They are the players who always seem to turn it on against your team. The ones who you wish were on your side. Or the pantomine villains who revel in playing the bad guy. The ones who despite all that talent just don't do it for you. Here's our list of sporting villains for Australian fans!
1. Cameron Smith
At club level he steered the Storm to four premiership titles, he was instrumental in Queensland's decade-long dominance of the State of Origin series and he lead Australia to international glory.
Yet, there was something about him that irked anyone who supported an opposing team. Smith was not only the best in the business at what he did, he carried a reputation for being someone who would do anything to be victorious, often stretching the rules to the utmost, whilst constantly badgering match officials until they saw his point of view.
He was part of the Melbourne Storm set-up that employed two sets of books in order to carry out the game's biggest systematic cheating of the salary cap. The club was stripped of two premierships because of it, but the teams they beat in those Grand Finals weren't awarded the titles. Through controversies around wrestling tactics and crusher tackles, through to his 'will he won't he' eventual retirement, Smith WAS the Melbourne Storm.
If Smith was on your side, you couldn't help but love his competitive nature and unquestionable kit bag of skills, skills that will make him a rugby league immortal. Everyone else would reluctantly acknowledge his greatness with a begrudging nod!
2. Nick Kyrgios
In most eyes, Nick Kyrgios is the undisputed king when it comes to sporting villains. We all know the Australian tennis star has truckloads of talent, but he's still yet to really light up a Grand Slam in the second week.
The lack of success (relatively, of course) has frustrated his countrymen and women, who at times feel he doesn't give 100 percent effort, something we Australians pride ourselves on. Add in the fact he's had more controversies than the rest of the ATP's top 100 combined -- think the Stan Wawrinka quip in Montreal -- and you've got yourself one of the ultimate sporting villains. And despite a recent new found maturity for Kyrgios tackling COVID-19 issues, there's a part of the Aussie sporting fanscape that can't warm to the man from Canberra.
Still, it doesn't stop us from tuning in to the Australian Open every January to see if he's turned the corner, and if this will be his year...
3. Jason Akermanis
He's one of the most mercurial players to have ever graced a footy field, but his opponents will also tell you he was a massive pain in the neck.
Three premierships, a Brownlow Medal, Hall of Fame status, four All-Australians and an abundance of freakish goals in his 325-game career were matched with no shortage of off-field scandals.
The outspoken 'Aker' never backed down from his beliefs which -- without showing public remorse -- often evoked controversy.
His peroxide blonde hair and dark beard combination made him easily recognisable, but most synonymous with the flamboyant goal sneak were the handstands that he performed after a win - the maligned character once proclaiming he sold more cokes and hotdogs than anyone because the fans always wanted to stick around to see his unique victory celebration.
A cocky attitude that was hated by many, but a talent many wish they had on their side. Sometimes, you had to just sit back and applaud. Jason Akermanis is simply one of the all-time AFL villains.
4. Stuart Broad
Slips fielder Michael Clarke knew he hit it. Bowler Ashton Agar knew he hit it. And even Stuart Broad himself knew he smashed that ball in the 2013 Ashes series.
An easy man to dislike, Stuart Broad has long been a villain to Australian cricket fans, who came out in force the following series to remind the man from Nottingham of his unsportsmanlike conduct. Brisbane's Courier-Mail even started a front page "Broad Ban", refusing to name or even picture Broad in the paper, simply referring to him as a 27 year old medium pace bowler. Broad took 21 wickets that series, but Australia had the last laugh with a 5-0 whitewash.
8 years on and expect Broad - with a handy 500+ test wickets under his belt - to be back on the boundary this Ashes summer, reveling in his sporting villain role in front of the Aussie crowds!
5. Richie McCaw
This one will no doubt divide opinion, perhaps exactly down the middle of the Tasman Sea.
Revered as a rugby god in New Zealand, Richie McCaw made a career out of getting under the skin of Wallabies players and fans with his relentless work at the breakdown and his ability to bend the rules.
His accomplishments were endless, two World Cup titles - both as captain- 12 Bledisloe cup victories, 14 Tri Nations/Rugby Championship wins, as well as three World Rugby Player of the year awards, while he was also named World Rugby Player of the decade. Don't forget multiple Super Rugby titles and Grand Slams.
Maybe it's envy of his team's success that made fans dislike him so much or perhaps it's his remarkable prowess? Many people would tell you however, it was his sneaky ability to find the referee's blind spot.
While McCaw wasn't a dirty player, his talent was such that he never needed to get to that level, he loved the niggle and found himself in several precarious situations, such as a yellow card for tripping during the All Blacks Rugby World Cup match against Argentina in 2015. He loved to push his opposition as well as find his way past the offside line at the ruck, cleverly pinching the ball when he had no right to do so. He knew how to sweet talk the referee, and in a career littered with awards and titles he also became one of the most penalised flankers in the game.
Ultimately, he earned the grudging respect of players and fans around the world, even if it was from the side.
6. David Warner
From the moment he made his debut for Australia in a T20 match at the SCG, Warner has been one of the most exciting batsmen to watch on the international stage. That he was able to take his big hitting white-ball game into the Test arena and shine in the longer format was a credit to his skills and thirst for hard work.
