It's time for the 2022 edition of our Australian sports Power Rankings. ESPN's team of reporters and editors have put their heads together, and voted for their lists of Australia's most influential athletes - with the collation of the lists making the final 25.
We've judged them on success, influence on and off the field, star power, potential, longevity at the top, level of competition, and sheer talent, to come up with this year's definitive list. It's sure to cause some debate, but here it is!
* Numbers in brackets represent last year's spot
25. Harry Souttar (New Entry)
Harry Souttar loped his way into the hearts and minds of Australian football fans during the World Cup. Is there a bit of recency bias in his inclusion here? Sure. But the timeline adds to the folklore around Big Harry; after spending most of the year recovering from a torn ACL and playing only one game before the World Cup, it was his calm, assured defence which helped propel the Socceroos to a best ever World Cup finish. Not only did he perfectly slide tackle all six-foot-six of himself into saving the Tunisia game for Australia -- instantly writing himself into the annals of Socceroos' history -- but he perfectly timed his slide into our power rankings.
24. Daisy Pearce (NE)
Daisy Pearce finally got the premiership victory she deserves. Years of playing, advocating, commentating on footy has culminated in the ultimate success for Pearce, who has as big a profile off the footy field as she does on it. An inspirational leader, a voice for women's footy, and an astute and articulate media presence, Pearce deserves her spot on this list.
23. Patrick Cripps (NE)
The Blues' skipper had one hell of a year, which culminated in a Brownlow Medal win which, well, wasn't without controversy, after he had a ban for a late hit overturned by the AFL's tribunal basically because of an error in process. Nevertheless, Cripps is one of the league's best players, playing at one of the biggest clubs, and is approaching the status of 'might be recognised walking down the streets of Sydney' - which is a fair accolade. Consistently used in promo material (most recently was the face of the launch of the AFL's new beverage sponsor, Asahi), Cripps has a profile which matches his game - big.
22. James Tedesco (NE)
James Tedesco's Sydney Roosters may have crashed out of the NRL finals in the first week, but the mercurial fullback had one of his best seasons. He led New South Wales to within one victory of winning the State of Origin series, before being one of the best players for Australia in their Rugby League World Cup victory. Tedesco heads into this eleventh season in the top grade with young guns Joseph Manu and Joseph Sua'ali'i nipping at his heels for the No. 1 Roosters jersey. It is testament to Tedesco's talent and presence that no one has seriously questioned whether he should retain the position.
21. Daniel Ricciardo (6)
He may be a familiar face, charming, affable, and feature a beaming smile, but there wasn't a whole lot to be happy about for Daniel Ricciardo in 2022. His season with McLaren was not a good one; just 37 points, three retirements, a number of run-ins with other drivers, and persistent chatter about his future not only at the team, but in the sport, dominated the column inches. As it turns out, he won't be on the grid in 2023, after Ricciardo and McLaren terminated their contract by mutual agreement. He'll be Red Bull's third driver 2023 - and it may be the last time we see him on this list.
20. Alyssa Healy (NE)
Making her debut in ESPN's Power Rankings, Alyssa Healy has been a mainstay of the Australian women's cricket team for some time but following a calendar year that saw her side lose just one match in all (so far) and claim the inaugural Commonwealth Games T20 gold medal, her inclusion in 2022 is richly deserved. One of the most impressive wicketkeeper-batters in cricket, Healy scored 600 runs in 12 ODIs with an average of 50 and a highest score of 170, while her work behind the stumps has been just as impressive. Recently the 34-year-old has added a new string to her bow, taking over the captaincy in Meg Lanning's absence.
19. Tim Tszyu (25)
The biggest fight in Tim Tszyu's career is now just over a month away, with the Aussie having already set himself up in Las Vegas ahead of his world title fight with Jermell Charlo. The American's IBF, WBO, WBA and WBC Super Welter belts will all be on the line in Nevada, and Charlo is a hot favourite to keep his 14-fight streak alive. Not that Tsyzu is lacking confidence of his own, the Aussie is still unbeaten through 21 fights, a run that has helped put Australian boxing back on the map and raised its profile worldwide. If Tszyu can emulate the deeds of his father, Kostya, and claim those belts, a first world title defence on home soil would likely be on the cards midway through 2023.
