Sport's greatest game changers

The Fosbury Flop. Photo / Getty Images
The Fosbury Flop. Photo / Getty Images

With the Harrison Hoist rocking netball, Herald sports writers look at some revolutionary moves.

Two-handed backhand
It did little for the elegance factor but tennis certainly changed when players found more power and top spin with this technique. Why it took so long for two hands to take hold is a mystery - the most influential pioneers didn't emerge until the 1970s. Chris Evert, Jimmy Connors and Bjorn Borg led the way with differing versions (Borg's was born out of his background as a hockey player and is commonly described as a slap). There were drawbacks in reach and agility - Grand Slam legends Roger Federer and Pete Sampras stuck to one hand.
- Chris Rattue

Cricket helmets
There's something wrong with the male species when we invent a "box" to protect reproductive organs in 1874 and it takes 100 years to work out the brain is a fairly important piece of anatomy too. Tony Greig and Dennis Amiss might have looked comical when they went to the crease wearing stylised motorcycle helmets - "it did make me a bit of a target," admitted Greig later - but subsequent, lightweight models revolutionised batting.

From a pastime of self-preservation, batting slowly turned into an art form again. The bouncer became less effective, over rates increased, spinners became more prevalent, scoring increased and cricket became vastly more entertaining.
- Dylan Cleaver

The dive pass
Attributed to Dr Danie Craven, but although Mr Rugby might have popularised the dive pass, it is believed that it was used some years previously by Fred Luyt, a Springbok in 1910.

Certainly, Craven used the tactic to great effect in New Zealand in 1937. On boggy grounds, such as you'd find in New Zealand and coastal South Africa, the dive pass enabled the halfback to clear without risk of being disrupted by loose forwards.

It was simple yet revolutionary. Until Craven's Springboks, the backs were reduced to retrieving kicks in muddy conditions. You could argue who New Zealand's finest exponent was, but Des Connor (an Australian, ironically) would top many lists.
- DC

Fosbury Flop
Before Dick Fosbury, high jumpers used various means of clearing the bar. Among them were the straddle technique - rolling over the bar, belly facing down - the standing jump, which was what it sounds, and the scissors jump.

Life changed for these tall athletes at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City. Fosbury, then a 21-year-old from Oregon, unveiled his new method, approaching the bar on a curved run, leaping high, back first, lifting his legs over last.

He set an Olympic record of 2.24m in winning the gold. His innovation has taken over to such an extent that for years it has been universally accepted as the best technique for the high jump. The world record has stood at 2.45m since 1993, set by the Cuban Javier Sotomayor.
- David Leggat

Winging it
The wing forward was the most contentious position on the rugby field during the game's early international years. You could also call it highly innovative.

In the days of the diamond-shaped 2-3-2 scrum, his role was to feed the ball into the scrum, with the halfback standing at the rear, so effectively giving the All Blacks two halfbacks (original captain Dave Gallaher was a top practitioner).

One argument in favour of that was with the ball coming out far quicker from the set piece it was difficult for the halfback to do both jobs.

The Northern Hemisphere nations screamed foul, arguing that the wing forward was obstructing play once he had fed the ball and standing offside.

The law introducing a three-man front row came into effect in the Northern Hemisphere 1931-32 season, ending the days of the wing forward, who ultimately became the No 8. - DL

Magnificent Magyars
When Hungary arrived at Wembley Stadium in 1953, England had never been beaten on home soil by a team from outside Britain and Ireland. After a 6-3 pasting, the game as the English knew and played it was changed for good.

By the simple expedient of withdrawing their centre forward, Nandor Hidegkuti, from a traditional centre forward role into what would now be called "the hole" behind the frontman - allied to superior passing and strategy from a collection of outstanding footballers, including the tubby but brilliant Ferenc Puskas - they flummoxed an England defence.

Hungary reinforced their superiority with a 7-1 win in the return fixture in Budapest six months later. The Magnificent Magyars are accepted as one of soccer's most influential teams.
- DL

A couple for the future...

Irene van Dunk
In the feverish debate that followed the Mystics' defensive innovation came plenty of arguments that were breathtaking in their lack of reason.

Some were worried the loophole left the game open to all sorts of crazy ideas. "What's to stop the attackers doing it down the other end of the court?" the alarmists squealed.

Well the rules for one. And commonsense for the other.

It would be a very difficult manouevre to pull off without touching the goal or the net, which is illegal in netball.

Second, if a shooter close enough to the goal to be lifted to put the shot in, then they may as well just shoot it from the ground, where they'd be much more accurate from a stable base.

The only possible upside to such a move is that we could coin the new term "Irene van Dunk".
- Dana Johannsen

The soaring Crouch
In the final minutes of a Euro 2012 knockout match, England are chasing a goal that will seal victory. They win a corner. As defenders scramble to organise themselves, the ball is floated towards the far post, but it's too high ... or is it?

With two midfielders lifting him well clear of the assembled defenders, giant striker Peter Crouch has all the time and space he needs to nut the ball down into the net, completing an elaborate set-piece move.
- Winston Aldworth

- NZ Herald

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