OPINION

Nick Kyrgios, Scott Morrison and Dolly Parton: the winners and losers of 2020

It's been a very difficult past year, ladies and gentlemen, so choosing the winners and losers has been particularly challenging.

We've divided the awards into categories: politics and sport, but also a special award for outstanding achievement in the face of the most difficult year in our times.

As is usual in these ceremonies, we'll name the winners and losers in reverse order.

Sport

Nick Kyrgios raised money for bushfire victims before taking a stand against tennis players who weren't taking COVID-19 seriously. Picture: Dion Georgopoulos

Nick Kyrgios raised money for bushfire victims before taking a stand against tennis players who weren't taking COVID-19 seriously. Picture: Dion Georgopoulos

Sport was the big loser in 2020 but that's too broad a category to give it an award on its own. It really couldn't help the fact that sport depends on crowds and crowds were shunned, well, like the plague.

But some played a bad hand well and some played it disastrously.

Step forward Nicholas Hilmy Kyrgios.

All credit to him, he was building up for this year's awards with a stellar performance of bad behaviour in 2019.

In the Rome Masters, he swore at a line judge, kicked a bottle and threw a chair. He followed that up in London with three fines. And then in Cincinnati, he directed an expletive filled rant at the umpire, walked off the court, smashing a few rackets on the way, and ended the tournament with an expletive filled rant (again) - oh, and a spit.

Full marks. So when 2020 started, he was the people's favourite for some sort of Loser Award. We had high hopes.

But he has been a disappointment. He did the right thing for once.

He started the year by playing an integral role in fundraising efforts for bushfire victims, pledging $200 for every ace he blasted during the summer of tennis in Australia. The "Aces for Bushfire" relief raised $40,000. He also played a key role in helping Tennis Australia set up the Rally for Relief event, which was Kyrgios, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams headline a night of entertainment.

As the pandemic spread, Kyrgios made an early call to leave the tour, and pulled out of Wimbledon.

He traded his spoilt brat image for an elder statesman role, pleading with his fellow tennis professionals to do the right thing and accept that sacrifices needed to be made and tennis needed to do the safe thing.

"No-one wants people to keep their jobs more than me," he said in a video.

"I'm speaking for the guy who works at the restaurant, the cleaners, the locker-room attendants.

"These are the people who need their jobs back the most and fair play to them."

Of course, there was a bit of a swipe, too. Nick wouldn't be Nick without a swipe at something other than a ball.

He tweeted his criticism of players who had taken part in an exhibition tournament in the Balkans, declaring their actions selfish and stupid. They included Kyrgios' great rival, Novak Djokovic, who contracted COVID-19.

For his involvement in the tournament in a time of plague, Mr Djokovic was one of the year's losers.

But the Sports Winner of the Year is not Mr Kyrgios. It's an administrator.

In March, when the World Health Organisation declared that the coronavirus outbreak was a global pandemic, sport shut down and the future looked bleak.

But rugby league navigated the crisis with skill. The season started on March 12 with no restrictions but round two was played in empty stadiums and on March 23 the NRL premiership was suspended indefinitely.

But indefinitely turned out to be temporary. The NRL led the way for other sports and was the first major competition after Germany's Bundesliga to restart when the Broncos played the Eels on May 28.

Peter V'landys helped keep the NRL in the spotlight during the pandemic. Picture: Getty Images

Peter V'landys helped keep the NRL in the spotlight during the pandemic. Picture: Getty Images

Next season is promised to be "normal". That is in large part thanks to ARL Commission chairman Peter V'landys. Seven months after the closure, all 144 scheduled matches, the NRL finals and the State of Origin series have been completed with few problems and no players testing positive.

Our worthy winner in this section is Peter V'landys.

Politics

Gladys Berejiklian. Picture: Getty Images

Gladys Berejiklian. Picture: Getty Images

Gladys Berejiklian figures in the consideration - but it's hard to know on which side, as one of the losers of 2020 or winners.

Her leadership of the New South Wales government during the epidemic was admirable. When the big coronavirus outbreak hit Sydney, the city could have gone the way of Melbourne, except that NSW shut the outbreak down before the infections spread way out of control.

But she then got entangled in an ICAC investigation. It emerged that she had been in a secret relationship with disgraced former MP Daryl Maguire. There is no suggestion that she did anything wrong apart from show bad judgment in her friendships. The revelation came over as sad rather than damning.

To find the true loser in 2020, we need to cross the Pacific. Donald Trump lost the election and he will be remembered as a disastrous and destructive president. He is 2020's Big Loser (though, he's the only person who doesn't recognise it).

And the winner is ... Scott Morrison.

Credit where it's due: Scott Morrison. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong

Credit where it's due: Scott Morrison. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong

Politicians get the blame when things go wrong so they should get the praise when they go well. Under Mr Morrison, Australia has dodged the worst effects of the epidemic. Borders were closed early. He jettisoned his previous theology and lost his phobia against public borrowing and spending.

A Newspoll at the end of November had two-thirds of respondents saying they were satisfied with Mr Morrison's performance.

A Special Award

Dolly Parton has helped fund the fight against COVID-19 this year. Picture: Getty Images

Dolly Parton has helped fund the fight against COVID-19 this year. Picture: Getty Images

Ladies and gentlemen, we need some cheer at this time of a terrible year and it comes from a perennial favourite, someone who has entranced generations of fans with her music, but who this year stepped up with just what was wanted: funds for research into beating COVID-19.

Dolly Parton, the 74-year-old country music icon gave a million dollars to the research effort. On top of that, she went online and read bedtime stories for children in lockdown.

She released a song in 2020: When Life is Good Again.

The video concludes: "Be safe, be respectful, wear your mask, lead with love - Dolly".

What a trooper! What a winner!

This story The winners and losers of 2020 first appeared on The Macleay Argus.