SIX-TIME Australian Ice Hockey League champions the Newcastle Northstars have been ranked in the top 25 sporting teams in Australia and New Zealand, beating Hunter flagships the Knights and Jets.
Super Rugby powerhouse, the Crusaders, were No.1 after a statistical analysis of 74,426 sporting matches between 222 teams in 14 national leagues (men and women) over 25 years.
The Northstars finished in 19th spot, ahead of iconic clubs Manly Warringah (NRL) and Hawthorn (AFL).
The Knights were the next best performed team from the Hunter followed by the Jets and Hunter Hurricanes water polo teams. All featured outside the top 25, but exactly where they finished in the 122 teams who qualified has not been released.
“It is absolutely amazing,” Northstars general manager Gary Dore said. “I can’t believe we are up there with those great sporting organisations. It’s a reward for the many people who have contributed to making the Northstars a success over the years. We are very humbled and honoured.”
Gain Line Analytics in conjunction with Platinum Capital, conducted the study in which teams were judged on set criteria. To qualify, teams had to be competing in a current national league, which ruled out the defunct Hunter Pirates and Newcastle Falcons and clubs from the old national soccer league.
Premierships and win-loss records formed the base of the criteria. Bigger and longer established competitions like the NRL and AFL were given greater bearing. Teams were rewarded for longevity and any sanctions, including salary cap breaches, were taken into account.
“There is continuous debate in the pubs, clubs and lounge rooms as to whether great historic teams could have survived in today’s competitions or about which football code is best,” Gain Line director and former Wallaby Ben Darwin said.
“Australasia’s Best Sporting Team has been designed to bring an analytical approach to answering some of these questions, and in doing so aims to start a new conversation about greatness and rewarding success, as well as unearthing some hidden gems.”
National Rugby League clubs Brisbane Broncos (second), Melbourne Storm (eighth) and Sydney Roosters (10th) filled three of the top 10 places.
Geelong were the best-placed AFL club in third, followed by Sydney (11th). Teams from basketball, cricket and water polo also featured in the top 10.
Formed in 2002, the Northstars won the last of their six Goodall Cups in 2016. They have featured in 12 grand finals, won six minor premiership and only missed the playoffs twice.
Asked the secret to their success, Dore said: “It is just a lot of hard work. We built an an ice rink in 2000 and were talked into entering a a team in the Australian Ice Hockey League in 2002. We felt there was a place for ice hockey in Newcastle. We made a mandate that we were going to be successful, promote hockey in Newcastle and give our people here an opportunity to play at the highest level.
“Once we realised the support we had, we looked at how we could make our program better. We started looking at opportunities to get coaches from overseas and then, of course, players from overseas, while still engaging our local talent.”
The Knights have won two premierships – 1997 and 2001 – in the 25-year time frame but have also finished with the wooden spoon four times and have not featured in the finals in five years.
It has been a similar rocks or diamonds scenario for the Jets. They won the A-League championship in 2008 and were grand finalists last year. However, they have also finished at the bottom of the ladder in three years.
The Crusaders, as winners, received $25,000 for a chosen charity.
An annual award for the best sports team in Australasia, based on a five-year period, will be presented starting in 2019.
Australasia’s Best Sporting Teams: 1 Crusaders, Super Rugby (3.41), 2 Brisbane Broncos, NRL (3.08), Geelong Cats, AFL (2.96), 4 Fremantle Mariners, NWPL (2.88), NSW Breakers WNCL (2.82), 6 Queensland, Sheffield Shield (2.71), 7 Sydney University Lions, NWPL (2.61), 8 Melbourne Storm, NRL (2.45), 9 Perth Wildcats, NBL (2.36), 10 Sydney Roosters, NRL (2.31), 11 Sydney Swans, AFL (2.19), 12 Sydney University Flames, WNBL (2.12), 13 Adelaide Lightning, WNBL (1.96), 14 Brumbies, Super Rugby (1.86), 15 Fremantle Marlins, NWWPL (1.79), 16 Melbourne United/Tigers, NBL (1.75), 17 West Coast Eagles, AFL (1.72), 18 Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs, NRL (1.69), 19 Newcastle Northstars, AIHL (1.63), 20 Brisbane Barracudas, NWWPL (1.58), 21 Victoria, Sheffield Shield (1.56), 22 NSW/Sydney Swifts, netball, (1.54), 23 Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles, NRL (1.50), 24 Hawthorn Hawks, AFL (1.44), 25 Cronulla Sharks Water Polo Club, NWPL (1.40).
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