James Lawton: For wizardry and grace in defeat Warne has no peers as the sportsman of 2005

Having already publicly expressed my love for Shane Warne, or at least so much of what he stood for in a year of sport that at times touched improbable levels of glory, there can be no question here of faint-heartedness at the unveiling of the annual Lawton Awards. Unquestionably he is my sportsman of the year.

He showed not only how a true champion loses - it is with grace to the winner after producing every last shred of his own talent and will - but how to come back from the pain of it. Nothing, surely, was more uplifting than the sight of the 36-year-old, fully paid-up legend of cricket being surrounded by his team-mates after first equalling, then beating the all-time record for wickets taken in a single calendar year. Not only is Warne defying the dying of the light, he continues to give the impression of a one- man galaxy. Back in Australia, as he negotiated the problems of his private life, he made Ashes defeat seemed like a passing impertinence as he continued to reproduce some of the best of his past against the West Indies.

At the time of the great outpouring of sadness at the death of George Best, and an entirely admirable desire to express gratitude for what he had given to sport in the brief prime of his genius, Warne was entitled to an entirely different kind of tribute.

Though, heaven knows, he had shared some of the self-destructive impulses of the fallen Irishman, Warne this last summer did assert a hugely impressive fidelity to his own sporting gifts.

When his family life was disintegrating, and it was, by his own admission, because of his own mistakes, Warne publicly recognised that as long as he drew a living from sport, as long as he was paid to go out to perform, he had an obligation, to himself, his country and all those who paid at the turnstiles, to deliver the best of that talent which was still available to him.

The result was a demonstration of both natural wizardry and astonishing staying power. As long as Warne was on the field, with the ball, and sometimes even the bat, no cause was lost, no English cricketer could afford the least presumption of victory.

Naturally, given its dedication to both jingoism and schmaltz, the BBC Sports Personality of the Year show, conveniently ignored the fact that while the beaten Aussies went home, fiercely applying themselves to restoring their status as the world's most successful cricket team, a heavy dose of triumphalism laid the English Ashes winners low in Pakistan. No, of course, events on the subcontinent did not invalidate the summer glory; it was unforgettable and if Andrew Flintoff inhaled the mood of celebration a little too deeply he was hardly short of assistance from the Prime Minister down. The lasting image of him, beyond even his superb achievements with bat and ball, will surely be the supremely graceful moment when he acknowledged the pain and the disappointment of Australia's thwarted hero Brett Lee.

That moment wins him the Grace and Humanity in Victory award, but the big one has to go to Warne.

He detached himself from celebrity and fame earned in past battles. He played as though every moment on the field might be his last.

Elsewhere there was the usual package of the good and the bad, the trite and the timeless.

Here is my list:

Most astonishing moment

Surely it was when Liverpool, at the end of their first season under Rafael Benitez, won the Champions' League after being picked almost clean by the revived brilliance of Milan on a surreal night in Istanbul. It would be silly to suggest that Liverpool had not benefited from some good fortune, or that Benitez had produced a sublime master plan. His gamble on Harry Kewell was an embarrassing failure, but he had produced a strain of belief that had brought dramatic wins over Olympiakos, Bayer Leverkusen, Juventus and Chelsea and now the great reward was his. Quite as uplifting was the fact that an estimated 35,000 Liverpool fans left the banks of the Bosphorus without drawing a single arrest. Might that just have represented the closing of one of the darkest chapters in English sport? The German World Cup will tell us in a few months' time.

Moment of genius

The chip of Tiger Woods which slowly snaked across some of the most treacherous terrain in golf and in one last revolution dropped into the 16th hole at Augusta. Almost as memorable was the reaction of Woods, who had been supposedly pulled back into the pack of golf's leading players, to reaching precisely the half-way mark in his pursuit of Jack Nicklaus's 18 major wins. When he was asked if he was "finally there," which presumably meant the ultimate winning zone, the Tiger said, "You never arrive, but if you do you might as well quit because you are already there; you can't get any better. So the answer is no, I'll never be there."

