Highs and lows plus a few low blows

Sonny Bill Williams, of the Chiefs, offloads in the tackle of  Highlander  Tamati Ellison. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
Sonny Bill Williams, of the Chiefs, offloads in the tackle of Highlander Tamati Ellison. Photo by Peter McIntosh.

Steve Hepburn identifies the top five stories in New Zealand sport in 2012.

Taylor not wanted

If ever there was an issue which gained legs, it was the sacking of Ross Taylor from the captaincy of the Black Caps.

Taylor's record was pretty woeful and coach Mike Hesson decided he wanted Brendon McCullum in charge. But how it was done, and whether it was justified, turned into a drama which refused to run out of steam.

Martin Crowe ''burned'' his blazer (metaphorically) in protest, board chairman Chris Moller admitted things could have been done better and Taylor took pot-shots at Hesson. Whether it was the right decision will be played out in the next few months.

Val gets gold

Going into the London Olympics, defending champion Valarie Adams had just one opponent - Nadzeya Ostapchuk.

On the day, the big Belarussian was too good, winning with ease. There was drama beforehand after a stuff-up over Adams' entry form but that was a red herring. Adams tried her best but had to settle for silver.

About 10 days after the contest, the news came late on a Monday night that Ostapchuk had failed a drugs test and Adams would have the gold.

The usual saga was played out - Ostapchuk blaming everyone but the kitchen sink. In the end she handed over the gold medal and it was given to Adams in Auckland in September.

SBW

Whatever your take on the man, Sonny Bill Williams certainly gets his share of the limelight.

Whether it concerned boxing, rugby, his love life or going to league, the big man was never far from the headlines in 2012.

He had an outstanding season for the Chiefs and was a major reason they won a breakthrough title.

Played well for the All Blacks against Ireland and then signed off with a win against Australia at Eden Park. Then headed to Japan, where a television crew followed him around for a week.

Picked up a shoulder injury which scuttled a planned boxing match but will be back in Auckland with the Roosters to face the Warriors in March.

Magic show some magic

The Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic lost its first four games of the season and appeared doomed to the bottom reaches of the table.

But all of a sudden, the side clicked and went all the way to the final. There, it proceeded to win the ANZ championship, a first for a New Zealand side.

Laura Langman and Irene van Dyk led the team to victory in what was a huge upset after Australians had ruled the roost in this competition.

The task now is on the shoulders of the Magic to repeat the win, with the Australian sides eager to return the trophy to the other side of the Tasman.

Woeful Warriors

It looked like a perfect year was going to materialise for the Warriors.

New, well-liked Kiwi coach, some talent coming into its own, James Maloney's last year with the club, and the side was fresh off making a final.

But it all fell apart, starting with a loss in the first match of the year against Manly at what is, for many league fans now, a hated Eden Park.

New coach Brian McClennan was eventually booted, young players were exposed, a lack of mental toughness shone out and Maloney tried hard but was ineffective.