Five worst title defences in sport after Leeds Rhinos’ woeful season
Sam Barnard, Assistant Sports Editor | May 13, 2016
After winning a domestic treble last season, rugby league giants Leeds Rhinos have dramatically flopped in 2016 to find themselves rock bottom of the Super League after 14 games.
A recent 52-12 thrashing by Castleford Tigers at Headingley means that the usually dominant Yorkshire outfit (150/1 with Coral to win the Grand Final) are now six points off qualifying for the Super 8s.
So, in light of the Rhinos’ terrible start to the season, largely down to club legends Kevin Sinfield, Jamie Peacock and Kylie Leuluaiwe all leaving at the end of 2015, we have picked out five of the worst title defences in sport…
Chelsea – Premier League 2015/16
Starting most recently, Chelsea can finish no higher than ninth this Premier League campaign with one game to go, and can still be overtaken by Stoke City below them.
Having won the title last term, many had predicted that the west Londoners (9/2 to regain the trophy in 2016/17) would defend their crown after being made the pre-season favourites and having Jose Mourinho in charge.
However, the Portuguese was eventually sacked as the Blues were as low as 16th after matchweek 16 and, had it not been for Leicester City winning the league to take the focus off slightly, Chelsea’s demise could have been seen as more of a disaster.
Chicago Bulls – NBA 1998/99
Basketball greats the Bulls suffered the loss of many star names, much like Leeds Rhinos, after winning the previous NBA Championship as the likes of Michael Jordan, Dennis Rodman, Scottie Pippen and even coach Phil Jackson all moved on.
The exodus meant that Chicago finished bottom of the Central Division and missed out on the playoffs in the lockout-hit 1998/99 season, becoming only the second defending champions to do so.
Lleyton Hewitt – Wimbledon 2003
Australian tennis player Hewitt represents the only individual on this list, but his unwanted feat at Wimbledon in 2003 certainly ranks up there with the worst ever title defences.
The now recently-retired Hewitt became the first person ever to lose in the first round at the SW19 event in the Open Era having won the year before, after losing in four sets to big-serving giant Ivo Karlovic.
Lancashire – County Championship 2012
Cricket side Lancashire were no doubt delighted after winning their first outright Division One County Championship title for 77 years in 2011, but complacency crept in as they were relegated the following season after finishing second-bottom and winning just one game.
They have since alternated going straight back up and down again until this campaign, where they are current 9/2 second-favourites for another title after only just being promoted.
Manchester City – First Division 1937/38
Like Lancashire, fellow Northwest outfit Man City were also relegated after finishing second bottom (21st) and winning the English First Division the season before, although way back in 1938. That was even despite amazingly scoring the most goals of the league.
The Citizens have since gone on to win three more top-flight titles and are now a global force, so are 15/8 favourites to win the 2016/17 Premier League.