The great 2017 Sportsroom listicle
With due care – but very little attention – for your masticating pleasure, we’ve selected the highlights of a sports year that probably won’t make a list of the top-10 sports years of the 2000s. Sportsroom is pleased to present (maybe) the greatest year-ending sports listicle you’ll read this summer.
5. Ross Taylor ties Martin Crowe’s (and Kane Williamson’s) test century record
A bit like kina or Te Awamutu, Ross Taylor is an under-appreciated national treasure. Taylor’s record-tying innings against the ghost of what was once the West Indies cricket team in Hamilton was a thing of beauty. The 33-year-old is now a master craftsman, whose poise and skill allows him to make the difficult look simple.
4. A kiwi man throws a stone further than anyone else on the planet
Around six years ago it became clear to kiwis that we would soon enough be paying homage to a world (and probably Olympic) champion shot put thrower. Our kiwi hero wasn’t the best on the planet just yet, but the way he was tracking he soon would be. And so it proved. Jacko Gill – a nation salutes you.
Sorry, my producer is saying something in my ear. Oh dear. Apparently the world champion shot thrower is some bloke called Tom Walsh, from Timaru. Never heard of him. But well done anyway.
3. The Black Ferns win the World Cup
Thanks to the English having more money, players, better facilities and nicer tracksuits, kiwi rugby fans got to experience a truly rare thing in 2017: A national rugby team that started a match as an underdog. The British women were meant to be too big, too strong, too polished, too well-drilled, and too darn good at the set piece for our brave Black Ferns to have much of a shout in the World Cup final in Ireland.
That all rather overlooked the fact that England was still England, New Zealand was New Zealand, and this was rugby. Oh, and the Black Ferns had a secret weapon in rampaging hat-trick hero prop Toka Natua.
The Black Ferns didn’t just win, they won in style, producing a tactical and technical masterclass that elevated the standing of the women’s game to unprecedented heights.
2. Tonga beat the kiwis at the Rugby League World Cup
It’s a little odd for a great New Zealand sporting moment to involve the defeat of a national team, but that’s 2017 for you. There’s simply no avoiding the fact that Tonga’s comeback victory over the kiwis in Hamilton was one of the most thrilling moments of the year. Curiously, the kiwis produced their best 40 minutes of the tournament in the first half. They looked slick, professional and far too polished for the Tongans as they eased to a 16-2 half-time lead.
Tonga’s best moment, it seemed, would be when Jason Taumalolo appeared out of nowhere to a genuinely spine-tingling Sipi Tau, after the kiwis had made great yardage up the middle during the haka. Not so. When Tonga’s fightback came, it was swift, mesmerising and utterly unstoppable. Cue scenes, songs, tears, prayers and an avalanche of selfies. If ever there was a sporting moment that underscored New Zealand’s wonderful cultural diversity, this was it.
1. Team New Zealand brings back the Cup
There was no luffing up to windward on the Alcatraz side, extended tacking duels or podgy Yanks cunningly picking the wind shifts while munching on Twinkies. There weren’t even any grinders called Raw Meat. Instead their cyclors, called Simon and Joe, produce a handy surplus of hydraulic power, helped by an X-Box controller, dagger boards, mother boards and leading to the mother of all capsizes. It was the America’s Cup, but not as we’ve come to know it. And it was all bloody good fun, especially the massive ass-whopping Team New Zealand handed Jimmy Spithill (sorry Oracle Team USA) in the Cup match.
With the ghosts of San Francisco Bay now firmly exorcised, relieved kiwis can get down to important business of holding each other to ransom, political grandstanding, flawed economic impact analysis and saving the Waitemata from reclamation.
People of the Year
5. Chris Wood
It’s tempting to think of Chris Wood as the bloke with the dicky hamstring who didn’t play much against Peru, but Sportsroom prefers to think of him as the bloke who came to his nation’s need and scored a hat-trick against Tahiti. Or Fiji or the Solomons or whoever it was the All Whites thrashed to underscore Anthony Hudson’s status as a man with pretty cool stubble.
But all of that rather obscures the fact that Wood cracked the English Premier League in 2017, establishing himself as a bona-fide, world-class striker. For a nation that specialises in egg-chasing, pulling on oars and throwing stones, that’s pretty cool. Especially as, when we do produce a world-class footballer, they’re typically of the clogger, centre-back variety.
4. Portia Woodman
Bloody great rugby player and world champion Portia Woodman was the class individual act of the women’s world cup. A blockbusting winger in the finest kiwi tradition, Woodman somewhat shockingly didn’t turn out to be the key figure in the final victory over England. Or maybe she did. Much of England’s game plan would have revolved around shutting down the uniquely dangerous Woodman. That English focus on getting up quickly and stopping the ball going wide was surely a key factor in the Black Ferns pulling a brilliant tactical switcheroo and smashing the Poms to pieces up the guts, so to speak. Singling out an individual in a team sport is always a little fraught, however there’s no doubt it is the incredible Woodman who young girls will be dreaming of emulating when they grow up.
3. Jason Taumalolo
Whether he’s a cunning turncoat who left his defection from the kiwis to the last minute to maximise the damage and humiliation, or simply a forgetful drunk who had a few too many on Mad Monday, Tipsy Tuesday, Wankered Wednesday, Totalled Thursday and Holy Shit What Day Is It Again Friday, Taumalolo is an outwardly odd selection for a great sporting Kiwi of 2017 guernsey. But Taumalolo put the Rugby League World Cup on the map in this country, and was a huge factor in the crazy, beautiful scenes that ensued wherever the cheerful, charming and breathlessly brilliant Tongans set foot. He inspired a nation, mobilised and uplifted a community and created a groundswell for meaningful change to a sporting landscape in desperate need of transformation. And, like it or not, he is a Kiwi. Born and bred.
2. Jacko Gill
Honourable mention to Tom Walsh. And Brendon Hartley, who missed out on this list due to the writer suffering engine failure / getting sidetracked at the bar on the InterIslander.
1. Peter Burling
All for one and one for all. One ring to bind them. One Halberg award to share.
Not on this watch. As far as Sportsroom is concerned, if you’re the skipper of a victorious America’s Cup boat you’re worthy of a solo bum pat. Hang on, that bloody producer is waffling in my ear again. What do you mean the Aussie guy was skipper? He wasn’t holding the steering wheel was he? What’s a tiller? And what do you mean it doesn’t always work like that? This sounds like mutiny. Helmsman you say? Can we give a bloody bum pat to a helmsman? What does it say in the style guide? We can? Great. Congrats Peter Burling, Sportsroom’s not-quite the skipper athlete of the year.
Children, avert your eyes. There’s a festering corpse in the corner. It seems to have had its heart ripped out by a human hand. Whatever could have happened?
2. All Blacks v Lions
Warren Gatland can’t coach. The Lions backs can’t catch. The touring squad has too many physios and not enough ball-playing midfielders. The schedule is too tough. The All Blacks are just too good. Oh dear.
3. Lydia Ko
A nation turns its lonely eyes to you. At least we would if we knew where to look. Where the bloody hell are ya?
4. Wellington Phoenix
Jesus. Which is both an expression of frustration and woe, and who the Phoenix need to sign to have any hope of succeeding in the A-League.
5. All Whites
We’re on our way, from misery to happiness (and then on to Moscow) today! Oh. Bugger.