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The Biggest Ever Choke in Sport

After Arsenal have seemingly thrown away the EPL title to Manchester City, we assess the biggest ever chokes on the Australian and world sporting stage.

Collapse. Bottle job. The yips. Choke. Whatever you call it, the intense pressure of professional sport can cause the biggest meltdowns played out in the most public of arenas. Here’s some of the best.

Greg Norman, The 1996 Masters

It’s hard to start elsewhere, when you consider one of sport’s biggest chokes came from an Aussie. The world No. 1 held a six-shot lead over Nick Faldo after the third round of the 1996 Masters at Augusta. That evening, a British journalist went up to Norman at the bar and said “not even you could f*** this up”. It turned out he could. Not only did the Shark concede the lead, but Faldo stormed home to win by five shots.

Australia, 1997 FIFA World Cup Qualifier

Sometimes it’s not just the manner of the choke, but what’s on the line. A generation of football fans in Australia were yet to see their country in a World Cup, and the 24-year drought looked set to be broken as the Socceroos went up 2-0 against Iran in front of a packed MCG. With 15 minutes to go, they would still lead 2-0. As we know, the unthinkable happened, and Iran equalised to progress on the away goals rule. Heartbreak, tears, and a Socceroos choke on the biggest stage.

Parramatta Eels, 1998 NRL Preliminary Final

Leading 18-2 with 10 minutes to play, the Eels brought new meaning to the term ‘bottle job’. With the Dogs running in three tries within seven minutes, scores were all of a sudden level at 18-18 on the siren. The Dogs romped it in during extra-time, winning 32-20.

Melbourne Stars, BBL|08 Final

In T20 cricket, chasing 53 runs off 43 balls is a walk in the park. And when you have 10 wickets in hand, teams do it with their eyes closed. But not the Melbourne Stars. Prone to a choke over the years, the Stars had the simplest of equations to claim a maiden Big Bash title in February 2019, but failed in spectacular fashion.

Collingwood, 1970 VFL Grand Final

Into the sheds at half-time, the Pies were 44 points to the good and looked set to bury the Colliwobbles tag. After losing the 1964 and 1966 grand finals by less than a kick, this was going to be their time. But Carlton stormed home, overrunning their rivals to win by 10 points. Oh, and the game was played in a front of a record 121,696 people. A choke of epic proportions.

Atlanta Falcons, 2017 NFL Super Bowl

Leading the New England Patriots by 28-3, the Falcons had one hand and four fingers on the Super Bowl in 2017. What ensued was — to put in the nicest possible terms — poor game management. The Pats stormed home in the most incredible Super Bowl comeback ever.

AC Milan, 2005 UEFA Champions League Final

A 3-0 lead in any final should be unassailable. When you’re both the favourites and the (then) five-time European Cup/Champions League winners, they may as well start engraving the trophy. But Liverpool had other ideas, and created one of modern club football’s greatest ever moments by coming back to win on penalties in Istanbul.

Central Coast Mariners, 2011 A-League Grand Final

After playing out a 0-0 draw in normal time, the Mariners had one hand on the toilet-lid trophy when they went up 2-0. With just four minutes to play, they were all but assured of breaking their GF hoodoo and finally claim their first title. But Brisbane had other ideas and equalised in the 120th minute, and the shift in momentum carried them over the final in the penalty shootout. Scenes at Suncorp.



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