary trainer Johnny Lewis. Picture: John Veage

George Kambosos Junior works with legendary trainer Johnny Lewis. Picture: John Veage

It was a big year for the “Ferocious” boxer from Sylvania. Kambosos was hand-picked to join legendary Filipino Manny Pacquiao’s training camp in the lead up to Pacquiao’s fight with Jeff Horn. He also became a father for the first time and moved his Australian training base to two-time world champion Gairy St. Clair’s gym at Gymea.

In the ring, Kambosos put on one of the performances of his career so far to defeat Qamil Balla. He also retained his WBA Oceania Lightweight title and won the vacant IBF Pan Pacific Lightweight title when he beat Krai Setthaphon in Melbourne.

He is now 13-0 as a professional and continues to chase a world title fight.

8 – Green day for Gymea Gorillas

Gymea Gorillas celebrate their title. Picture: John Veage

Gymea Gorillas celebrate their title. Picture: John Veage

It was another green day for Gymea as the club celebrated winning the local first grade grand final in September, downing Engadine 28-10.

The 18-point victory in the first grade decider capped a huge day for the Gorillas as Gymea secured back to back premierships in the top three grades. 

In first grade, the minor premiers overcame a slow start to complete their undefeated season at Southern Cross Group Stadium, Woolooware.

7 – Dick Caine honoured

Dick Caine braves another chilly morning by the pool. Picture: John Veage

Dick Caine braves another chilly morning by the pool. Picture: John Veage

He is one of the most iconic sports figures in St George and the Sutherland Shire and in August the community came together to celebrate his legacy.

Dick Caine has turned countless local athletes into champions in his time as a coach. Caine, with his wife Jenny, have leased the Carss Park Memorial Pool for 50 years and it is there that he also taught so many to swim and improve their fitness in the gym as well as guiding a legion of athletes to higher achievements.

An appreciation dinner to honour Team Caine was held at Club Central Hurstville.

6 – Women’s rugby league World Cup

Jillaroos Kezie Apps, Ruan Sims and Maddie Studdon deliver the women's rugby league World Cup trophy to the shire. Picture: John Veage

Jillaroos Kezie Apps, Ruan Sims and Maddie Studdon deliver the women's rugby league World Cup trophy to the shire. Picture: John Veage

The shire was lucky enough to host the pool matches and semi-finals of the women’s rugby league World Cup in November. 

It was great to see some good crowd numbers for the Jillaroos in particular – especially the young children – and how generous the players were with their time for the kids. Australia put on a show on the field, winning their four matches in the shire comfortably before going on to win the final against New Zealand in Brisbane.

5 – Maroney family milestone

The Maroney family - Karin, Lindy, Sean (pictured), Michael, Susie and Pauline. Picture: John Veage

The Maroney family - Karin, Lindy, Sean (pictured), Michael, Susie and Pauline. Picture: John Veage

Absolutely one of my favourite stories of the year to write. The way Michael Maroney told the story of his family conquering the English Channel was a pleasure to listen to.

It is almost a quarter of a century since the Maroney family – mum Pauline and her children Michael, Susie, Sean, Lindy and Karin – became the first and only family to ever swim the English Channel.

4 – Southern Expansion

A-League at Kogarah? Southern Expansion could make it happen.

A-League at Kogarah? Southern Expansion could make it happen.

There had been rumours of this but it was still a surprise when it happened. 

A new A-League franchise that would represent the St George district, Sutherland Shire and Illawarra became one step closer to reality following the announcement of a consortium to head an official bid in March.

The franchise, with the working title of Southern Expansion, was led by St George football icon and football commentator Les Murray and former Socceroo Craig Foster and financially backed by Chinese property giant JiaYuan Group.

The bid had the support of its three member associations, St George FA, Sutherland Shire and Football South Coast, three of the most historic and largest associations in Australia. 

It was announced in November Morris Iemma was the new steering group chairman following the death of Murray.

3 – Sutherland Hockey Club win premiership

The Sutho boys celebrate their premiership. Picture: Supplied

The Sutho boys celebrate their premiership. Picture: Supplied

Sutherland became the kings of Sydney for the seventh time after edging out Moorebank-Liverpool 3-2 in a dramatic Sydney Hockey Association premier league one grand final in September.

The premiership, the club’s seventh first grade championship overall and first since back to back titles in 2011-12, topped off a rollercoaster season for Sutherland after it had looked doubtful they would even reach the finals, sitting seventh midway through the campaign.

2 – The Rampoldi sisters

Alex Rampoldi became the youngest ever winner of the opens flags Australian title. Picture: John Veage

Alex Rampoldi became the youngest ever winner of the opens flags Australian title. Picture: John Veage

It was the story that had the entire beach buzzing at the Australian Surf Lifesaving Championships in April.

Triplets Alex, Leah and Emily Rampoldi were joined by North Cronulla clubmate Ashleigh McDonald in the final, with Alex holding off Leah in the race off for the gold medal. All four share the same birthday, April 27, 2001, and all lined up in the under-17 final on the Sunday morning of competition. Ashleigh finished seventh with Emily sixth.

Rather than celebrate the amazing feat, Alex then headed for the open competition and three hours later won her second gold medal of the day after beating Kurrawa’s Bree Masters in the run-off for gold. It was an extraordinary day for Alex who emerged as the new force of flags racing.

1 – Connor O’Leary’s maiden WSL CT season

Connor O'Leary had an incredible first year on the WSL CT tour. Picture: WSL/Cestari

Connor O'Leary had an incredible first year on the WSL CT tour. Picture: WSL/Cestari

It was a dream first season on the World Surf League Championship Tour for Connor O’Leary, where he was named rookie of the year.

The highlight was undoubtedly when he made history on his way to finishing runner-up at the Outerknown Fiji Pro in June, becoming the first Cronulla surfer in more than a decade to make a World Surf League final and the first as a rookie since Richard Marsh in 1987.

The 22-year-old rookie barely put a foot wrong in just his fifth Championship Tour event as he was edged out by fellow Australian Matt Wilkinson in the final.

But it was in round three that he made the surfing world take notice, scoring the biggest win of his young career so far in eliminating 11-time world champion Kelly Slater, ending Slater’s quest to win the event for a fifth time. 

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