Sports: Rowing gold medals rated highly

The Otago Daily Times sports department looks back on the year.

Hayden Meikle
Sports editor
Three favourite moments of 2012
• The final day of the Ryder Cup. Europe's thrilling - miraculous, really - comeback in the Sunday singles defied belief.

• Nathan Cohen and Joseph Sullivan rowing to gold in London. There were hundreds of special moments at the 2012 Olympics, but this one sticks out. The Kiwi pair are notoriously slow starters and they looked out of it with 500m to go. Their remarkable finishing burst will linger long in the memory.

• Sergio Aguero's last-gasp goal to seal the English Premier League title for Manchester City. Obviously, I'd rather it had been Liverpool. But Aguero's goal capped a spectacularly entertaining season.

Best game
South Africa v Australia, second test, Adelaide Oval

Tests like this are a nice reminder that twenty/20 is merely fluff. The Australians were in complete control, simply needing to wrap up a few South African wickets with a full day to spare. But a bloke called Faf du Plessis batted for seven hours, facing 376 balls for an unbeaten 110. On debut, if you please. One of the great draws.

Best newcomer
Tony Ensor (rugby)

One of the most exciting homegrown rugby players in years.

Top international achiever
Lionel Messi (football)

The best player in the world's biggest sport. Scored for fun all year.

Top New Zealand achiever
Valerie Adams (athletics)

Her moment was ruined by a drug cheat but Adams eventually claimed a deserved second Olympic gold medal.

Top Otago achiever
Alison Shanks (cycling)

No Olympic medal for the great Otago cyclist. But her class shone through when she won a second world title.

Stars of 2013
International:
Messi again. He'll be unstoppable for the next three to four years, at least.

New Zealand: Marco Rojas. Because he will score the goal that will get the All Whites to another World Cup.

Otago: Mark Dickel. The master point guard will lead the Nuggets into the playoffs for the first time since 1997.

Steve Hepburn
Rugby writer
Three favourite moments of 2012

• The moment the All Blacks ran out on to Forsyth Barr Stadium against the Springboks. For a few seconds, the atmosphere really was electric. Pity the game could not match it.

• Mo Farah winning the 10,000m at the London Olympics. Winning it in front of his home crowd and then being congratulated by his wife and child was a great mix of public and private pleasure.

• That last 50m swim by Chinese sensation Ye Shiwen in the 400m medley at the London Olympics. She may have had something in her system giving her a boost but it was an eye-catching effort.

Best game
Otago v Tasman

This game started poorly for Otago, conceding a try in the first minute. It was on defence for the first 20 minutes and could have lost the game by then. But the home side hung in there and proceeded to score 36 unanswered points to win the game convincingly.

Best newcomer
Fumiaki Tanaka (rugby)

Quickly became a fan favourite with his lightning pass and tough attitude. Could pass like the wind and was a key to an entertaining style delivered by the Otago side.

Top international achiever
Usain Bolt (athletics)

Just so much quicker than anyone else. Backed up his big talk.

Top New Zealand achiever
Eric Murray and Hamish Bond (rowing)

Went into the Olympics the hottest of favourites and that often brings out the worst in some athletes. But this pair never looked under any pressure and just blasted away from all their competitors in the final.

Top Otago achiever
Brendon McCullum (cricket)

Sure, he got the Black Caps captaincy under a cloud. But this Otago boy got to the top in one of the country's mainstream sports. Was dealt a rough hand with a weakened team in South Africa but one hopes he can at least get the players showing more consistency.

Stars of 2013
International:
Andy Murray. Will, hopefully, continue the momentum he created at the back end of this year.

New Zealand: Jesse Ryder. The big man will end his self-imposed exile and come back in a blaze of glory to make the Black Caps competitive against the English.

Otago: Hayden Parker. The Taieri man will play a big part for the Highlanders in what is shaping up as an exciting 2013 season for the franchise.

Adrian Seconi
Sports reporter
Three favourite moments of 2012

• Rowers Nathan Cohen and Joseph Sullivan produced an exhilarating finish to win gold at the London Olympics. It felt a bit like watching Kiwi win the 1983 Melbourne Cup.

• The Otago Nuggets snapped a 17-game losing streak to the Nelson Giants with a thrilling 97-93 win in overtime. American centre Antoine Tisby posted 30 points and grabbed 12 rebounds. But it was his steal in the dying moments of the match which sealed the win.

• We now know Ross Taylor was about to lose the captaincy. But he kept news of the infamous meeting with Mike Hesson and the Black Caps management to himself, strolled out to the middle and showed his class with two memorable knocks to help the Black Caps win the second test against Sri Lanka.

Best game
New Zealand Breakers v Perth Wildcats, ANBL finals, Vector Arena

It was far from a vintage performance but the Breakers' 79-73 win against the Perth Wildcats sealed back-to-back titles for the club. It is impossible to forget Thomas Abercrombie's gravity-defying block on Shawn Redhage in the dying moments.

Best newcomer
Aaron Smith (rugby)

Started the season as the back-up Highlanders halfback behind Jimmy Cowan and forced his way into the All Blacks with some stunning performances.

Top international achiever
Michael Clarke (cricket)

Helped ease any anxiety about Ricky Ponting's retirement with a triple century and three double hundreds.