England's footballer of the year

Wayne Rooney. He asserted, by talent, by appetite, by consistent performance, by his willingness to accept, after his eruption against some of the more bizarre tactical arrangements of his England manager Sven Goran Eriksson, that without discipline all his ability would simply blow in the wind, that he was indeed the hope of the English game. At the age of 20, he was widely seen as the future of both Manchester and England. It was an astonishing achievement that mocked all those who dwelt on the flaws of youth rather than the scale of his talent.

World footballer of the year

Ronaldinho, Ronaldinho, Ronaldinho. He brought back the poetry of football, and said that once more it was possible to win beautifully.

Worst exit

Mike Tyson's shambling departure from the ring against Ireland's Kevin McBride in Washington DC, a disaster for boxing only marginally redeemed by his admission, "I can't go on embarrassing my sport like this." Unfortunately, Audley Harrison felt that he could, with truly appalling consequences when he fought the almost equally futile Danny Williams. Muhammad Ali, locked ever deeper in his world of shadows, it seemed, was at ringside for the Tyson fight in Washington. Soon after a great fight reporter, Pat Putnam, of Sports Illustrated, died. A dry and pungent humourist, Putnam might have said that he always liked to display exemplary timing.

Resurrection man

Colin Montgomerie, like Shane Warne, had some private desolation to overcome. He did it magnificently, rebuilding his life both on and off the course. Monty's repossession of the European Order of Merit was, in all the circumstances, an epic performance. He proved once again that Ernest Hemingway was right. Men can indeed grow strong at the broken places.

Resurrection man silver medal

Steve Davis. He did not win the UK Championship, but he helped rekindle a feeling for the game that had seemed, in terms of major appeal, moribund for so long. More than at any time since the years of Alex Higgins, one found oneself flicking to the snooker channel. Maybe it was just age - or reality TV.

Performance of the year

Daniel Carter's in Wellington, in the second Test of the Lions tour. Carter fuelled a theory which had been growing amid the wheat fields of his native Canterbury for the best part of a decade: he might just be the best player New Zealand has ever produced. He kicked flawlessly, he ran exquisitely, and when he grubber-kicked forward and beat the Lions' cover to the ball he was defining the most perfect balance and timing that you might ever see on a rugby field.

Misadventure of the year

The Lions tour and the bizarre belief of the manager, Sir Clive Woodward, that his great reputation, so shredded in New Zealand, could be restored in the alien world of football.

Most inappropriate hype

The headline that said Andrew Murray's tennis game was reminiscent of a young Roger Federer. Why do we do this? Why do we not take Murray's relatively modest progress, when you think of the achievements of such as Boris Becker and John McEnroe, as no more than an encouraging hint that there might just be a glint of serious promise in the previously catastrophic world of British tennis? That is not the British way of sport, unfortunately. We rush our fences, we celebrate prematurely. That was true even of the greatest glory of our sporting year. The Ashes win was a beautiful triumph, but who wouldn't say that we read into it too much, too quickly? Certainly not the Pakistanis.

Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
tvSeries celebrates 20th anniversary
Sport
Yaya Touré (left) and Bayern Munich’s Spanish defender Juan Bernat
footballToure's lack of defensive work is big problem for City
Voices
voicesApple continually kill off smaller app developers, and that's no good for anyone
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't
tv

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Wembley Stadium
footballNews follows deal with Germany
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Sport
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo
football

Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear
tv

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

Life and Style
life

News
ScienceGallery: Otherwise known as 'the best damn photos of space you'll see till 2015'
Life and Style
fashion

Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour

Sport
Andros Townsend is challenged by Vladimir Volkov
football
Arts and Entertainment
Rapper Jay Z performs on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury in 2008
musicSinger sued over use of the single-syllable sample in 'Run This Town'
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

DT Teacher - Textiles

£100 - £135 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: We urgently require a DT t...

Year 1 Teacher for long term roles starting in September

£110 - £130 per day + Competitive rates of pay: Randstad Education Reading: Ye...

Year 6 Teachers needed for long term and day to day roles

£110 - £130 per day + Competitive rates of pay: Randstad Education Reading: Pr...

Year 5 Teachers needed for various roles across Berkshire

£110 - £130 per day + Competitive rates of pay: Randstad Education Reading: Pr...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week