Rarely in sport is a player demoted while at the peak of their powers or on the back of an outstanding individual performance. However, there is always an exception to the rule.
We have scoured the record books and look back on some of the most famous players or managers who have been dropped despite performing at the elite level. There were far too many cricket incidences so we selected the best local stories, while rugby league and soccer have plenty of similar stories.
From characters such as ‘Alfie’ and Warnie to ‘Dizzy’ and Archie, our top 10 axings are listed below.
After scoring 13 goals in a 31-0 humiliation of American Samoa during a World Cup qualifier in 2001, Thompson was sensationally axed from the squad for the follow-up match. The Bathurst local’s record haul of International goals apparently didn’t impress then coach Frank Farina enough to grant Thompson another shot at landing more balls in the back of the opposition’s net.
‘Dizzy’ formed one of the most feared fast bowling combinations with the likes of Glenn McGrath, Brett Lee, Michael Kasprowicz and Shaun Tait. Add the spinning wizardry of Warnie to those combinations and it’s hard to compile a better bowling line-up in Test Match history. However, it wasn’t Gillespie’s intimidating bowling that caused him to be dropped after his final Test for Australia … he managed to score an unbeaten 201 in the last Test of the tour of Bangladesh in 2006. Despite that famous innings, Aussie selectors turned their back on the self-professed all-rounder.
‘Alfie’ was a small player on the field but a large character off it and the Brisbane Broncos skipper was famously ‘hooked’ during a Round 7 game against the Cowboys in Townsville in 1999. Despite some struggles during the season, it was just six months earlier Langer had captained his beloved Broncos to win the first ever NRL title. Coach Wayne Bennett justified demoting one of his favourite players by putting on a young Ben Walker, who kicked a sideline conversion on the bell to draw with North Queensland 20-all.
He played just two Test matches for Australia and even bagged 12 wickets in his debut match, but his second appearance in the baggy green on a flat, bouncy Perth wicket that is famously made for fast bowlers yielded the off-spinner just one wicket. And in all honesty, that was probably a fair return for a spin bowler on that surface but Australian selectors didn’t see it that way, swiftly dumping Krejza. That Test against South Africa ended up being his final Test. Tough crowd!
The Real Madrid manager guided the Spanish club through an unprecedented era of success and despite delivering a multitude of titles, Del Bosque was chopped by the club that changes managers more often than one changes underwear. Del Bosque guided the record-breaking Los Blancos to two La Liga titles, two Champions League wins and UEFA Cup glory. Despite the Spaniard’s success, he was ousted by the Real board and replaced by Fabio Capello and as such it took the club a further four seasons to win a La Liga crown.
Todd Carney is remembered by almost everyone as a trouble maker off the field and his tenure in the NRL came to a grinding halt to the surprise of nobody. After steering Cronulla from 22-0 down against the Broncos in Brisbane, Carney ended up scoring a try and kicking the winning conversion for the Sharks to complete a remarkable and record-breaking 24-22 victory. However it was in the hours later a ‘leaked’ video of him performing ‘The Bubbler’ in a Cronulla bar that stole the headlines. He was subsequently sacked and fled to France to play in the Super League.
Neill was a pillar in defence for Australia in their record-breaking 2006 World Cup campaign and took over the reins as captain for the 2010 World Cup. That would be the long-term Aussie skipper’s final major tournament as he was dropped by new coach Ange Postecoglou leading into a World Cup qualifier before the 2014 event. Neill played 96 games for Australia and was said to be unwilling to retire, which forced Postecoglou’s hand.
Warnie’s axing from Australia’s Test team in favour of Stuart MacGill in 1999 has been the foundation of one of Australian sport’s most famous feuds. Then skipper Steve Waugh, who beat Warne to the role after Mark Taylor’s retirement, decided a sub-par performance in a couple of Tests against the West Indies was enough to dethrone the King of Spin and install MacGill as Australia’s newest addition. Warne was eventually recalled and went on to become the greatest spinner world cricket has ever seen, snaring more than 1000 international wickets.
In State of Origin Game III in 2015, Lillyman was an absolute brut in attack and defence throughout Queensland’s record-breaking 52-6 thumping of the Blues at Suncorp Stadium. While Lillyman’s spot in that team came after a cruel injury to Broncos enforcer Josh McGuire, he was unable to retain his place in Game I of the 2016 series. ‘Bull’ was overlooked for the first match of this year’s series, however he earned his place back in the team after injuries to Nate Myles and Josh Papalii in games I and II respectively.
Cloke has endured a tough 2016 season, lingering in the AFL’s second tier competition. The veteran forward has been dropped not once, but twice this year by Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley despite remaining committed to him for the 2017 season. Cloke was the Pies’ leading goal-kicker from 2011-2014 and has been with the club for 12 years, booting more than 400 six-pointers.