Paul Kennedy's top five sporting moments of 2012

The ABC's Paul Kennedy gives his verdict on the top five sporting moments of 2012.

The ABC's Paul Kennedy gives his verdict on the top five sporting moments of 2012.

Look back on a whirlwind year's biggest sporting stories and how they unfolded on ABC Grandstand.

Number five: Gilmore and Parko's surfing triumphs

Australian surfing had an excellent year with Stephanie Gilmore and Joel Parkinson both claiming world surfing titles in 2012.

Gilmore claimed her fifth women's world surfing title with victory over fellow Australian Tyler Wright in the penultimate event of the year at Biarritz in France.

She was the first ever surfer to win four titles in four attempts from 2007-2010, but fell back to the number three ranking in 2011 when her life was disrupted by a violent assault.

On the men's circuit, Joel Parkinson ended his long wait for a world title at the Pipeline Masters in Hawaii, edging out 11-time winner Kelly Slater to the gong.

Parkinson's title was a reward for consistency 2012 and could have won the championship without a single event victory.

However, he avoided that particular historical footnote by beating compatriot Josh Kerr in the final to take home the Pipeline Masters trophy as an added bonus.

Speaking at his trophy presentation in Hawaii after his bout with Kerr, Parkinson said:

Number four: The London 2012 Paralympics

The Australians returned home with 85 medals - - but the London 2012 Paralympics stood out as a major success that put disabled sport truly on the map.

London Games chairman Sebastian Coe said the huge popularity of Paralympic Games showed disabled sport was fast becoming recognised as elite competition.

An unprecedented 2.7 million tickets were snapped up for nearly 45 million pounds ($72.12 million), exceeding 2012 organisers' original target of 35 million.

More than four billion people were estimated to have watched the London Games on television compared to 1.9 billion eight years ago in Athens.

Number three: AFL and NRL grand finals

Hawthorn v Sydney Swans

#hawks

11.15 (81) Final score

#swans

14.7 (91)

Sydney's famous pressure paid big dividends as the Swans held off Hawthorn to take out the AFL premiership by 10 points.

The grand final surprised no one with its intensity - it was a game of bursts and savage swings of momentum, with first one, then the other team looking down and out, before the Swans won 14.7 (91) to 11.15 (81).

Both teams found kicking for goal difficult in blustery conditions, although thankfully earlier predictions of heavy rain and hail proved unfounded.

Veteran Ryan O'Keefe took the Norm Smith Medal, with 28 disposals and an amazing 15 tackles.

Canterbury Bulldogs

v

Melbourne Storm

#cby

4 Final score

#mel

14

In the NRL, the Melbourne Storm won its first premiership since it was stripped it of two titles for salary cap breaches, beating the Bulldogs 14-4.

Sam Perrett had levelled the scores after Storm forward Ryan Hoffman scored the opening try of the match in the seventh minute.

But Melbourne half-back Cooper Cronk stamped his class on the match in the back end of the first half.

Cronk produced a deft pass for Billy Slater to score in the 32nd minute.

Melbourne consolidated its lead in the shadows of the break with Cronk's pin-point kick for winger Justin O'Neill to score in the corner in the 39th minute.

Melbourne maintained its 14-4 half-time lead through to the end of the game with a superb defensive display in the second half.

Number two: Clarke and Cook stand up

The Test team's form may have fluctuated of late, but captain Michael Clarke was a shining light for Australia throughout 2012, averaging 106.35 for the calendar year so far.

Clarke came to life on home soil, scoring a historic 329 not out against India, before making another double ton in the next match during the 4-0 series whitewash in January.

While he made a modest contribution in the West Indies in April (scoring 188 runs in 6 innings), he flexed his muscle at home again, smacking two double centuries against South Africa.

While his efforts against the Proteas were ultimately made in vain, they helped him become the world's leading run scorer of 2012 with 1489 runs.

But the stakes have been raised in the upcoming 2013 Ashes series with new England skipper Alastair Cook finding phenomenal form after taking over the captaincy from Andrew Strauss.

Cook led England to a first Test series win in India in December in 28 years, coming from 1-0 down to take the four-match series 2-1.

India won the first Test by nine wickets in Ahmedabad, before Cook led his side to a 10-wicket win in Mumbai and a seven-wicket victory in Kolkata.

Cook was named man of the series after top-scoring with 568 runs at an average of 80.28.

Number one: Sally Pearson's gold

Following Olympic disappointment in the pool, Australia's shining light Sally Pearson lived up to her favourite's tag to take gold in the women's 100m hurdles in London.

Pearson clocked 12.35 seconds to break the Olympic record held by American Joanna Hayes, set in Athens, by 0.02 of a second.

Pearson just edged out America's defending Olympic champion Dawn Harper (12.37), with countrywoman Kellie Wells (12.48) taking the bronze.

The Aussie champion spent six weeks in Britain prior to the Olympics to escape the build-up, hype and pressure in Australia. After her win, she said:

And without Pearson's heroics, how else would this piece of ABC News 24 television history have come about? Take it away, Michael Rowland.