Who are the top dogs of sport right now?

Kane Williamson. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
Kane Williamson. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
Lisa Carrington. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
Lisa Carrington. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
Peter Burling and Blair Tuke. PHOTO: REUTERS
Peter Burling and Blair Tuke. PHOTO: REUTERS

They're back. After a six-year absence, say hello to the Otago Daily Times sport power rankings, presented by completely objective sports editor Hayden Meikle.

This was always a fun exercise.

Rank the top 25 most powerful athletes in New Zealand right now, based on achievement, status, profile and good old-fashioned bias.

Richie McCaw was No1 when we did our first rankings in 2010 - and he would hold top spot for five straight years, which I am sure he rated one of the great moments of his career.

Who bosses the roost now? Let’s find out. Spoiler alert: There be a new king in town.

The top 10

1. Kane Williamson (cricket)

King Kane

The Black Caps are world test champions. That still feels extraordinary. And at the top of this special team is a special man, destined (if he is not already) to be regarded as our greatest batsman and possibly (gasp) to go past Richard Hadlee as our greatest cricketer. He should have years left in him yet but do not take Williamson for granted.

2. Lisa Carrington (canoeing)

Ms Paddles

Right now, the most popular and marketable athlete in New Zealand sport. Carrington’s heroics in Tokyo — and the two Olympics before that — give her a direct route into the Hall of Fame. The question is whether her stunning success translates into her minority sport booming.

3. Israel Adesanya (MMA)

The Last Stylebender

Many, like me, are not particularly fond of the sport, nor of the classlessness shown by so many of its fighters. But the UFC is huge, and Adesanya is the most famous Kiwi athlete on the planet.

4. Chris Wood (football)

Striking force

Under-rated by many but NOT under-rated by these prestigious rankings. Wood is a generational talent and it never gets boring seeing him score in the Premier League.

5. Steven Adams (basketball)

Grizzly Adams

Play for the Tall Blacks, mate, and you might get to No1.

6. Peter Burling and Blair Tuke (yachting)

Super sailors

The dazzling duo just missed out on a second Olympic gold in Tokyo but their star has not dimmed. Led the defence of the America’s Cup in March and now they are in the SailGP competition.

7. Lydia Ko (golf)

On par

Bronze at the Olympics, broke a long professional drought with victory on the LPGA Tour, and back up to No5 in the world. How wonderful to see Ko looking happy and playing well again.

8. Sam Cane (rugby)

Sidelined skipper

The All Black captain — a job second in importance only to the prime minister — all the way down at No8? Cripes. Cane might not have the status of a McCaw or a Read, but he will show his value when he returns from injury.

9. Sophie Pascoe (swimming)

Paralympic queen

Not sure what else there is to be said. Truly amazing.

10. Scott Dixon (motorsport)

Wheely good

Still charging hard in the IndyCar series, though he has had a frustrating season. The six-time champion brought up 50 race wins this year. If it looks like he is about to be eclipsed by fellow Kiwi Scott McLaughlin, who joined IndyCars this year after winning three Supercars titles, that does not mean Dixon should go quietly into the night.

The rest

11. Sam Whitelock (rugby)

Stand-in All Black captain and a huge influence on the team.

12. Kyle Jamieson (cricket)

The new rock star of New Zealand cricket.

13. Ameliaranne Ekenasio (netball)

On maternity leave but will be back to lead the Silver Ferns at the Commonwealth Games and World Cup over the next two years.

14. Aaron Smith (rugby)

So powerful a local newspaper named an entire week after him.

15. Hamish Bond (rowing)

Put him in a boat, it wins.

16. Sarah Hirini (rugby)

Inspirational leader of the amazing Black Ferns Sevens.

17. Valerie Adams (athletics)

In the twilight of a remarkable career.

18. Zoi Sadowski-Synnott (snowboarding)

A Winter Olympic medallist and two-time world champion. At 20.

19. Devon Conway (cricket)

The most exciting thing we’ve pinched from South Africa since Irene van Dyk.

20. Emma Twigg (rowing)

Most heartwarming story of the year.

21. Courtney Duncan (motocross)

Two-time world champion and you get the sense she wants 20 titles.

22. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (league and rugby)

From Warriors kingpin to rugby ... I guess we’ll see.

23. Ryan Fox (golf)

Still performing consistently without hitting amazing heights.

24. Shane van Gisbergen (motorsport)

Just the 276-point lead for The Giz in the Supercars standings.

25. Tom Walsh (athletics)

Big bopper won Olympic bronze again and is a consistent performer on world stage.


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