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