Not too long ago, Australia would have been considered one of the top sporting nations in the world. 

They had teams ranked number one, they had world champions in many different sports and most importantly, they intimidated their rivals with that Australian swagger and confidence that preceded all of their inevitable victories.

In a week where Australia have just become the first team to lose a series to the British and Irish Lions in over sixteen years, they are preparing for what many would consider to be the pinnacle of Australian cricket, the Ashes. Unfortunately for them, they are being widely predicted to get beaten, and beaten well. A decade ago, if you'd told an Australian they were going to lose a series to the lions, and then get convincingly beaten in the Ashes, they'd have laughed at you.

A decade ago, Australia were the top ranked team in world cricket, and hadn't lost the Ashes for 18 years. They had huge names and even bigger personalities, with Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath and Adam Gilchrist cementing a period of dominance rarely seen in the sport. 

They also won a series in India, a feat very few teams can, and will ever be able to proclaim. They now sit fourth, third and sixth in the Test, ODI and Twenty-Twenty cricket rankings respectively. 

The national team are a laughing stock having been surrounded by controversy by recent involvement in bar brawls and disciplining players for not completing homework. 

They are odds on to lose two Ashes series in the next seven months. Sir Ian Botham, a well-respected pundit and England Cricket legend, has tipped the Aussies to lose both series to a whitewash, with a 10-0 record. 

In 2003, the Australian Rugby Union team were ranked second in the world, and reached the World Cup final, only to lose to a last minute drop goal from Jonny Wilkinson. 

They got revenge a year later, beating the world champions 51-15. Having been embarrassed 41-16 by the Lions, Robbie Deans, head coach of the past five years, has been relieved of his duties. 

This decay is not exclusive to cricket and rugby union and a look across Australia's recent sports history brings up some startling results. 

Particularly sobering for our friendly foes down under is the comparison between Australia's Olympic performance in 2004 and 2012. In Athens, Australia brought the second largest Olympic team with over 400 athletes and they impressively delivered. 

They won 17 golds, and dominated cycling with 11 medals, came joint top of rowing with four and were second best in swimming with 15 medal and diving with six. 

They came fourth overall and perhaps most importantly, six places above Great Britain. In 2012, Australia came 10th with a measly seven golds. Their second didn't come until day ten. And in a world where bragging rights over 'the Poms' matters more than anything else, their age old rivals Great Britain had their most successful post-war Olympics ever, coming thirrd with 29 golds.  

In the late nineties and early noughties, Australia could justify its place on the Grand Slam tennis calendar with two world champions. Pat Rafter and Lleyton Hewitt won two slams each, and both continued to reach finals as the new millennium progressed. 

However, they gradually slipped away and Australia hasn't seen a Grand Slam champion since. Their current top ranked player is Bernard Tomic, who is ranked 42nd in the world and hasn't progressed past the fourth round for over two years.

In cycling, a recent Tour De France win by Cadel Evans has been shrouded by the fact he had to relinquish the yellow jersey to Bradley Wiggins, and this year it will most likely go to odds on favourite and fellow Brit, Chris Froome. Evans currently sits nearly 7 minutes behind Froome in the general classification and looks unable to challenge for a podium spot.

Australia haven't had a boxing world champion since Vic Darchinyan became the IBF Flyweight champion in 2004, and haven't won the Rugby League World Cup since they won their sixth consecutive and ninth overall in 2000. 

Formula 1 driver Mark Webber, nine times Grand Prix winner, twice third place finisher in the world championships and undisputed gentleman of the sport, is retiring at the end of this year, and Australia's 33 year wait for a World Champion continues.

It's not all doom and gloom however. Simon Witlock won the European Darts Championship in 2012, golfer Adam Scott won the Masters in 2013 and looks like he could surpass Aussie  greats Greg Norman and Peter Thompson, and the men's football team are continuing their progress, despite needing a late winner against Iraq to qualify for the World Cup. 

Not to forget, Australia are dominant at Netball and they are pretty good at Hockey and Women's Basketball.

However, to take resolve in these sports is a damning portrayal of the state of Australian sport right now.

It may say a lot that Australia's most successful current sportsperson is a horse. Black Caviar is undefeated in 25 races between 2008 and its retirement earlier this year. 

The current crop of Aussie sports stars could learn a lot from their four legged hero. They may need to if they are ever going to get their country back to winning ways again.


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