Year in review: Top 10 sporting faux pas

By Dylan Cleaver

It has been a vintage year for New Zealand sport but it hasn't all been plain sailing.
Photo / Richard Robinson.
It has been a vintage year for New Zealand sport but it hasn't all been plain sailing. Photo / Richard Robinson.

It has been a vintage year for New Zealand sport, highlighted by the Rugby World Cup win and capped off this week by the Doug Bracewell-inspired comeback test win over Australia. But it hasn't all been plain sailing. Here Dylan Cleaver lists his Top 10 sporting faux pas of 2011.

1. Zac Guildford's year

After a promising start to his campaign with the Crusaders, Guildford's season went pear-shaped in the Super 15 final and after that 2011 snowballed into one long series of misjudgments.

First there was his selection in the World Cup squad ahead of the better credentialled Hosea Gear and Sitiveni Sivivatu. His selection owed much to his enthusiasm for holding tackle bags in training, but his second horror night at Suncorp Stadium in a matter of weeks, this time in the Tri-Nations finale was ample evidence the selectors had got too clever for themselves.

Rumours about his alcohol-infused behaviour after the test swirled until he was paraded in front of the nation to offer what turned out to be a half-hearted mea culpa.

(Cory Jane and great mate Israel Dagg would soon take the heat off him with their night on the Takapuna tiles).

His World Cup was reduced to one fairly spectacular outing against a poor Canadian team, but the 'fun' didn't end there. Rather it ended in police custody in Rarotonga after a bizarre series of beer and tequila-fuelled escapades, of which he was incredibly fortunate to "escape" without being charged.

If Guildford's misguided ways can be put down to a binge-drinking and maturity problem, what excuse have the New Zealand Rugby Union got for such an appalling lack of judgment to cap off this sorry saga?

Guildford's sanction for his ridiculous, image-damaging behaviour - a one-week suspension from the 2012 Super 15. That'll learn him.

2. Dude, where's my career?

Corey Webster was on the cusp of something pretty promising. He was a member of the Tall Blacks and the owner of a coveted spot on the roster of the Breakers, New Zealand's best-run professional sporting franchise.

Then one night at a party he, as his story goes, had a couple of puffs on a mate's roll-your-own ciggie.

Problem, it contained Kronic, the notorious "herbal" high. Big problem, he tested positive following the Breakers' semifinal win over Perth. Biggest problem, it was his second offence, having already tested positive to cannabis in 2010, a "mistake" that saw him miss the world championships in Turkey.

Now he is in the midst of a 12-month suspension and has seen his contract with the Breakers terminated.

On a general scale of bad-ass behaviour, Webster's ranks pretty low, but the fact remains, he's either committed to being a professional sportsman or a chilled-out party boy.

In New Zealand, basketball and marijuana used to go together like bacon and eggs. Webster's sad case is a wake-up call to all those who think they can combine hoop dreams and pipe dreams.

3. Terry Serepisos and the Phoenix

The match made in heaven. The property magnate with a passion for soccer, the city that fancies itself as the country's sporting capital.

It all started so well, too, until about the time Serepisos decided that making The Apprentice was a good idea.

Things started going south pretty rapidly from that point onwards. Serepisos' millions dwindled away, as did his credibility as owner of the A-League franchise. The Wellington Phoenix's ability to strengthen a flimsy squad was taken away and the crowds started figuring out what most critics never had the guts to point out: that Ricki Herbert's side played a really unattractive brand of soccer.

There's a new consortium in charge now and the future looks brighter than it did six months ago. They are also showing a nice patch of mid-season form on the pitch.

4. Kiwis' Four Nations campaign

It started with a pre-tournament thumping at the hands of the Kangaroos in Newcastle, an effort only notable for Issac Luke's callous cannonball tackle on Sam Thaiday (to be fair, Thaiday knows a thing or two about cheap shots). It would not be the last time Luke's tackling came under scrutiny during a campaign brightened only by a win against the Welsh.