For an opening batsman to play his shots from the first over of a Test match, he not only has to possess an extremely sound technique, but also a strong streak of arrogance. A pugnacious scrapper, full of bravado and swagger. As necessary as it might be in a sportsman like Warner, it still rubs a lot of people the wrong way, Australians like their heroes to be humble.
Love him or hate him, most fans agreed he was good for cricket and good for Australia. That was until March 2018, Cape Town and the third Test against South Africa. Cameron Bancroft was seen to hide a square of sandpaper in his pants after using it to alter the surface of the ball. It was cheating on an unprecedented and embarrassingly blatant scale. It quickly became apparent that Bancroft was the scapegoat for a plot which had its unimaginably stupid genesis in the mind of a more senior members of the team, including Dave Warner.
It was an act seen to be responsible for tarnishing over 141 proud years of Australian Test cricket. In one poorly hatched scheme, all Australians had to reevaluate our high ground reputation of playing the game hard, but always fairly. It armed opposition fans with enough barbs to shoot down any reasonable cricket argument mounted in the countless forums where such discussions take place.
Warner, a clear genius with the bat, is back at the crease in the baggy green, but it's a shadow he - and the others involved in Cape Town - may never fully emerge from.
7. Anthony Mundine
Mundine was a successful rugby league player, notching 134 first grade games across eight years with the Dragons and Broncos. An elusive and creative five-eighth Mundine thrilled fans with his speed and game breaking abilities. He played three games for New South Wales, but never represented Australia, something he would later blame on alleged racism as he set about building what would become a controversial career in boxing.
Mundine was made for the brash world of boxing, turning himself into a self-marketing genius as he made an art of rubbing people the wrong way in building interest in his conquests inside the squared circle. Nothing was off limits in the lead up to a fight, including suggesting that America might have deserved the horror of 9/11, a comment he later admitted to regretting following his recent retirement from the ring.
With the gloves on Mundine proved himself a more than capable pugilist, becoming WBA Super Middleweight World Champion, but his outspoken and often inflammatory public statements, led to large parts of his audience cheering for his downfall, particularly during his two fights with Danny Green, which saw the fighters engage in a media war. The Daily Telegraph at the time dubbed Mundine "the most polarising athlete in Australian sports history".
Mundine continued to fight well into his forties, losing 5 of his last 6 fights as his best days were left far behind him. In retirement he admitted to being deliberately abrasive and controversial. It worked for him as far as his career was concerned, but it left Australians divided on his legacy in both rugby league and boxing.
8. Sebastian Vettel
For years, you'd struggle to come across an Australian who was a legitimate fan of Sebastian Vettel. The four-time Formula One world champion burst onto the scene in 2007, and two years later joined the Red Bull ranks, partnering our very own Mark Webber.
It quickly become widely acknowledged that the team was favouring Vettel, who was seen as the young, hungry driver who could deliver Red Bull title glory. As a result, the pair didn't exactly get along, and things turned nasty during the 2013 Malaysian Grand Prix with the infamous 'Multi 21' saga, where Vettel defied team orders and made a bold pass on Webber. Vettel went on to win the race but lost Webber's respect and tens of thousands of fans around the world.
Funnily enough, Vettel, having had a stint at Ferrari and now at Racing Point, has adorned himself to fans once again, including those Down Under. His relaxed, genuine attitude is now seen as a breath of fresh air in Formula One, a sport which, at times, can be a little too serious.
9. Fabio Grosso
It's fair to say fallin' Fabio won't be welcome in many parts of Australia - in fact, he might not even be welcome on Lygon Street in Melbourne, and that's saying something.
In the dying minutes of Australia's Round of 16 clash with Italy in Kaiserslautern -- with Australia and Italy locked at 0-0 just seconds away from extra time -- Fabio Grosso took the ball on the left wing and lumbered down the sideline, cutting into the penalty area. After passing Mark Bresciano, just Lucas Neill stood in Grosso's way, and the Aussie defender made an attempted sliding block in front of the big Italian to prevent a shot.
Sensing an opportunity, Grosso initiated contact with the horizontal Neill, and like a felled tree, Grosso plummeted to the ground.
The referee saw Grosso tumble, and Italy were awarded what would be the decisive penalty. Francesco Totti made no mistake from the spot and Italy advanced and eventually won the 2006 World Cup. Years later the incident still divides the football world.
10. Novak Djokovic
Where do you begin with the Djoker? Is it hitting a linesperson with a ball at the US Open? Is it his list of bizarre requests while in hotel quarantine in Australia while Australians were stranded overseas?
Is it partying shirtless at his own tennis tour in the middle of a global pandemic? Or that he later tested positive to COVID-19 due to said party? Or his anti-vax stance?
There's, well, plenty of reasons why Djokovic is one of sport's biggest villains, and it's only amplified by the fact that he's just so good. Now a 19-time Grand Slam champion, the Serb is on track to become the greatest male player of all time, and his brash on-court demeanor is polarising to anyone who watches him.
Brilliant on the court and controversial off it, Djokovic is the quintessential sporting villain.