New year full of sporting potential

What is potential and when do we know we have it? This profound question came to me while watching the movie Boy on Christmas Day, after overindulging on festive food yet again.

In the movie, Boy's teacher mentions that he is just like his father and full of potential, a word Boy is unfamiliar with and keen to understand. His teacher remains vague on its meaning, and he consults a dictionary, which suggests potential is when something is ''capable of being but not yet in existence''. In other words, it only exists when it is a possibility rather than an actuality.

In the sporting world, who had potential in 2012? In rugby, Aaron Smith was seen as a halfback with heaps of potential. Despite having a strong season with the Highlanders and the All Blacks, his last test suggested he is still at the potential stage and is yet to peak.

Another player in the rugby code that had potential was Sonny Bill Williams. Like Michael Buble, who likes to leave his fans wanting more by not touring that often so not overexposing them to his syrupy melodies, SBW has left his rugby fans wanting more, because his potential was not exhausted in rugby union.

The Waikato River has plenty of potential power, which rubbed off on the Chiefs and Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic teams this year.

With strong team performances under their belts in 2012, both Dave Rennie and Noeline Taurua show potential for higher coaching roles, so watch this space for 2013.

Lydia Ko, the youngest winner of a professional women's golf tournament as an amateur, has had her potential officially recognised by High Performance Sport New Zealand with a sizeable individual grant for 2013.

Lisa Carrington. with her gold medal performance to match her golden smile, has shown she has possibilities yet to be realised as a powerful and photogenic athlete.

But potential also has a downside, because when you reach it, it no longer exists as potential.

Many of our New Zealand athletes have reached their potential and we start to take their success for granted and wait like vultures for the potential to dissipate before our very eyes.

Mahe Drysdale should be commended for continuing to show his potential year after year, despite the injuries and physical ailments he has to endure to achieve his amazing feats of endurance on the water, and he has recently signalled his desire to peak for the next Olympics.

For athletes who are feeling fatigued, flat or generally ''over it'', a change is as good as a holiday, and Eric Murray's foray into the boxing ring may have been just what he needed to recharge his batteries.

Perhaps Drysdale could follow Murray's example here and sign up for a charity boxing bout in the next four years, or he could take a sabbatical like Richie McCaw.

Alternatively, potential can be like a disappointing Christmas present, because what was anticipated never eventuates. Athletes who are told they have potential may never turn that possibility into a reality.

Ross Taylor, for instance, has been short-changed on reaching his potential as a captain for the Black Caps, and many athletes did not deliver their potential at the Olympics this year. Such is the nature of the ''potential'' beast.

In Taika Waititi's movie of a father and son's battle to understand their potential, Boy is the one who finally realises he is nothing like his father and doesn't have any potential, because he'd rather live in the here and now and get real, while his father continually exists in a dream world full of potential.

The new year is full of potential for New Zealand athletes and teams. Like Boy, they must convince others of their potential, strive towards it, reach it and then come to accept that reality may not be as exciting as possibility, but nonetheless desirable and satisfying.