With Stephen Kearney's Parramatta spending a long time rooted to the bottom of the NRL in 2011, you could safely say this was not the highly regarded Kiwi coach's finest year.

5. Silver Ferns snatch defeat in Singapore

Just when you thought the dramatic Commonwealth games finale in 2010 signalled an end to the Ferns' habit of losing important games to Australia in sickening ways, along came the Singapore world champs.

Leading late in the game and in possession, a goal would surely have sealed a fourth crown. Instead, captain Casey Williams threw a bizarre short bounce-pass that was intercepted.

It wasn't a nice way for Ruth Aitken to bow out, but you had to wonder why she didn't replace her captain who was clearly struggling with injury late in the match.

6. Swimmers sink

Trouble in the boardroom, trouble on the pool deck and poor form in the water.
Another pretty ordinary year for the sport.

7. NZ talk up their chances ahead of the Gabba

Sometimes you're damned if you do, damned if you don't. For years we've asked our cricketers to play with more confidence, to take with them some Australian braggadocio to the crease.

So they talked themselves up ahead of the first test against Australia at the Gabba and were caught with their pants around their ankles after two horrible top order collapses.

Cue much "you've got to walk the walk before you talk the talk" criticism.

Chastened by their gruesome nine-wicket loss, New Zealand slunk down to Tasmania and that test went a whole lot better.

8. Alas, Williams & Williams

The All Blacks had done a pretty good job. They were humble, professional and fully deserving of the Webb Ellis Cup that was surely headed their way in a few days time.

Then the Williams - Ali and his sidekick Sonny Bill - took the stage and proceeded to make a mockery of a foreign journalist's well-intentioned question by talking for each other, before engaging in a few barbs with TV3's Jim Kayes.

There's a certain section of the population whose brains have never fully formed that believed it was hilarious; the apogee of off-the-cuff humour; the perfect antidote to the sterile format of a press conference; and comeuppance for journalists who ask the same questions over and over again (ignoring the fact the top-table press conference was the NZRU's idea, not the media who generally cannot stand the format any more than the players).

The majority recognised the behaviour for what it was - immature and conceited.

9. Mystics stuff up their subs

There is a nagging feeling that when it comes to the big stand-up-and-be-counted moments in netball, Australians get it right more than New Zealanders (see also No 5).

Never was this more in evidence than in the ANZ Championship final, when the star-studded Mystics were trying to break the Australian franchises' stranglehold on the tournament.

The unbeaten Firebirds were clinging to a two-goal halftime lead and the Mystics had the momentum. Then it all went horribly wrong.

Promising defender Kayla Cullen called a timeout after cramping and coach Debbie Fuller opted to bench her. The folly of that decision was immediately obvious as the 1.83m Rachel Rasmussen was powerless to stop the 1.96m shooting machine Romelda Aiken.

Five quick goals later and the Mystics knew they had to get Cullen back on but in a terrible error, Silver Ferns defender Anna Scarlett called the timeout. Having called the second injury break of the quarter, Scarlett had to leave the court.

By the time the Mystics managed to manipulate their intended lineup back on to court, the Firebirds had an unassailable nine-goal lead.

10. The Fouhy-Ferguson saga

Not Sparc's finest hour, or Ben Fouhy and Ian Ferguson's for that matter.

After some exhaustive work last year, a plan was put in place to keep Fouhy in the sport. It essentially meant his funding would be ring-fenced and he would not have to work with national coach and Olympic legend Ferguson. In the language of divorce, these two had irreconcilable differences.

However, there was some justified backlash against the selection criteria for Fouhy and then everyone, from Canoe Racing New Zealand to Sparc, seemed to freak out.

Fouhy lost his ring-fenced funding in spurious circumstances and quit the sport, only to return under his own steam later in the year.

It was an ugly, avoidable situation that spilled from 2010 into this year and has hopefully disappeared for good ahead of 2012 and a certain event in London.

- NZ Herald

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