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A year of busted hoodoos: Top 10 drought-breakers of 2016-17

Leicester City 2015-16 Premier League champions
WHEN it rains, it pours.

Sergio Garcia’s famous win at the 2017 Masters was but the latest chapter in an incredible story of drought-breaking wins in the past 12 months.

But where does the Spaniard’s victory at Augusta rank in the grand scheme of things?

Let’s look at the greatest hoodoo-killing results of the last year in sport, starting with the biggest stunner of all.

Leicester City – Premier League 2015-16

This is how the English Premier League works: there are a handful of money clubs that compete in earnest for the title each year while the rest of fight over the scraps of cup competitions and European qualification.

Leicester plainly didn’t get the memo ahead of the 2015-16 EPL campaign.

Having just pulled off an incredible escape for relegation, the Foxes looked in disarray when they sacked manager Nigel Pearson in pre-season due to irreconcilable differences between the manager and the club’s Thai owners.

But the decision to bring in Claudio Ranieri proved an inspired one.

In an era when such things simply don’t happen, Leicester’s squad of budget-bought battlers trumped the mega-millions of Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool and the Manchester giants to trigger the greatest upset in English football history.

Not only that, it marked the very first top-flight triumph in the club’s 132-year history.

Hibernian – Scottish Cup 2016

In a year of astonishing football results, this one rather went under the radar.

Hibs, once a prominent performer in Scotland’s top division, had endured many hard years by the time the 2015-16 campaign rolled around.

They were back in the second tier, having lost a relegation playoff to Ross County at the end of the previous season.

They had a new manager, with former Celtic boss Neil Lennon replacing the sacked Terry Butcher in the summer.

While they couldn’t claw their way back up to the Scottish Premier League, they did enjoy some long-overdue joy in knockout play.

Wins over Raith Rovers, Hearts, Inverness Caledonian Thistle and Dundee United set up a Scottish Cup final date with Rangers, where they upset the Glasgow giants to win the tourney for the first time since 1902.

Chicago Cubs – World Series 2016

One way or another, the 2016 World Series was destined to see one team put an end to decades of misery.

The Cleveland Indians looked on track for their first taste of postseason glory in 76 years when they won three of the first four games.

But the Cubs won the next two to square things up and force a seventh – and what a game it was.

It went to extra innings, for only the fifth time in World Series history, after the Indians pulled back three runs in the eighth to tie the scores.

But 2-1 result in the 10th gave the day to Chicago, thus ending 108 years without a title.

Portugal – Euro 2016

For all the talent at their disposal, Portugal have rarely been considered a serious threat in major football tournaments.

They were well back in the punters’ predictions for the 2016 European Championship, where hosts France and usual suspects Germany and Spain were the hot tips.

But the tourney, which was the first incarnation to feature 24 teams, would prove to be fertile ground for underdogs and upsets.

The Portuguese only barely scraped through a group featuring Austria, Hungary and Iceland, but their fortunes improved considerably in the knockout stages.

A bafflingly soft draw saw them dispose of Croatia, Poland and Wales to tee up a final date with the heavily favoured host nation at Stade de France.

All looked lost when superstar striker Cristiano Ronaldo went off injured in the first half, but a lone goal from the unheralded Eder in added extra time was enough for the Seleccao to snatch a shock win – their first major trophy in 95 years of existence.

Western Bulldogs – AFL Grand Final 2016

Never has their been a more loveable underdog in Australian footy.

The Bulldogs bandwagon was overflowing with neutral support when, having scrapped and scragged their way from seventh on the ladder, they met the affluent and star-studded Sydney Swans in the 2016 AFL Grand Final.

The fact they made it that far was remarkable in and of itself when you look at the club’s casualty list that season.

Captain Robert Murphy sat out most of the year with a knee injury, while stars such as Luke Dahlhaus, Jason Johannisen, Tom Liberatore and Mitch Wallis also missed big chunks of game time.

But in front of a packed house at the MCG, in their first GF appearance since 1961, the Bulldogs clinched a 22-point victory to break what was the longest active Premiership drought in the AFL – some 62 years.

Cleveland Cavaliers – NBA Finals 2016

It was so nearly a miraculous double for the long-suffering city of Cleveland.

The Indians couldn’t quite get it done in the MLB World Series, but the Cavaliers were another story altogether.

It looked like a repeat was on the cards when Golden State Warriors – Cleveland’s conquerers in 2015 – jumped out to a 3-1 series lead.

But the Cavs, inspired by the free-scoring LeBron James, bounced back with a pair of convincing wins to force a seventh and final game.

It was a nail-biter, but LeBron and company did enough to clinch a 94-89 win and end 52 years of heartbreak.

Cronulla Sharks – NRL Grand Final 2016

They say a week is a long time in football, so three years must equate to an eternity.

In 2013, Cronulla-Sutherland and several of the club’s key staff accepted a series of penalties as a result of an ill-advised supplements program that was in place throughout the 2011 season.

The following year, the disgraced and deflated Sharks coasted meekly towards the wooden spoon.

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But that’s where the sob story finishes and the resurrection tale commences.

Only two years after finishing dead last, and three after the drugs scandal came to light, the Sharks blasted through the 2016 finals series to book a date with the ever-dangerous Melbourne Storm.

They won, thus claiming their first national title since forming in 1967.

Hurricanes – Super Rugby 2016

To date, there have been 20 editions of the annual Super Rugby tournament.

For most of those, the Hurricanes have merely made up the numbers.

They came close in 2015, losing to Highlanders after reaching the decider for the first time since 2006.

Not to be deterred, they put together another strong campaign in 2016 to top the New Zealand conference en route to a final clash with South Africa’s Lions.

They made no mistake this time, romping to a 20-3 victory and thus ending to their 20-year Super Rugby title drought.

Sergio Garcia – US Masters 2017

When Garcia burst into the public eye as a teenager with his second-place finish at the 1999 PGA Championship, it seemed that major success was just around the corner.

And yet, despite a set of skills that the vast majority of his peers could only dream of possessing, for many, many years it looked as though the Spaniard might never crack one of the big four.

His form fluctuated, his short game ran hot and cold, and at one point his pre-shot routine became so riddled with superfluous waggling that even the galleries started turning on him.

But now, at the 37 years of age, Garcia has finally got the monkey off his back after edging out Justin Rose in a thrilling last-round tussle at the 2017 Masters.

That ended a run of 73 major starts without a win – a streak that only Lee Westwood (75) and Jay Haas (87) have bettered, so to speak.

Roger Federer – Australian Open 2017

After a disappointing and injury-riddled 2016, many thought Federer’s glittering tennis career was just about done.

The Swiss superstar had gone five years without adding to his 17 Grand Slam titles when he made his return at the 2017 Australian Open.

In that time, the likes of Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka had emerged as the men to beat in the men’s draw.

But the crowds at Melbourne Park witnessed something special as Federer turned back the clock to produce a stunning run, defeating high seeds such as Tomas Berdych, Kei Nishikori and Wawrinka along the way.

The final between he and the similarly resurgent Rafael Nadal was a battle for the ages, drawing comparisons to their famous tussle in the 2008 Wimbledon decider.

But this time it was 35-year-old Federer who emerged victorious, clinching a see-sawing classic in five sets to become the oldest man to win a Grand Slam since Ken Rosewall in 1972.

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