10 Biggest Sport Stories of 2018 - Oddschecker's Year in Review
There were plenty of headlines in the world of sport. We count down the 10 biggest sporting headlines of the year.
It was another huge year for sport with scandals, shocks and surprises giving fans more reason than ever to shout from the rooftops via social media of their disapproval or otherwise.
Here, we have put down our ‘Top 10 Biggest Sports Stories of 2018’. You may have some others on your list or it may be completely different.
From the ball tampering scandal engulfing Test cricket to Serena Williams’ monumental meltdown, strap yourselves in – here is our top 10!
No.10: UNIFIED KOREA AT THE WINTER OLYMPICS
Wasn’t it fantastic to see North and South come together as one to a unified Korea at the Winter Olympics?
The Games were held in Pyeongchang in South Korea and it was the first time since 2006 that the two nations marched as one.
This was prompted through the South Korean Women’s ice hockey team combining with a group of their North Korean counterpart.
No.9: SLATER’S GRAND FINAL SWANSONG DOESN’T GO ACCORDING TO PLAN
Billy Slater certainly won’t forget his last game in the NRL.
The champion fullback was embroiled in controversy even before the decider against the Roosters after escaping a ban at the judiciary earlier in the week. Slater had been sighted after blatantly shoulder-charging Sosaia Feki in the Preliminary Final win over Cronulla.
Experts, commentators and the general public took to all forms of media to either support Slater or to say he deserved to miss out on a Grand Final swansong.
Not surprisingly, the future Immortal was spared the indignity of missing out which caused a huge uproar.
Slater was one of the Storm’s best in the Grand Final but he was smashed by a relentless Roosters offence which completely dominated the defending champs.
The Queenslander, controversially named Origin Man of the Series despite being on a losing team earlier in the year, was then booed off the field in a final insult to what was a great career.
No8: THE DOWNFALL OF JARRYD HAYNE
It was his dream to play in the NFL but it seems as though his American sojourn may just derail the rest of his career.
Jarryd Hayne sensationally quit the NRL in 2014 to head to the US for an opportunity to play NFL. He famously got some playing time but was ultimately cut and returned home.
After a brief spell with the Titans, he ended up back 'home' at Parramatta but with a bit of baggage. Hayne is now fighting claims of sexual misconduct during his time in America with the matter now before the courts.
If we're being honest, he has been a shadow of the player that set the NRL on fire in 2009 for a few years now and although he doesn't have the impact he once had, is still an in-demand marquee. These charges, if proven, will end his sporting dreams permanently.
No.7: KEY MOVES FOR SUPERSTARS
Cristiano Ronaldo and LeBron James are champions in their own right but both moved on this season in order to try and add another chapter to their growing legacies.
Firstly, Ronaldo moved on from Real Madrid where he spent nine hugely successful seasons to try his hand with Juventus. He has won league titles in England and Spain and is on track to add the Italian Serie A to his bulging list of credits.
LeBron left Cleveland, who he guided to four straight NBA Finals appearances and the title in 2016, to become an LA Laker. Many thought LeBron may not be able to make it in the west, especially since the near-invincible Golden State Warriors live in that conference.
Despite that, he has turned around what was a poor Lakers outfit into a playoff contender.
No.6: THE BOLT TRIAL
The fastest man on the planet created a media frenzy during his brief stint in the Hyundai A-league.
Usain Bolt was given a chance by Central Coast Mariners to trial for their side in the hopes of securing a contract for the 2018/19 season.
Talk of Bolt trialling for the Mariners began some months earlier but as the whispers became roars, he not only secured himself a trial with the side but also got some game time.
Although lacking the finishing touches that a professional footballer would possess, the world’s fastest man and nine-time Gold medallist did manage to find the back of the net twice against Macarthur South West United in a practice match.
No.5: REAL MADRID WINS THIRD STRAIGHT CHAMPIONS LEAGUE
......but that isn't the story everyone is talking about.
The match was in the 25th minute and still nil-all when Mohammed Salah, Liverpool's prolific goal scorer, was taken down by Sergio Ramos.
The incident itself didn't appear to be dangerous at first, however, when Salah stayed down you knew something was up. Subsequent replays revealed Ramos had linked his arm around Salah's and when the pair hit the ground, the Egyptian's shoulder was driven into the turf.
Despite trying to play on, he couldn't and was subbed off the field in tears. Liverpool, without the man that had propelled their entire season to a new level, were left toothless and two catastrophic goalkeeping errors by Loris Karius killed off any chance the Reds had of stopping the Madrid machine claiming a third straight Final.
