BY CONNOR STEPHENS
What a year it has been for sport in Australia! From the Matildas astonishing run in the Women’s World Cup, to the rise of Formula One star Oscar Piastri, there is no limit to the successful achievements made by our nation's sporting heroes this year. We at SportsBlock love to give credit where credit is due, so here is our top 5 ranked Australian Sporting moments in 2023!
5. Adelaide on the map! The story of Nestory Irankunda
Still only 17 years of age, Nestory Irankunda has his entire career ahead of him, and Australia may have produced their best ever Footballer in this bloke.
Born in 2006, Irankunda grew up in the Northern suburbs of Adelaide, South Australia, playing Junior Football for the Northern Wolves and Parafield Gardens, before being scouted by highly reputable NPL SA club Adelaide Croatia Raiders.
Having been with the Raiders from 2018-2020, he was then scouted by Adelaide United, and made his A-League debut at just the age of 15! On the 11th of October this year, he was also named in the 60 best Young Footballers in the World by The Guardian, showcasing that this kid has what it takes to go all the way, and be a shining light for Football in Australia for years to come!
As of this week, reports have come out that German giants Bayern Munich have reached an agreement with Adelaide United for his signature, with an offer of more than $5 Million plus add-ons put on the table just to lure the prodigy to one of the biggest clubs in World Football.
2023 has been a breakout year for Irankunda, with his Free Kick ability being compared to that of Cristiano Ronaldo himself! Only time will tell if this young lad fulfils his potential.
4. The Aussies do it again! Retaining the Ashes
Taking a 2-0 lead after 2 tests, Australia looked set to retain the most famous trophy in World Cricket, but England managed to salvage a victory in the 3rd test, meaning it was game on for the remaining 2 matches.
Luckily for the Aussies, the 4th match was called a draw due to rain, meaning even if England won the next test, Australia would retain the trophy, meaning the 2023 Ashes was won in very controversial circumstances, especially as it looked as if England were cruising to victory in the 3rd test, but all in all it was a very entertaining series of Test Cricket, with both sides leaving it all out there in the field, and showing that the Australia-England rivalry is still the best in World Cricket.
3. Verstappen should start worrying! The rise of Oscar Piastri
With Daniel Ricciardo’s seat at McLaren being forfeited, many Australians were left with mixed feelings when he was replaced by a fellow up and coming Aussie by the name of Oscar Piastri.
At only 22 years of age, Piastri wowed the Aussie fans in his first home Grand Prix, finishing in 8th and earning championship points on the Melbourne Circuit. He would again open the eyes of adoring Formula One fans with an impressive 10th place finish in the highly competitive, and sometimes outright brutal Monaco Grand Prix, officially putting his name on the Racing map!
Further finishes of 4th and 5th in the British and Hungarian races respectively further enhanced the name of the boy from Melbourne, and he would only get better as he earned his first podium finish coming 3rd in the Japanese Grand Prix, being the first Rookie to achieve such a feat in over 5 years!
His first win came in the sprint race at the Qatar Grand Prix, and finished second in the Grand Prix itself, showing that his rapid improvement could be a sign of massive things to come! Let's hope that in the next decade, his name is brought up in conversations with the likes of Brabham, Schumacher, Senna, and Hamilton!
2. World Cup Champions! The Diamonds take home Gold
The Aussies dominated the Netball World Cup, eclipsing rivals England in the Final with a final score of 61-45. This would be the Diamonds 12th World Cup win, and with 4 runner up finishes means that the Aussies have finished in the top 2 of every World Cup they have participated in!
Netball is only getting stronger in Australia, so let's hope that the next generation is blessed with even more World Cup victories!
1. Success on home soil - The Matildas World Cup run
Being privileged to host the Women’s World Cup tournament, the Matildas made it their goal to wow the nation, and that they did.
Before the tournament, the Matildas best World Cup campaign had been making the quarter finals, and after an emphatic penalty shootout win in the Quarters to France, experts were backing the Aussie girls to take it all the way, but a heartbreaking Semi Final loss to rivals England saddened millions of Australian fans, but an eventual 4th place finish in the tournament, considering star player Sam Kerr was injured for the bulk of the tournament meant that the Matildas exceeded expectations, and the rise of young stars such as Mary Fowler and Ellie Carpenter makes us wonder just how good this outfit will be in the next World Cup and beyond!
Apart from the highly successful tournament, the Matildas broke viewership records, with 5 million people tuning in to the Quarter Final match against France, and membership numbers amongst W-League clubs have soared since the tournament's conclusion.
2023 has been a massive year for sport in our great nation, and further proves why Australia is one of, if not the best sporting nation on the planet. Here at SportsBlock we are already excited for what 2024 will bring to Australian sport, and with the Olympics on the horizon, big names such as Ariarne Titmus, Emma McKeon and Peter Bol are worth keeping an eye on!