The 10 biggest Australian sporting moments of 2020

Ah, 2020. The year we wanted over before it had really even begun! The world witnessed things in the past 12 months we had never seen before and it was no different in sport.

Here, we attempt the difficult task of ranking the 10 biggest Australian sporting moments of 2020.

There were many notable events and memorable milestones which failed to make the cut (sorry Ash Barty, Alex Volkanovski, Daniel Ricciardo and Cameron Smith), but this list attempts to highlight the moments which will be remembered for years to come.

10. Young Maroons stun Blues to claim late Origin series

State of Origin didn't have exactly the same feel as every other year, being played so late in the year in considerably warmer conditions, but try telling that to a Queenslander after the Maroons landed an epic series win.

Queensland, missing Kalyn Ponga for the entire series, were massive underdogs and many pundits had even tipped a Blues series sweep. But Wayne Bennett weaved his magic to snatch Game I 18-14 and make the series a real contest. The Blues would win a blowout Game II in Sydney, but Bennett laughed it off, knowing the decider was in Brisbane, where the Maroons have been so dominant over the years.

He was right to laugh, the Maroons got the job done 20-14 to take the shield for the first time since 2017. Cameron Munster was awarded man of the series for his heroic play in the decider.

9. Steve Smith scores back-to-back 62-ball ODI centuries

It's an achievement we may never see again. Australia's star batsman Steve Smith tormented India (again) in the first two One Day Internationals at the Sydney Cricket Ground in November.

Smith scored a magnificent 62-ball 100, the third fastest century by an Australian in an ODI, in the first game to bring the lucky ones at the ground to their feet. But just 48 hours he repeated the dose, managing another ton from the exact same amount of deliveries, once again raising the bat as the Indians could only applaud in admiration.

Unsurprisingly, Smith was awarded consecutive man of the match honours, with his centuries paving the way for Australia to wrap up the series before the third game in Canberra.

8. Wallabies, All Blacks play out epic draw in New Zealand

Australia fell agonisingly short of an upset Bledisloe Cup win on New Zealand soil earlier this year when the sides settled for a 16-16 draw in rainy Wellington.

In the first Test with new coach Dave Rennie at the helm, Reece Hodge had an opportunity to win the game when he lined up a 50m penalty shot after full-time. It looked good off the boot but Hodge's kick struck the upright, bounced back into the field and allowed play to continue for a further nine minutes. Both sides had chances to secure victory at the death, but neither could capitalise in the slippery conditions. Eventually, James O'Connor elected to boot the ball into touch and settle for the draw.

It wasn't quite the result the Wallabies were looking for but it certainly was a Test which will live long in the memory banks of all Union fans.

7. Storm land incredible premiership after months on the road

The Storm have enjoyed all sorts of success over the past two decades, but nothing really stacks up to the 2020 premiership triumph.

Having lost a host of stars over the last couple of years, Melbourne's dynasty was looking like it was coming to an end, and that was before COVID-19 hit and Craig Bellamy's side was forced to relocate out of Victoria. The Storm spent over four months away from home, yet still managed to finish second on the ladder and win through to yet another Grand Final.

Melbourne had the Grand Final just about wrapped up at halftime when they led the Panthers 22-0, but a spirited second half fightback from Penrith ensured a tense finish. The Storm would hold on for a remarkable premiership, the club's third since 2012.

6. Tigers, Dusty cement place among all-time greats

Before the AFL season restarted in 2020, Richmond coach Damien Hardwick declared that this year would be one of the most difficult premierships to win in the sport's history. Not only did teams have to deal with a host of changes to the game but also, particularly for Victorian sides, playing extended periods away from home.

The Tigers had been the benchmark team heading into the year, but despite all of the noise and distractions, they were able to progress through to the Grand Final -- the first to be contested in the evening -- where they would face Geelong.

Once again the Grand Final stage belonged to Dusty, who claimed a record third Norm Smith Medal for his inspirational 21 disposal, four goal performance which was immediately hailed as one of the greatest finals games anyone has ever played. Both the modern day Tigers team and Dusty have certainly cemented themselves among the all-time greats.

5. Australia, New Zealand announced as World Cup hosts

There were wild celebrations at FFA headquarters when it was announced on June 25 that Australia and New Zealand would co-host the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup.

The Australia-New Zealand bid won 22 of a possible 35 votes to secure the event, the first time the tournament will be played in the southern hemisphere. The 2023 edition will also be the first time 32 nations are represented and 64 matches played at a FIFA Women's World Cup.

It's expected that Eden Park in Auckland will host the opening game of the event, with Homebush in Sydney to stage the final.

4. Australian Grand Prix cancelled at the 11th hour

Fans were literally lining up at the Albert Park gates ahead of Formula One's season-opening practice session in Melbourne when word came through that the race weekend would be spectacularly called off as COVID-19 cases mounted and fears of the disease spreading around the nation became real.

It was later revealed that a number of drivers, including four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel and fan favourite Kimi Raikkonen, had taken an overnight flight back to Europe on the Thursday and would not have taken part had the race gone ahead as planned.

The cancellation left organisers millions of dollars in the red and fans fuming with the way in which the situation was handled. 2020 would end up being the first year since 1984 that Australia would not host a Formula One world championship race.

3. NRL becomes the first sport to make a post-COVID return

It was May 28 when the National Rugby League made its return from the coronavirus shut down. The general consensus was that it was far too early, but in the end the league turned out to provide other sporting organisations around the world with a blueprint for making a return amid the pandemic.

The NRL carefully selected a number of playing fields, well ahead of pandemic expectations, ensured players and officials were in bubbles, and fans locked out of stadiums. They were necessary protocols that would set the standard and allow the NRL to run an almost normal length season.

Things could have gone horribly wrong for the NRL but full credit to Peter V'landys and the team for making the decision to return and executing the plan with perfection.

2. Australian women win T20 World Cup

On March 8, International Women's Day, a total of 86,174 fans packed into the Melbourne Cricket Ground for an historic occasion.

The T20 World Cup final between powerhouse nations Australia and India would be the highest attended women's sporting event ever staged in Australia and the second-highest the world had ever seen.

The Australians batted first and posted 184 runs for the loss of four wickets. Beth Mooney top scored with 78*, while Alyssa Healy notched 75. The Aussies were just as dominant with the ball, bowling the visitors out in 19.1 overs for just 99 runs to win a record fifth T20 World Cup title.

1. Sport grinds to a halt amid COVID-19 pandemic

Honestly, could it really be anything else!?

The world had never seen anything like it and may never see anything quite like it again. A pandemic sweeping around the globe hit Australian shores in February and by late March, sport, in all its forms, was shut down. Everything.

From late-March to late-May, Australian sport was practically non-existent, as the nation battled to contain the deadly coronavirus. It caused a mad panic with the AFL, NRL and Super Rugby competitions, among others, scrambling to put together a Plan B. Major events around the country were also forced into rescheduling.

Many of us (myself included) had taken sport for granted over the years, but that period between late March and mid-April was as dull as it gets. Please, let's never endure that again!