OPINION

Quad goals: is winning really all that matters in sport?

Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson lifts the English League Cup trophy aloft in February. Picture: AAP
Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson lifts the English League Cup trophy aloft in February. Picture: AAP

"A champion is afraid of losing. Everyone else is afraid of winning."

By tennis legend Billie Jean King's logic, I'm a champion.

Because let me tell you, with Liverpool Football Club on the cusp of an historic quadruple of trophies this season, as a Reds tragic, I'm bricking it.

Liverpool already has the English League Cup in the bag this season courtesy of a penalty shootout win against Chelsea in February's final.

The two clubs meet again tonight (Sunday 1.45am AEST) in the more prestigious FA Cup final. Two down, two to go, if the Reds can win again to consign the reigning European and world champions to a trophyless campaign.

The second-placed Reds are still an outside chance of winning the English Premier League (although they will need leaders Manchester City to slip up in one - preferably both - of its final two matches) and have already qualified for the Champions League final against Real Madrid at the end of the month.

So, what's the problem?

Liverpool fans are living the dream, right?

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No English club has ever won these four trophies a single season. And there's a good reason for that - they're bloody hard to win.

Some unbelievable teams like the Arsenal Invincibles of 2003-04, the Manchester United treble winners of 1998-99, or the iconic Liverpool teams of the late 1970s and 1980s haven't achieved it.

Liverpool fans are living the dream. Make no mistake about that.

But as magical as this season's ride has been as a fan whose team is on the cusp of history, it's hard to shake one nagging thought.

What if they lose them all?

Liverpool could win an historic four trophies this season. Or just the one it already has in the bank. Pictures: AAP

Liverpool could win an historic four trophies this season. Or just the one it already has in the bank. Pictures: AAP

Liverpool could take all three of these remaining competitions to the final day (the two finals are already guaranteed in this regard) and emerge empty-handed three times.

It's keeping me up at night, to be honest.

Because then what?

This unbelievable team that's so close to sporting immortality that has brought millions of fans across the world untold joy is just ... what? Forgotten?

Because at this level of sport, only one thing matters: winning. Right? Right?

Or is that truly the be all and end all?

Is it OK as a fan to essentially write off nine months of excellence if your team doesn't have the silverware to actually prove it?

"I'm not as sad as the players are right now and it is my job to explain why something happens like this," Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp said after a 1-1 draw against Tottenham last weekend that handed Man City a decisive league leg-up. "That is why it is so hard. That is why the quadruple is so unlikely. There is a reason nobody has done it in this country. We will keep going."

Sport is riddled with hard luck stories. Fans of clubs like the South Sydney Rabbitohs, Cronulla Sharks, Melbourne Demons, Richmond Tigers, Western Bulldogs and the Chicago Cubs lived tortured existences for generations until their respective droughtbreaking premiership successes over the past decade.

Dejected Canberra Raiders veteran Jarrod Croker after the NRL grand final in 2019. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong

Dejected Canberra Raiders veteran Jarrod Croker after the NRL grand final in 2019. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong

What about Raiders fans under 40? And Parramatta tragics of a similar vintage? Those poor bloody Eels fans - and players. The Eels were pretty good in the 1980s. Won the lot four times.

In 2001 they had arguably the greatest statistical season of all time. But they froze under the bright lights of the game's first night-time grand final. Newcastle led 24-0 before Parra knew what had even happened. Stastistics? The Eels had just become one. They got close again in 2005 and 2009 but the heartbreak continued.

Eels hero Nathan Hindmarsh is widely considered one of the greatest footy players to never win a comp. He gets the piss taken out of him for it twice a week on Matty Johns' shows. And everywhere he goes.

"It takes years and years and years [to get over a grand final loss]," Hindmarsh said after the Eels fell just short against Melbourne Storm in the 2009 NRL decider (and he didn't know then they would go on to be stripped of that crown due to massive salary cap rorts. Oooft).

"It's hard. You look at Melbourne, see how excited they are, to know you might never get to feel that feeling, it's tough. It feels like you've climbed a ladder and you've gotten to the top and there's nothing there, that's what it's like."

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"You always want to win the big one. I suppose if you want to look back, we did really well this year," Hindmarsh continued.

"We've just got to keep our heads up. I've got three years left - if I don't win one, I don't win one. I've had a great career."

Hindy didn't win one in the end. But he's right. He did have a magnificent career. He doesn't need a ring to prove it.

Leon Cameron with Phil Davis after the 2019 AFL grand final. Not a champion this day, but an undisputed champion, regardless. Picture: Getty Images

Leon Cameron with Phil Davis after the 2019 AFL grand final. Not a champion this day, but an undisputed champion, regardless. Picture: Getty Images

Nor does Leon Cameron.

The Giants coach will lead his last AFL game for GWS on Sunday after announcing his decision to step down from the role he's held for the best part of a decade.

There's no premiership ring. Nothing in the history books - except a grand final drubbing in 2019.

That doesn't matter.

In 2015, when Cameron found out a young Giants fan in Canberra, Jack Woodhams, had terminal cancer, he invited him into the team's inner sanctum. Sent regular messages to his dad Paul (a producer at The Canberra Times). How are you going, mate? Can I do anything?

In 2016 he attended Jack's funeral. Off his own bat. Unannounced.

"It was an absolute honour to get to know Jack Woodhams. His courage left an indelible mark on everyone at the Giants," he wrote on Twitter afterwards.

A champion?

You don't always need the silverware to prove it.

This story Quad goals: is winning really all that matters in sport? first appeared on The Canberra Times.