Gavel / A few of my favourite (sporting) things

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IT’S close to the end of another year of impressive performances by sportspeople and supporters. Here’s my year in review with a few of my favourite memories.

Tim Gavel
Tim Gavel.

In a year of many highlights in Canberra sport, it’s hard to go past the community spirit generated by the Viking Clap at Canberra Stadium. Its value was noted well beyond the confines of the ACT.

As the Raiders launched their finals campaign, the Viking Clap involved supporters like never before at the stadium.

The crowd participation, of course, was the entrée to the performance of the team with its breathtaking attack; the sense of pride generated within Canberra cannot be underestimated.

Another highlight was the work undertaken away from the playing field by the Raiders. Much of it was spontaneous, such as Blake Austin giving a lift to a fan on the way to Bruce. Special mention though needs to go to forward Sia Soliola, he has been volunteering washing dishes, sweeping floors and serving meals for the homeless and disadvantaged at the Early Morning Centre during the off season. This comes on top of his work mentoring youth for Menslink.

I once asked Sia whether he felt a need to volunteer and do community work because of the perception of the privileged life of a professional footballer. He said he didn’t feel a need to do it, but it was more about him wanting to do it. I can’t help but really admire the character of this man.

It caps off a great year for the Raiders off the field when taking into account Alan Tongue’s award as the ACT Australian of the Year with coach Ricky Stuart a finalist. Both have demonstrated a great commitment to those within our community who can do with support.

The performance of Canberra cyclist Mathew Hayman in winning the Paris-Roubaix race was another highlight. The win is all the more impressive as this is said to be the most gruelling one-day race in the world. The fact he achieved this so soon after breaking his arm was a remarkable effort.

Rower Kim Brennan winning gold in Rio may have appeared a foregone conclusion at the start of the year, after all, she was unbeaten in two years.

But the unthinkable almost happened in the heats in the rough conditions in Rio. She struggled to get her boat, which was filling with water, to the line in finishing a distant third. Kim then went on to win gold in the final of the women’s single sculls becoming the first Australian to do so in this event.

There was also the performance of Canberra Olympic FC in making it through to the semifinals of the FFA Cup before going down to Sydney FC.

In predicting what might happen next year, our thoughts and prayers are with Brumbies co-captain Christian Lealiifano as he continues his battle with leukaemia. There is hope that the 2017 season for the Brumbies will be filled with on-field highlights rather than off-field issues.

I hope Nick Kyrgios takes advantage of his enormous talent. There is also optimism for next year following the performance so far this season from the Capitals, Canberra United and the Cavalry against teams with far greater resources.

I’m looking forward to another great year in Canberra sport.

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Tim Gavel
Journalist and ABC sports broadcaster

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