Sport power 100: Should Kyrgios be in the top ten?
Powerful executives might control the shape of our sports-viewing lives but only an athlete can pluck your heart out of your chest.
They may rule everything from budgets to bubbles but no chief executive ever appears in a poster on a bedroom wall or makes you high five your way around the room in the way a freakish athletic performance can.
Sport's Power 100 may start with two officials - rugby league's Peter V'landys and Olympic boss John Coates - but current athletes with three highly contrasting stories occupy three of the next four positions.
If, as the iconic saying goes, the Australian Test cricket captain is the second most important person in Australia after the Prime Minister, then Tim Paine might even be a touch low at No 3.
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In making Paine the highest ranked athlete the judging panel noted the cultural changes he had successfully introduced with coach Justin Langer since the ball tampering affair in South Africa left Australian cricket on its knees.
Paine took over as Australian captain in the middle of the infamous Cape Town Test and had to cope with the fallout of the affair with a change of coach, key batsmen Steve Smith and David Warner banned for a year, and a cultural upheaval in which the side was on trial every game it played.
He handled it all with rare poise. Where the team he leads is now, both in the rankings and the affections of the sporting public, compared to where it was on his first day in the job could not be more stark. As a measure of power and influence that is hard to ignore.
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Australian coach Justin Langer, who walked into the furnace of the post Cape Town meltdown, was ranked 12 as recognition for the cultural improvements he has made along with Paine, while at the same time lifting standards of professionalism and accountability.
Despite Paine and Langer being lauded for their good deeds, the judges agreed being a sportsperson of influence did not automatically mean being a flawless character, or morally right on every issue, which is why tennis maverick Nick Kyrgios was one of the highest ranked athletes at No 19.
Kyrgios is one of the most polarising athletes in Australia who is loathed by many, loved by some but never, ever ignored. Barely anyone feels neutral about him.
2020 was a prosperous and influential year for him in the public opinion stakes.
By donating $200 per ace to raise money for Australian bushfire victims he prompted many other sportsmen to open their wallets. He sparked a chain reaction not just in tennis but across the sporting spectrum. He led. Others followed. And he was also one of the first voices to lambaste world No. 1 Novak Djokovic for his blatantly reckless behaviour during privately organised tournaments where COVID protocols went out the window.
The impact of some sportspeople - like Matildas' soccer captain Sam Kerr - was so great it was almost as if you could see and feel her sport growing with her, a fact recognised by our judging panel with her inclusion at No 5.
The sight of Kerr signing jerseys with her name on the back for young boys as well as girls was a tangible sign her star power had burst through traditional barriers.
Superstar cricketer and former soccer international Ellyse Perry has a similar story.
Had it not been for her genuine excellence, star quality and widespread appeal women's cricket would never have advanced so far so quickly in terms of television exposure and full time playing contracts.
Like Kerr, Perry's appeal stretches across a wide spectrum. Perry already has a range of children's books on the shelves. Kerr's are on the way.
AFL stars Dustin Martin and Patrick Dangerfield were prominent inclusions on the list despite being men of contrast.
Martin is rarely heard from but his freakish play-making skills have captivated an audience beyond traditional AFL fans. Any major "Dusty'' story is guaranteed to get readers clicking and fans talking.
Dangerfield also has exquisite skills but is a much more "out there'' type than Martin.
He is man of many strong opinions and is not afraid to share them as president of the AFL players association.
World No 1 tennis player Ash Barty was a worthy inclusion at 15 with her story of so many inspirational threads including her Indigenous heritage, comeback from mental health issues, and wholesome and unassuming nature.
The influence of top athletes can sometimes last long after they retired, a point noted by the panel in including Sydney 2000 Olympic legend Cathy Freeman 20 years after her gold medal victory in the 400m.
Not only did she win a gold medal but Freeman inspired a generation of exceptional Australian sportspeople such as Sally Pearson and basketballer Patrick Mills and her proud recognition of her Indigenous heritage was a trail blazer for the overdue awakening of our nation on this issue.
Originally published as Sport power 100: How high is too high for Paine?