Top New Zealand achiever
Hamish Bond and Eric Murray (rowing)

Annihilated the field to win gold in the Olympic men's coxless pair. They could have used a child's plastic shovel as a paddle and still won. Brilliant.

Top Otago achiever
Otago team (netball)

Broke a 14-year drought when it won the national title. Shooter Te Paea Selby-Rickit was outstanding in the final with 42 goals from 44 attempts.

Stars of 2013
International:
Tiger Woods has one more major left in him and it will be the biggest news on the planet - for all the right reasons.

New Zealand: More medals for Valerie Adams. Clean competitors can not get near the sort of distance she is capable of throwing.

Otago: Leadership should suit Brendon McCullum. Expect lots of runs, aggressive tactics and the welcome return of Ross Taylor.

Alistair McMurran
Sports reporter
Three favourite moments of 2012

• The gold medal win in the pair by Hamish Bond and Eric Murray at the London Olympics. They capped off an unbeaten three years by breaking a world record in the heats and were an important part of New Zealand rowing's five medal - three gold and two bronze - haul.

• The enthusiasm and passion of competitors at theNew Zealand Masters Games in Dunedin. The Games encourage older people to think about their fitness and lifestyle.

• Making the New Zealand secondary schools athletics championships a Dunedin event and not just a sports meeting. Several potential Olympians emerged at the 40th annual championships that had 1350 athletes competing in an electric atmosphere.

Best game
The tense and drama-packed Dunedin club rugby final
when first five-eighth Hayden Parker kicked a penalty goal in injury time to give Taieri a 24-22 win and back-to-back titles.

Best newcomer
Zoe McBride (rowing)

Won six junior gold medals - three at Maadi Cup and three at New Zealand championships - and stroked the New Zealand quadruple scull to a bronze medal at the world junior rowing championships.

Top international achiever
Usain Bolt (athletics)

Cruised to the 100m-200m sprint double and anchored the winning Jamaican 4 x 100m relay team at the London Olympics.

Top New Zealand achiever
Valerie Adams (athletics)

Back-to-back Olympic shot put gold medals despite the hiccup of standing on the podium at London while the Belarus national anthem rang out in the arena. Nadzeya Ostapchuk tested positive a few days later.

Top Otago achiever
Hamish Bond (rowing)

Added the Olympic Games gold medal to his four world titles in the pair with Eric Murray and also broke the world record.

Stars of 2013
International:
South African batsman Hashim Amla is expected to add more test centuries to the triple century he scored against England and 196 against Australia this year.

New Zealand: Otago utility back Ben Smith will become a regular in the All Blacks' run-on team.

Otago: Marshall Hall to win his fifth successive New Zealand senior men's discus title.

Matt Smith
Racing/sports reporter
Three favourite moments of 2012

• Ocean Park winning the Cox Plate. The Aussies have had a chuckle in recent years about our older horses taking on their best, but Gary Hennessy and Glen Boss (ignore the fact he's from the West Island) had the last laugh, as Ocean Park put paid to Australia's best weight-for-age horses.

• I Can Doosit winning the Dominion during Cup Week. Not only did this win give Mark Purdon his first Dominion, and extend I Can Doosit's winning streak to 17, but it also was a indication of the toughness of the marvellous trotter. He looked genuinely tired as he chased down Stig, but he kept grinding to win the equivalent of the New Zealand Cup for the square-gaiters.

• Otago winning the ITM Cup championship semifinal. As an Otago fan following the action on and off the paddock from afar, my face went from a constant grimace in March to a beaming smile in October as a bunch of proud Otago lads came from behind to beat Tasman 41-34, playing entertaining rugby as they went.

Best game
East Coast v Wanganui (Meads Cup final).

It had everything: a storming comeback from East Coast, the crowd running on to the pitch prematurely, and a painted man on horseback casually snaking his way through the throngs of delirious Coast fans.

Best newcomer
Julian Savea (rugby).

Comparisons with Jonah Lomu are unhelpful, but his power and pace became a real weapon this season, and he handled the step up to international level like an experienced professional. Showed a sleight of hand on occasions that belied his brutal style.

Top international achiever
Frankel (racing)

He may have a few things in his favour, such as pacemakers and minimal travelling, but even taking those factors into account, his performances have been dominant, phenomenal, sensational - pick your own superlative.

Top New Zealand achiever
Ocean Park (racing)

Four group 1 wins in a row (one in New Zealand and three in Australia), culminating in a Cox Plate win, is a remarkable achievement.

Top Otago achiever
Hamish Bond (rowing)

One half of the Olympic gold-winning pair. It's not often a New Zealand sports fan can watch an Olympic medal event knowing a gold medal is pretty much a foregone conclusion.

Stars of 2013
International:
Kiwi jockey James McDonald. His year wasn't exactly terrible last year, running second in the Melbourne Cup (although it did cost him a suspension), and picking up eight group 1 wins during the 2011-12 season, but he'll keep going from strength to strength now that he's settled in Sydney.

New Zealand: Smolda. His record-breaking run in the 4yr-old emerald division of the Harness Jewels in June could be a sign of what's to come, based on his two wins since returning to racing, including the Franklin Cup.

Otago: Jimmy Neesham. He's already worked his way into the Black Caps twenty/20 squad, but the clean-striking all-rounder could make a real name for himself in the new year.