(Australian Associated Press)
KEY AUSTRALIAN SPORTS EVENTS IN 2020:
* TOKYO OLYMPICS:
After sliding down the medal table four years ago in Rio, the Australian Olympic Committee is taking a fresh approach to the Tokyo Games which open on July 24. No longer will the AOC publicly set medal targets, believing it will relieve the pressure on athletes. Australia went to Rio with top-five aspirations, but slipped to 10th with only eight golds among 29 medals. The AOC is forecasting Australia’s team for Tokyo to be its largest and hopes to send an equal number of male and female athletes for a Games to feature the Olympic debut of surfing, skateboarding and karate.
* CRICKET TWENTY20 WORLD CUPS:
Australia will host the two showpiece tournaments in cricket’s short form, with the women’s World Cup from February followed by the men’s World Cup from October. Australia’s women will carry favouritism into their tournament – they’re ranked No.1 in the world – while the men’s team are second behind Pakistan.
* AUSTRALIA’S WOMEN’S WORLD CUP SOCCER BID:
Australia’s bid to host the women’s football World Cup in 2023 gets down to the business end. Australia is combining with New Zealand for a joint bid and is on a shortlist of four, with Brazil, Colombia and Japan also in the race. Football’s world governing body FIFA will publish evaluation reports in May. Then, 37 FIFA board members will vote for the winning bid with an announcement expected in May.
* SOCCEROOS’ WORLD CUP QUALIFIERS:
Australia’s men’s soccer team is seeking to qualify for a fifth-consecutive World Cup. And the Socceroos enter the new year with a perfect start to their qualification phase with four wins from four outings. The second round of qualifiers winds up in June, the same month the Socceroos will participate in the Copa America for the first time after being invited to compete in the South American tournament.
* BARTY’S NEW CHALLENGES:
Australia’s Ashleigh Barty begins the fresh year, ranked No.1 in women’s tennis after a stunning 2019. The humble Barty will carry heavy expectations into the Australian Open, starting on January 20, when she’ll bid to become the first local woman to win the title since Christine O’Neil in 1978. In the men’s event, emerging 20-year-old Alex de Minaur and volatile compatriot Nick Kyrgios appear Australia’s best chance of providing a first local champion since Mark Edmondson’s triumph in 1976.
* WALLABIES’ FRESH ERA:
After a World Cup flop, Australia’s men’s rugby team go into the New Year with new coach David Rennie, who has replaced Michael Cheika in the hot seat. Rennie’s first tasks come against Ireland in July ahead of the Bledisloe Cup in August and October against his native New Zealand.
* ROOSTERS EYE NRL HAT-TRICK:
The Sydney Roosters will enter the new season seeking a third-consecutive premiership, a feat never achieved in the NRL era. The last club to notch a three-peat in Australia’s elite league competition was Parramatta in 1981-83.
* RICHMOND’S AFL QUEST:
In the AFL, Richmond will seek consecutive premierships to confirm their status as the competition’s measuring stick. The Tigers won the flag in 2017 and last year – no club has captured successive premierships since Hawthorn’s triple treat from 2013-15.