After the lord mayor's show, it is said, comes the dust-cart. On that basis, New Zealanders approached this sporting year with some trepidation. 2011 had been a halcyon 12 months, highlighted by victory at the rugby World Cup, a test cricket win in Australia, and the Breakers' breakthrough triumph in an Australian club competition. After all those glittering and long-sought prizes, could the only way be down?
As it transpired, there was no need to worry. This year was, in many ways, the equal of its predecessor. The All Blacks went from strength to strength, a final hiccup against England at Twickenham notwithstanding, the Breakers repeated their feat and were joined by the Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic netball team, a rare test victory was achieved by the Black Caps in Sri Lanka, 15-year-old Lydia Ko emerged as a golfing phenomenon and, best of all, New Zealand enjoyed arguably its most successful Olympics.
World Cup-winning rugby teams have made a habit of letting their standards slip in the year following their victory. Inevitably, some players retire, and there is a sense of let-down after the ultimate triumph.
The All Blacks lost a few players, perhaps most notably Jerome Kaino and, eventually, Sonny Bill Williams, but there was absolutely no let-up in their standard or intensity. The introduction of a new coach, Steve Hansen, and some exciting young players played a key role as the All Blacks comfortably won the new Rugby Championship and went undefeated for 20 tests. The stumble against England and an earlier draw with Australia were sharp reminders, however, of the dangers of complacency, fatigue and occasional frailty among the forwards.
The excellence of the All Blacks was matched by key members of the London Olympics team. A haul of 13 medals - six golds, two silvers and five bronzes - spoke volumes of sports people making light of the often significant gulf between themselves and their rivals in financial support and training facilities. In a rowing team that won three golds and two bronzes, Hamish Bond and Eric Murray were boat lengths better than their nearest rivals, and Mahe Drysdale finally confirmed his status as the world's best single sculler. The task for rowing now is to meet the high level of expectation that will accompany it to the Rio Olympics.
London also unveiled a new star in canoeist Lisa Carrington. The manner in which her gold medal was achieved and celebrated was astounding for one relatively new to sport at the highest level.
The story of the Games for New Zealand, however, was that of Valerie Adams. She confirmed her standing as the world's best female shot putter but only after tasting unexpected defeat on the day of competition. Suspicions about the performance of Nadzeya Ostapchuk soon proved well founded when she was declared a drugs cheat. Somehow, Adams' gold seemed all the sweeter.
The year did, as usual, have its share of disappointments. The All Whites' apparently straightforward route to the Confederations Cup evaporated in the heat of the Pacific. High hopes were also held for the Warriors under new coach Brian McClennan. They failed to come to fruition and he was gone before the end of the rugby league season.
But no fall was as dramatic, or as undeserved, as that of Ross Taylor from the captaincy of the Black Caps. Having just orchestrated test success in Sri Lanka, he was axed for no discernible reason and in a manner that cast doubt on the ability and integrity of those running the game. It was a sour note on which to end a year of so much success.