The media frenzy and general circus that followed Bolt around Sydney was finally put to bed in early November when all parties concerned couldn’t come to a commercial agreement.
In other words, Bolt wanted way too much money for what he was worth.
No.4: SERENA WILLIAMS GOES POSTAL
The greatest female tennis player of the modern era tarnished her reputation with a monumental blow up at the US Open.
Williams is regarded as one of the all-time greats and hasn't been found wanting on too many occasions during her glittering career. One of those times though was in the US Open Final this year against Naomi Osaka.
A hot favourite to claim a 24th Grand Slam Final, Williams had lost the first set and then had three separate confrontations with chair umpire Carlos Ramos during the second set which saw her penalised each time for various code violations.
Williams blasted Ramos claiming he was a liar and a thief, amongst other things, while claiming that because she was a woman she was treated differently than her male counterparts if they were to do the same thing.
Opinions were divided after the match as to whether Williams was right or wrong, however, the whole incident took away from the fact Osaka cleaned her up and became Japan's first Grand Slam winner.
The boos from the crowd during the presentation will long be remembered.
No.3: MCGREGOR BEATEN IN SUPER FIGHT
The UFC's poster boy Conor McGregor returned to the Octagon in October for the first time since his mega-fight with Floyd Mayweather.
While 'The Notorious' went into the fight with Kabib Nurmagomedov supremely confident that he would pick up where he left off, he came crashing back down to the earth. Khabib, 26-0 at the time, was favourite across most bookies and corporates and the market proved spot on.
The Russian was unfazed by the trash talk leading into the fight and just played the game his way, smothering McGregor and pummelling the Irishman to the point where he forced a submission in the fourth round.
It wasn't over there with an all-in brawl ensuing with both camps having reps throwing punches after the fight. The fighters are currently awaiting sanctions from Dana White and the UFC and are suspended.
No.2: FRANCE WINS THE WORLD CUP
Football is the most popular sport in the world - period!
So France's second success in the FIFA World Cup Finals in Russia was one of the most popular news items of 2018.
Les Bleus went through the tournament unbeaten and overwhelmed Croatia in the Final, putting to bed any hopes of a Cinderella story finish to the greatest party on earth.
France's star-studded line-up of Paul Pogba, Antoine Greizmann and Hugo Loris were led expertly by Didier Deschamps, who captained France to their initial World Cup triumph in 1998.
The tournament also saw the arrival of French youngster Kylian Mbappe on the world stage. He already had big wraps on him but he showed throughout the tournament that the hype was justified and that he is a future superstar in the making.
There were was a few upsets during the month-long World Cup too with the biggest being defending champs Germany failing to get out of the group stage for the first time ever!
No.1: SANDPAPER GATE
One of the darkest days for Australian cricket.
Sandpaper Gate, as it would go on to be known, was exposed during the Third Test between Australia and South Africa back in March.
Cam Bancroft was caught on camera trying to rough up the ball with a small yellow object, later found to be sandpaper, but no one could have imagined just how damaging the whole situation would get.
The fallout was brutal with Aussie captain Steve Smith and vice-captain Dave Warner baring the brunt of the cricketing world and everyone in general. The pair were suspended (and still are) and pretty much hung and drawn in front of the Aussie public.
Coach Darren Lehmann, although never linked to the ball-tampering scandal, was another victim as he stood down from his post.
Aussie cricket hasn’t recovered with Smith and Warner still serving suspensions. Interestingly, there is a push to have Smith reinstalled in the Test side but it seems like there is little push or support for Warner.
Take from that what you will.
We found it difficult to leave one story out of our top 10 but we couldn’t leave this out.
EAGLES CAPTURE FIRST SUPERBOWL AGAINST THE ODDS
When starting quarterback Carson Wentz went down to a season-ending injury with just a few games remaining, it looked as though Philadelphia’s Super Bowl chances had gone out of the window.
Enter, Nick Foles.
The reserve quarterback ran a perfectly orchestrated offence throughout the playoffs and outgunned the legendary Tom Brady in the big one – but only just!
Brady had more passing yards in the Super Bowl and the pair went toe-to-toe with touchdown passes, but it was Foles that came up big with the go-ahead TD with just over two minutes ago with the final score being 41-33.
It was Eagles’ first Super Bowl win and for the franchise was a bit of a get square against the Pats, who beat them by three points in the big one back in 2004.