Our underrated sports stars

Who is New Zealand’s most underrated athlete? Otago Daily Times sports reporters go in search of the biggest aces up the nation’s sporting sleeve.

Chris Wood

You know you have reached an elite level when you start to get ignored.

Chris Wood recently scored in four consecutive English Premier League games for his Nottingham Forest club, and it received less attention in this funny little country at the bottom of the globe than a women’s rugby haka.

How odd that Kiwi sports fans have become so used to Wood scoring in the world’s most popular competition that they forget this is an incredibly unusual occurrence.

Six New Zealanders - yes, just six, in 33 years - have played in the Premier League. Wood leads the way with 222 appearances, followed by Ryan Nelsen (198), Winston Reid (166), Simon Elliott (12), Danny Hay (four) and Lee Norfolk (three).

A mere three Kiwis appear on the Premier League scoring charts. Wood is our best with 67 goals. Nelsen is second - he scored nine - and Reid is third with six goals.

Wood’s 67 goals have him at No 73 on the all time Premier League scoring charts. He is ahead of Anthony Martial, David Beckham, Gianfanco Zola, Tim Cahill and Gareth Bale - perhaps you have heard of them.

Put simply, Wood is on another planet to fellow New Zealand footballers in the modern era.

He is an established, quality Premier League starting striker, and perhaps we will not appreciate that until he is gone.

Wood also has 34 goals in 74 games for an All Whites team that never really seems to score.

Is he our greatest footballer? Better than Wynton Rufer?

That is a debate for another day. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind he is the most underrated athlete in New Zealand sport.

Hayden Meikle


Matt Henry

How many times has Matt Henry carried the drinks?


There was always someone ahead of Mr Patient.

But then: Trent Boult deserted us for the lucrative domestic T20 circuit. Tim Southee slipped past his use-by date. Kyle Jamieson broke down ... again. And Neil Wagner was nudged into retirement.

Henry is king now.

To be fair, the Canterbury right-armer has been one of our best bowlers for a few years.

It just took him a while to find his feet at test level.

He made his debut at Lord’s in 2015, but he played just 13 tests in six years, and his bowling average edged past 50 in 2021.

It was a record worthy of his underrated tag.

Henry was a demon at domestic level, so a breakthrough was expected. And it came against South Africa at Hagley Oval in 2022. He nabbed seven for 23.

A couple of years earlier, Henry was instrumental in the Black Caps’ run at the 2019 World Cup. He grabbed 14 wickets, including three for 37 in the semifinal against India.

But the 32-year-old’s crowing achievement was his most recent effort. In the two-test series against Australia in New Zealand in February and March, he claimed 17 wickets and was named player of the series - this, mind, despite Australia sweeping to a 2-0 victory.

Henry has clawed his way to No 12 in the ICC test bowling rankings. But he is one behind professional rehabber Jamieson and three behind the 90-year-old James Anderson. That sounds like he’s still underrated to me.

Adrian Seconi


Zoe Hobbs

How many of us truly appreciate the greatness that is Zoe Hobbs?

There is something to be said for how many of our Olympic athletes - who, in fairness, spend the majority of their time overseas and seldom get to compete on home soil - slip through the cracks in non-pinnacle event years.

But there is something special about Hobbs, and it is time for people to wake up and take note of the sprint sensation.

The 26-year-old sprinter has been a revelation in the past couple of years on the track, and is about to break the mould again as the first Kiwi female sprinter to compete at the Olympics in 48 years.

One day after the qualification period opened for Paris, Hobbs ticked that box and booked her ticket after running a sizzling time at ResiSprint, in Switzerland, on July 1 to go under the required time by 0.11sec and again lower her national record.

That time was 10.96sec - just 0.47sec off the world record set by Florence Griffith-Joyner. Let that sink in for a minute.

Every 100m sprinter fights to get under the 11sec mark, and the fact Hobbs has broken national and Oceania records, more than once, by going under that mark confirms her status as one of our greats.

Keep in mind Hobbs has technically gone faster than that after a sizzling 10.89sec at the national championships in 2023, but it was ruled out due to the wind.

Her speed transfers across distances, too. She was just 0.01sec off bronze in the women’s 60m at the world indoor championships earlier this year.

And yet still she fails to get the recognition she deserves.

Wake up. Hobbs is the one to watch in Paris.

- Kayla Hodge