18. Christian Petracca (22)
Christian Petracca retains his spot after another stellar individual season with the Demons. The year didn't pan out as expected for the reigning premiers or Petracca himself, who dominated his way to the 2021 Norm Smith Medal, but don't let Melbourne's 'straight-sets' exit from the finals series detract from his performance in 2022. The midfield bull made a third-consecutive All-Australian selection and was recognised with a career-high 24 Brownlow votes, making it 67 votes in three seasons. At his absolute best, he is arguably the best there is in the game, his stoppage craft second to none and innate goal sense setting him apart from his peers. Few players have the ability to break a game open and get fans off their seat like Petracca can. Scariest yet, we may not have even seen the best of him - even if we see plenty of him on TikTok!
17. Patty Mills (3)
Now in his 14th season in the NBA, Patty Mills remains one of the more universally loved athletes in the country. Last season, his Olympic heroics catapulted him high on this list, with his 2022 NBA returns modest in comparison. Currently, Mills finds himself on the outside of the deep Brooklyn Nets guard rotation, though he is contracted through the 2023-24 season with the franchise. Mills remains an integral part of the Boomers' plans, with the 2023 FIBA World Cup and 2024 Paris Olympics firmly on the agenda. Aside from his on-court endeavours, Mills remains a leader in the community in a variety of ways, including leading the continuous growth of Indigenous Basketball Australia, which aims to open up pathways for young Indigenous athletes in the game. A true leader and inspiration in every sense.
16. Ariarne Titmus (9)
Following on from her medal haul at the Tokyo Olympics, Ariarne Titmus tore the Commonwealth Games pool apart in Birmingham in August. She took home four gold medals, winning the 200m, 400m and 800m freestyle events before playing a key role in the 4x200m freestyle relay victory. She has become the face of Australian swimming, taking on the role of Melbourne Cup Ambassador and appearing in a series of prominent advertising campaigns.
15. Ben Simmons (24)
After a long wait, Ben Simmons returned to an NBA floor, making his regular season debut for the Brooklyn Nets in October. Continuing to shake off the rust early in the season, Simmons has looked more like the three-time All-Star player from years gone by, with his public facing confidence also on the rise in a pleasing development. Still only 26 years old, Simmons is owed approximately $112 million (usd) on the mega five-year deal he originally signed with the Philadelphia 76ers -- including this season. At his best, Simmons is one of the most versatile defenders in the league, a freight train in transition and one of the best facilitators in the game. Carrying a high profile off the floor, Simmons will always have detractors, but a return to full health would be big for Australian basketball.
14. Steve Smith (10)
Just when it looked like Smith might be about to struggle following a lean T20 trot, the Australia batter declared he was "back, baby" after tweaking his technique and returning to a more classical batting style. Smith notched ODI scores of 80 and 96* against England, before starting the two-Test series against the Windies with an unbeaten double-ton. While he missed out in Adelaide, Smith did return as Test captain with Pat Cummins out injured, the 33-year-old then going in to bat for David Warner amid the opener's now halted quested to have his leadership ban overturned. 2023 looms as big year for Smith, with Australia facing two tough series away to both India and England, before the ODI World Cup rolls around.
13. Patrick Dangerfield (NE)
He may have missed the cut in last year's edition, but Patrick Dangerfield has stormed right back into our 25 after a premiership-winning campaign with Geelong. He already had his Brownlow Medal and eight (yep, eight!) All-Australian blazers, but this was the last feather missing from his decorated cap. A household name in the AFL, Danger has also been entrusted by his peers as the president of the players' association for the past four years. And do we really need to tell you about his on-field exploits? The man is a jet, an explosive player whose influence in the midfield is commanding and sheer power when deployed as a forward is hard for defences to contain.
12. Emma McKeon (11)
The fact McKeon only slid one spot from an Olympic year in 2021 is a testament to her form in 2022. Just the second female to win seven medals in a singles Games, McKeon became Australia's most decorated Olympian ever in 2021. She backed that performance up with Commonwealth Games dominance in Birmingham, where she won six gold, one silver and a bronze medal. At the recently completed World Short Course Championships in Melbourne, she added another four gold and three silver medals to her overwhelmed trophy cabinet. Her tabloid tantalising romance with former pop star and current swimmer Cody Simpson has also raised her profile amongst those less interested in her outstanding and unprecedented achievements in the pool.
