(Australian Associated Press)
Get ready for Australian sport’s year of truth.
It’s a year when so many questions, across so many sports, will be answered. Here’s a look at what is looming in 2019.
SOCCER’S ASIAN CUP
The Socceroos enter their new era when defending their Asian Cup title. Without retired linchpins Tim Cahill and Mile Jedinak, and under the fresh coaching tenure of Graham Arnold and new captain Mark Milligan, Australia’s campaign has started in the United Arab Emirates with a disappointing 1-0 loss to Jordan.
BANNED CRICKETERS RETURN
Cricketers Steve Smith and David Warner can return to elite level competition after March 28, when their 12-month bans for the ball-tampering scandal expire. The pair could make their comebacks in a one-day tournament against Pakistan which has yet to be confirmed.
CRICKET WORLD CUP
Smith and Warner’s first full-scale tournament is set to be the World Cup in England starting in May. Australia have won five World Cups overall, and four of the past five, but have endured a wretched run in 50-over cricket in the past 18 months – they’ve slipped to sixth in the world rankings.
Following the World Cup, Australia’s cricketers will return to England for the five-Test Ashes series starting in August. Australia hold the urn but haven’t beaten the Poms in England in the past four series dating back to 2005.
WOMEN’S SOCCER WORLD CUP
The Matildas will carry high hopes into the showpiece tournament in France in June and July. The Australians are ranked sixth in the world but boast a formidable array of talent, headlined by brilliant attacker Sam Kerr. Defending champions and world No.1 United States will again be the team to beat but the Aussies have proven they have the ability to match it with the world’s best.
NETBALL WORLD CUP
The Diamonds will be favoured to collect another cup in the tournament staged in Liverpool, England, from July 12-21. An 11-time winner, including six of the last seven, Australia could face New Zealand in the final for a sixth consecutive edition of the cup.
MEN’S BASKETBALL WORLD CUP
The Boomers will seek their first medal at a cup since the first tournament was held in 1950. Australia’s best finish is fifth in 1994 but the current crop is arguably the best-ever, featuring Andrew Bogut and current NBA stars Patty Mills, Joe Ingles, Thon Maker, Matthew Dellavedova, Aron Baynes and Dante Exum, although there is strong doubt over Ben Simmons’ availability. The tournament will be held in eight Chinese cities from August 31 to September 15.
RUGBY WORLD CUP
Two-time champions Australia enter the World Cup year with plenty of gloom surrounding the Wallabies’ chances. An extended stretch of poor results has dampened Australian enthusiasm ahead of the showpiece tournament in Japan from September 20 to November 2. Some cling to the fact that coach Michael Cheika got them to the final last time after less than a year in charge. Newly-appointed coaching director Scott Johnson has much to do.
WORLD SWIMMING CHAMPIONSHIPS
Will Australia’s swim team continue to tread water in the deep end of elite world competition? Dubbed the Dolphins, the team followed a mixed 2016 Olympics with only one gold medal at the 2017 world championships. The gold rush of this year’s home Commonwealth Games will be well-forgotten when the Aussies compete at the world titles in Gwangju, South Korea, from July 12-28.
WORLD ATHLETIC CHAMPIONSHIPS
Hurdler Sally Pearson has done it all, with Olympic and world championship gold medals already in her collection. Her recent years have been plagued by injuries, including being forced out of last year’s Gold Coast Commonwealth Games. Pearson has already stated her focus is on the Tokyo 2020 Olympics with the world championships in Doha, Qatar starting on September 28 a crucial stepping stone to that goal.
Massive year for tennis brat Nick Kyrgios. The Australian is the first player since Roger Federer to make two different grand slam quarter-finals as a teen. But now aged 23, Kyrgios hasn’t made the last eight at a major in almost four years. He’s sought help from psychologists to “try to get on top of my mental health” and harness his undoubted physical talents.