Who were the winners and losers of 2015

08_Who were the winners and losers of 2015

(Australian Associated Press)


A quick recap of the people who will look back fondly on 2015 and those who simply can’t wait for the year to be over.



Malcolm Bligh Turnbull was the hands-down winner of 2015. The man long considered destined for the nation’s top job rolled Tony Abbott in September to become Australia’s 29th Prime Minister. Ousted from the Liberal leadership by Abbott in 2009 over his support for emissions trading, Turnbull struck as Abbott flatlined in the polls. There has been grumbling within conservative ranks, even a little sniping that someone promised would not happen (ahem, Mr Abbott), but Turnbull’s ascension has, for now at least, sparked a positive response from the public, business and academia, plus a bounce in the polls. Now for the test of his first budget in May.


It doesn’t get much more historic than being the first woman to ride to victory in the Melbourne Cup but Michelle Payne’s triumph was made even more memorable by her remarkable story and her extraordinary win. A battler from the bush, the youngest of 10 children and a woman determined to succeed in male-dominated horseracing, 30-year-old Payne guided six-year-old long shot Prince of Penzance to victory at 100-1. Her post-race message to the doubters made headlines of its own when she said: “I can’t say how grateful I am (to the people who helped me), and I want to say to everyone else, get stuffed, because women can do anything and we can beat the world.”


Take on a huge great white shark and live to tell the tale? You’re a winner. Australian three-time world surfing champ Mick Fanning was attacked by a monster shark in the waves at South Africa’s Jeffrey’s Bay. His response? Punch it. And panic a bit. “The parts that I saw it was huge. My board was almost 19 inches wide and tiny compared to what the shark was, it was so round,” Fanning said after the July attack. The shark dragged Fanning’s leg rope until he lost his board. Fanning waited, fist cocked, for the shark to come again “and take a leg or two”. Jetski crews rescued him. Television cameras captured the terror from start to finish and the world watched again and again, awed, terrified, cheering. Fanning’s brother died in December as he battled for – but missed out on – the 2015 world title.


After Rosie Batty lost her 11-year-old son Luke in the most brutal of circumstances, she could have retreated from the world, overcome with grief. Instead she used the killing of her son by her mentally ill, abusive ex-husband to highlight the enormous, hidden toll of domestic violence and force a national discussion about how to handle a devastating problem. Ms Batty was named Australian of the Year for her courage and determination to speak out and make a difference. She faced down critics who questioned her authority to speak with the same dignity and strength she has shown ever since her ordeal – a strength that has won her the nation’s admiration.


Footy fans of the oval ball codes had many reasons to rejoice in 2015. Take Jonathan Thurston’s magical golden point field goal to give the North Queensland Cowboys their first NRL premiership after one of the best grand finals in years. Or the resurgent Wallabies’ barnstorming run to the Rugby World Cup final, only to fall agonisingly to the All Blacks. Or Hawthorn crushing the West Coast Eagles to take their third AFL premiership in a row. Footy has had its share of scandals and the rise of the round ball game has some questioning where Australia’s sporting future lies but 2015 has finished in fine form for the fans.


Being booted out of the Lodge by your own party hurts. Particularly only two-thirds into your first term as PM. Tony Abbott didn’t seem to see the writing on the wall as he rattled through a chaotic 2015 – knighting Prince Phillip, scraping through a spill in February, bottoming in 30 polls in a row and becoming the best thing opposition leader Bill Shorten had going for him. Abbott went down swinging when Malcolm Turnbull defeated him in the Liberal leadership vote in September, blaming the media for rewarding “treachery” and defending his often-criticised chief of staff, Peta Credlin. He promised there would be “no undermining and no sniping”. The now-backbencher has since offered his views on national security issues and immigration in numerous speeches and media appearances.


He swept to power as “Can-Do Campbell”. Turns out he couldn’t do after all. The divisive Queensland premier claimed 78 of 89 parliamentary seats in 2012. He then sacked 14,000 public servants, introduced draconian anti-bikie laws, chose a chief justice who was openly criticised by senior Queensland judiciary members, and launched an unpopular asset privatisation plan. In January Newman’s LNP was voted from power in a massive swing, with Newman becoming the first Queensland premier in a century to lose his seat. Post-politics Mr Newman blasted the decision of some book stores not to sell his new biography as “anti-democratic”.


Poor Bill Shorten. With Tony Abbott in power all the Labor leader had to do was wait for another knights-and-dames-type gaffe, say “Workchoices” a bit and watch his numbers as preferred prime minister tick up. Then Malcolm Turnbull ruined it all in September by beating Abbott before Shorten ever got a chance to try – slim as that chance may have been. Now Shorten has the distinction of matching the lowest-ever preferred PM rating for a Labor leader – 14 per cent at the start of December. A September poll found even some Labor voters liked Turnbull for PM more than Shorten.


Australians generally love their sports stars unless they do something oafish enough to make people turn away in dismay. Kyrgios managed that in August when courtside microphones caught his distasteful mid-match sledge to opponent Stan Wawrinka, that Australian player Thanasi Kokkinakis “banged your girlfriend”. Kyrgios was fined, crowds booed his next appearance and greats of the game including Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic criticised his behaviour. The sledge followed accusations – denied by Kyrgios – that he tanked in a match at Wimbledon in July. Kyrgios earned warnings from tennis great Rod Laver and cricket legend Shane Warne that he has to shape up.


The 3-2 scoreline didn’t tell the true story of Australia’s disastrous collapse in the 2015 Ashes. The Aussies went into the series favoured to win. They lost the first Test, levelled with a thumping win in the second, then went down by eight wickets in the third Test and it got worse from there. In the fourth Test at Trent Bridge, Australia was all out for 60 and the Ashes were England’s. Australian captain Michael Clark announced his retirement and when the series was done – Australia winning the dead rubber fifth Test – coach Darren Lehmann made a public apology for the team’s performance.


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