11. Ellyse Perry (7)
One of the most recognized faces of the Australian women's cricket team, Ellyse Perry has been pushed down the list this year despite her impressive work for both the Aussies and the Sydney Sixers in the WBBL. One of the world's best all-rounders, her work with the bat has been impressive, scoring 234 runs in 9 ODI innings with an average of 46.8, while she recently scored her first T20I half-century since 2019 to lead the Aussies to a series win over India. Her work with the ball is just as good, taking four wickets across the one Ashes Test earlier this year before she took three in sevens over in the side's second ODI of the Ashes where she was named Player of the Match. Following the only Ashes Test, Perry became the leading run-scorer and wicket-taker in women's Ashes history. Despite injury-issues, Perry was also part of Australia's World Cup win over England before she helped lead the side to an inaugural Commonwealth Games T20I gold medal.
10. Stephanie Gilmore (NE)
One of Australia's most successful surfers, male or female, it's surprising Steph Gilmore has never ranked on the list before, but after claiming her eighth(!) WSL title she couldn't be ignored again. In a comeback story for the ages, Gilmore entered the final day of the final event of the season at Lower Trestles, California ranked fifth and was written off by many pundits of having any chance to win the title. Smashing through three consecutive heats in a grueling marathon of surfing, she eventually took down reigning champion Carissa Moore in a best-of-three showdown to claim her crown. Alongside her eighth title win she also crushed fellow Aussie Layne Beachley's previous record of seven titles and has no doubt solidified herself as the GOAT of the surfing world.
9. Jordan Mailata (NE)
Jordan Mailata makes his debut on our list after another ascendant season as the franchise left tackle on the Philadelphia Eagles' top-ranked offensive line. Philly look destined for an NFC title game appearance at least, and their dominant offense is a core reason why, powered by Mailata's rare size, athleticism and people-moving strength. Regarded as one of the best left tackles in the NFL on a team-friendly (but still eye-watering) $64M contract, the one-time rugby league player is paving the way for a rising tide of Australian talent in the league, and also happens to boast one of the finest singing voices in the world of sport.
8. Josh Giddey (20)
Josh Giddey's draft stock continued to spike in the lead up to the 2021 NBA draft, before the Oklahoma City Thunder selected the 18-year-old with the 6th overall pick. In many respects, it was the perfect landing spot for the rising point guard, with the young Thunder roster allowing him to play through mistakes and gain valuable experience during his rookie campaign. Filling the box score on a nightly basis, Giddey created some history along the way, becoming the youngest player in NBA history to record a triple-double with a 17-point, 13-rebound, 14-assist performance against the Dallas Mavericks in February this year. In November, he recorded his second triple-double at Madison Square Garden, joining Wilt Chamberlain as the only players to do so in their first two appearances at the world's most famous arena. The Boomers have their point guard for the next three Olympics.
7. Nathan Cleary (11)
It was an incredible year for Panthers halfback Nathan Cleary, collecting another NRL Premiership before jetting off to England to guide the Kangaroos to Rugby League World Cup glory. The only prize that eluded him in 2022 was the State of Origin shield, typically snatched from his grasp by the remorseless Maroons. Cleary's command of the game continues on its upward trajectory, and at 25 years of age, his best football is well and truly still ahead of him.
6. Nick Kyrgios (23)
What a year for one of Australia's most maligned and outspoken athletes. This time last year, who would have thought barely a month later Kyrgios would be a doubles Grand Slam champion -- of all things -- with close friend Thansi Kokkinakis. Further to that, who would have predicted Kyrgios' incredible run in singles tennis, which culminated in a run to the Wimbledon final, in which Kyrgios fell to Novak Djokovic in four hard-fought sets, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 7-6(3)? Still outspoken (Kyrgios made headlines later in the year when he chose to play in a Saudi exhibition tournament rather than put himself in line for Davis Cup selection), and still facing an assault charge, to say Kyrgios is a polarising figure is an incredible understatement. What is bang on the money, though, is on the court, he's box office - and people watch him in droves.
