This year Eternity had the privilege of meeting and interviewing several high-profile sportspeople. The unifying theme among them: knowing Jesus is better than winning.

Here’s our top four sports stories from 2016:

1. These footy players don’t pray to win

If you watch footy, you might have noticed a strange trend emerging after the games – some players gather together and give thanks to God. Wests Tigers forward Josh Aloiai, says it just feels natural.

“We’re playing for a bigger purpose … We know the real reason we’re here is for Jesus, so the first thing we do when the final whistle blows is to give thanks,” says Aloiai.

Tim Mannah, captain of the Parramatta Eels, says, “I think when your life’s not with God, regardless of what field you work in, getting it right always makes life better.

…they don’t pray to win.

“I don’t think it means that things work out perfectly: it doesn’t mean you don’t get injured, it doesn’t mean you don’t have a tough day. It just means you have a better perspective on it and your response is a lot clearer.”

Brenden Brown, a Hillsong pastor from Sydney’s inner west, took up the inaugural positionof Chaplain for the Wests Tigers this year.

“The thing that I’ve loved is that they don’t pray to win. They play to win, but they pray to trust that God will protect them and that Jesus would somehow be seen in their lives,” says Brown.

2. Better than playing in an AFL grand final

If you’re looking for a heartwarming story, this has to be it.

Gary Ablett Jr, captain of the Gold Coast Suns, Gold Coast Suns midfielder Aaron Hall, Geelong Cats ruckman Zac Smith and GWS Giants ruckman Dawson Simpson are Christian mates who support each other – despite club rivalries. Their common experience of having priorities realigned by Jesus has brought them together.

“The lows aren’t as low any more and the highs are even higher.”

“Football doesn’t define who I am,” states Hall. “I get my identity from Jesus Christ. The lows aren’t as low any more and the highs are even higher.”

3. Olympian Eloise Wellings received Christ, never looked back

Eloise Wellings first qualified for the Sydney Olympics when she was just 16 years old. But thanks to injury, she missed out on representing Australia in those games.

She became a Christian not long after that first injury, but doing so did not make her Olympic dreams a reality. Wellings missed out on both the Athens and Beijing Olympics, also due to injury.

“…no matter what happened in my running career or with what I did, I knew who I was in God.”

“Life didn’t become suddenly super rosy; it didn’t all of a sudden become super easy after becoming a Christian,” says Wellings. “But I had a rock that, no matter what happened, I wasn’t shaken – because I had Jesus.

“I had that truth as my foundation that no matter what happened in my running career or with what I did, I knew who I was in God. I knew who made me, and I knew that God had a good plan. I’ve always believed that.”

4. Better than winning the Australian Open

Champion tennis player Margaret Court told Eternity her life story: from humble beginnings to the staggering heights of winning all four tennis grand slams in one year, and then coming to know Jesus as her saviour.

Her conclusion after it all: “I see these people come through [my church] and their lives change and to me that’s more exciting than winning Wimbledon, because [the people] thought they didn’t matter and now they know in themselves that they’re somebody. That they’re valuable and precious, that God loves them. To me that’s the most wonderful thing.”

Read the whole story now.

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Some prayer points to help

Thank God that he places his people in every sphere of life, and pray that Christian athletes would be bold witnesses to Jesus.

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