THE year 2016 was one that featured many sporting firsts.
Portugal claimed its major football trophy after shocking France – the hosts and tournament favourites – in the final of the European Championship.
That was small potatoes compared to what Leicester City did in the English Premier League.
The United States regained the Ryder Cup for the first time since 2010 in a topsy-turvy year of golf that saw Danny Willett, Dustin Johnson, Henrik Stenson and Jimmy Walker each claim maiden major victories.
On home soil, Cronulla Sharks tasted rugby league title success at last while the Western Bulldogs ended 60-odd years of misery with a stunning AFL Grand Final win.
And then there’s the Rio Olympics, which were the first ever held in South America and the first in more than 90 years to feature golf and rugby.
Don’t forget the Cleveland Cavaliers and Chicago Cubs breaking historic droughts in the USA.
What dramas and delights will next year bring?
2017 Australian Open
Even though most of our homegrown tennis ‘stars’ are now cocky gobshites and underperforming never-weres, the Australian Open is essential viewing and a super way to kick off the year.
Running from January 16-29, the 105th edition of the tourney will see the world’s best flock to Melbourne Park for the first Grand Slam event of the year.
Six-time Aussie Open champion Novak Djokovic and his arch rival, Andy Murray, share the first line of outright betting at Sportsbet, while Angelique Kerber is pegged at $5 to defend the women’s singles crown after stunning Serena Williams ($3.25) in last year’s final.
Super Bowl LI
It’s back to Roman numerals in 2017 as the champions of the AFC and NFC conferences duke it out for the holy grail of American football.
Super Bowl 50 saw the Denver Broncos outsmart a talented Carolina Panthers outfit to claim their first title since going back-to-back in 1997 and 1998.
The ever-competitive New England Patriots are in ominous form atop the National East division and hold $3.50 favouritism at CrownBet, while the Dallas Cowboys ($6) have already booked an AFC playoff spot as they push to end a two-decade absence from the Super Bowl stage.
US Masters 2017
The purists love the rugged authenticity of the Open Championship and the sadists enjoy the penal cruelty of the US Open, but the Masters Tournament remains the most glamorous of all the majors.
The 2016 event was all about Jordan Spieth unravelling on the back nine on Sunday to let in England’s Danny Willett, who wrapped up the Green Jacket with a superb final round of 67.
Spieth nevertheless heads CrownBet’s 2017 Masters betting at $9 alongside Jason Day, but the likes of Rory McIlroy ($10), Dustin Johnson ($13) and past winner Adam Scott ($21) will also be hunting glory at Augusta National.
State of Origin 2017
Origin is no longer a mere local rivalry.
In recent years, millions from all over the country and abroad have tuned in to watch Queensland pummel New South Wales in one of Australia’s great sporting rivalries.
Having won all but one series since 2006, the Maroons are clear $1.60 favourites in the 2017 State of Origin betting at CrownBet.com.au.
ICC Champions Trophy
Cancelled in 2013 and then reinstated after the ICC Test Championship was scrapped, the Champions Trophy returns to England and Wales in 2017 as the world’s best battle for global supremacy.
The tournament features only the top eight ODI teams, which makes it a much more even contest all-round than the Cricket World Cup – and much shorter, thank heavens.
Two-time winners Australia ($4 at Sportsbet) and defending champs India ($5.50) are the teams to beat, although England at $4 and South Africa at $5 are also well liked in the early betting.
FIFA Confederations Cup
In June we head to Russia for the traditional World Cup warm-up event, in which only eight teams will take part: the host nation, the World Cup holders and the most recent winners of the six continental titles.
Australia – the first nation to have qualified from two separate confederations (OFC and AFC) – will represent Asia in a tough group featuring Germany, Chile and the as-yet-undecided African champions.
The Socceroos are paying $9 at Sportsbet to shock the Germans and $5.50 to upset a Chilean outfit that beat the likes of Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay to the South American crown.
Le Tour de France 2017
July is always a special time of year for cycling connoisseurs, and 2017 will be no different.
The 104th Tour de France will kick off in Dusseldorf – the first German city to host the Grand Depart since 1987 – and wind through Belgium and Luxembourg before heading into the gruelling mountain stages in the French Alps.
Double defending champion Chris Froome ($1.80 at CrownBet) is the obvious favourite in the general classification, while Richie Porte is Australia’s best hope at $11.
2017 Presidents Cup
‘Ryder Cup Lite’ has been a one-side affair for much of its existence, with the International team winning only once – at Royal Melbourne in 1998 – in 11 attempts.
It wasn’t quite the usual cakewalk for the United States in 2015, however, as Jay Haas scraped past Bae Sang-moon in the final match to clinch a one-point victory in South Korea.
Nevertheless, CrownBet has the USA at a mere $1.22 quote to make it seven in a row at Liberty National in 2017, with Nick Price’s Internationals at $5 outsider odds.
AFL Premiership Grand Final
Even Sydney Swans supporters didn’t begrudge the Bulldogs what was perhaps the most memorable and emotional AFL Grand Final win in living memory.
Can Luke Beveridge’s young guns back it up, or will there be a new top dog in 2017?
The GWS Giants are the early $4.50 favourites in the AFL outright betting at Sportsbet, ahead of the Doggies ($5.50), Sydney ($7) and Adelaide ($9).
The Ashes 2017-18
The World Cup, the Big Bash League, the Champions Trophy – in our eyes, none of it compares to the Ashes.
Australia and England will resume hostilities in November 2017 in Brisbane with the hosts looking to bounce back after their 3-2 defeat in the UK in 2015.
Online bookmaker William Hill has the Baggy Green at $1.75 and the visitors at $2.70 in the futures betting for a series that will feature the first ever day-night Ashes Test (Adelaide Oval, December 2-6).
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