5. Cameron Smith (NE)
It was an incredible 2022 for Cameron Smith. The Aussie started the year by winning the Tournament of Champions in Hawaii, before adding the Players Championship and, after a blistering back nine on Sunday, the Open Championship. However, his one-shot triumph at St. Andrews came amid speculation that he was set to join the controversial LIV Golf Tour, speculation that ultimately turned out to be true. No matter where you land on that debate you certainly can't fault Smith's achievements, nor his commitment to Australian golf after he returned home to show off the Claret Jug and promptly won the Australian PGA Championship.
4. Pat Cummins (4)
Already Australia's Test skipper, Cummins assumed the ODI captaincy from Aaron Finch after the Victorian called time on his career after the series in New Zealand. It was a smooth transition, too, with Australia promptly defeating England 3-0. Cummins has also led Australia to the top of the ICC Test Championship standings, returning from injury to help secure a six-wicket win over the Proteas in two days at The Gabba; Cummins also has 35 wickets for the calendar year [to Dec. 19] to sit atop the ICC's bowling rankings in the longest form of the game. Off the field, Cummins created a stir with his stance on Cricket Australia sponsors, Alinta Energy.
3. Lauren Jackson (NE)
The return of Australia's greatest basketball player was one of the most spectacular sporting stories of 2022. From an eyebrow raising comeback idea to sheer dominance on the World Cup stage, Lauren Jackson's trademark competitive nature mixed with breathtaking skill, culminated in a 30-point performance to deliver the Opals bronze on home soil. While being lifted into the air by her teammates after the final buzzer would be the image of the tournament, Jackson wasn't finished, as she continues to lead the growth of the WNBL across Australia by suiting up for the Southside Flyers. A legendary career cut short by injury delivered an unlikely fairy tale, inspiring a generation of young boys and girls along the way and helping to return the Australian women's national team back to the podium. Where they belong.
2. Alexander Volkanovski (5)
The UFC's featherweight champion, Volkanovski will chase a slice of sporting history in just a couple of months' time when he fights Islam Makhachev for the lightweight title in Perth. But the affable New South Welshman's profile has already soared to new heights with his multiple defences at featherweight, a third straight win over UFC great Max Holloway erasing any doubts over the pair's trilogy. Volkanovski's dedication to his craft, the breadth of his combat arsenal and his personable nature have endeared him to the wider Australian sporting public. He's a handy cook, too, just check out his YouTube channel!
Alexander Volkanovski takes you inside the hometown pub that renamed itself after Illawarra's very own UFC featherweight champion.
1. Sam Kerr (5)
What more is there to say about Sam Kerr? One of the best women's footballers in the world, as evidenced by her presence in the shortlists for the FIFA Best award and Ballon d'Or again, and the best Australian footballer, regardless of gender, going around at the moment. In 2022 she added all-time leading Australian international goal scorer to her CV to go alongside her seventh golden boot, another league title with Chelsea, and an unbelievable performance in the FA Cup Final to ensure the legend of Sam Kerr exists not only in Australia and the United States, but England as well.
The most impressive thing about Kerr though is that her star power goes well beyond the confines of the pitch. Instantly recognisable, with an iconic celebration, she's the first woman to ever grace the global cover of FIFA, is routinely included in global Nike campaigns alongside Cristiano Ronaldo and Kylian Mbappe, and was awarded an OAM for her services to football. Through all of this she's never lost sight of who she is; a girl from Perth who happens to be one of the best in the world at what she does. Her laidback brilliance endears her to fans and makes her an obvious, practically undisputed choice for the top spot in these power rankings.
78 athletes received votes from 16 ESPN writers, editors, and contributors. Seven athletes were in nominated in all 16 lists. Football was the most represented sport with 12 nominated, followed by cricket (nine), Aussie rules (eight), basketball (seven), and rugby league and athletics (five each).
Honourable mentions: Marnus Labuschagne, Madison de Rozario, Charlotte Caslick, Tai Tuivasa, Jess Fox, Buddy Franklin, Mat Ryan, Cameron Munster, Rob Whittaker, David Warner
Missing from 2021 edition: Michael Hooper, Marnus Labuschagne, Joe Ingles, George Kambosos, Dustin Martin, Jess Fox, Rob Whittaker, Tom Trbojevic. Also missing, but due to retiring is Ash Barty and Dylan Alcott.