Taking stock of NZ sport's big movers

By Gregor Paul

The sporting year, as always, was 12 months of ups and downs. So who, on the great stock exchange of sport, saw their value rise or fall? The Herald on Sunday sports team give their views on the best and worst.

All Black captain Kieran Read went from being world-class to out-of-this-world class.
All Black captain Kieran Read went from being world-class to out-of-this-world class.

The key to this assessment is the "best-performing" stocks - in other words, those whose star brightened or dimmed the most.

It is not a measure of who is New Zealand's most valuable sportsperson but a look at those whose stocks rose (or fell) by the greatest degree compared to their 2012 performance.

That perhaps handicaps those like Valerie Adams, such a consistent blue-riband performer that she never rises or falls much out of a zone of excellence - though she still rates highly even within that tough point of comparison.

Risers
1. Kieran Read
(Rugby)
He took what could be referred to as the 'Hillary Step' this year. Read went from being world-class to out-of-this-world class. He was rightfully anointed IRB, IRPA and NZ player of the year and he now sits as the one man the All Blacks can't afford to be injured. It is no longer the big two - Richie McCaw and Dan Carter - but now the big three and if Read didn't end the year as the best All Black No 8 in history, he did enough to suggest it is only a matter of time before he will be.

2. Steven Adams
(Basketball)
It was a significant achievement in itself to be the 12th draft pick in the NBA but 20-year-old Steven Adams has justified that decision already, forcing his way on to the full roster at the Oklahoma Thunder. The expectation was that he'd spend the year with the club's feeder team, the Tulsa 66ers. But fate gave him game time and talent enabled him to capitalise. His stats are holding up well and he's winning game time as a result. Adams appears destined to become New Zealand's most successful basketball export.

3. Lydia Ko
(Golf)
She backed up her Canadian Open victory in 2012 and jumped to No 4 in the world with her first professional victory in Taiwan. Golf has had a few teenage shooting stars in the past who have burned brightly only to dim just as quickly. But Ko's dedication and discipline are exemplary, she appears entirely grounded and humble and she's not in it for the money. "I am playing because I love the sport and love being out there," she says.

4. Ross Taylor
(Cricket)
The loss of the national captaincy last year appears to have made Taylor a stronger cricketer. His 217 not out, 16 not out and 129 in this series against the West Indies have been do-as-I-do statements and testament to his maturity as a test batsman. Sure, there have been a couple of dicey moments early but he's becoming a player worth the price of admission on his own, alongside the likes of New Zealand greats Sir Richard Hadlee, Martin Crowe, John Reid and Bert Sutcliffe.

5. Ben Smith
(Rugby)
Let's be honest, no one thought Ben Smith would be a star of 2013. A good, safe back-up option from the bench, for sure. A World Player of the Year nominee? No one saw that. But he deserved it for a season of spectacular contribution where he showed pace, strength, vision, bravery, timing and incredible judgement to score a record eight tries in the Rugby Championship.

6. Val Adams
(Athletics)
What impresses so much about Val Adams is her consistency. There are no peaks and troughs - just sustained world-class shot putting. She won the world championship in Moscow, her fourth world title, making her the most dominant shot-putter in history.

7. Scott Dixon
(Indy cars)
Dixon won his third Indy Cars title with a remarkable comeback. In an eight-day blast in July, he won three races. He still had to claw back a further 49 points on series leader Helio Castroneves, which he did with another victory and a second place. It's a tough title to win - even tougher doing it from so far behind.

8. Sir Russell Coutts
(Yachting)
He may not be the world's most popular man but winning produces its own popularity and Coutts certainly knows how to win America's Cups. Five of them, to be precise. Famously never defeated in an America's Cup series as skipper or helmsman, this time he was in the back office as CEO as Oracle Team USA came up with that astonishing comeback from 8-1 down to win 9-8, silencing his own nation.

9. Sonny Bill Williams
(Rugby League)
It takes a particular talent to be away from a code for five years and finish the first season back as World Player of the Year. Williams was exceptional from his first game for the Roosters, who he helped to the NRL title after the club placed 13th the previous season, through to the World Cup final with the Kiwis. However misguided he can be off the field, he's a phenomenal athlete and ball player and the man has an admirable work ethic.

Lydia Ko is number 3 in Herald on Sunday's list of sport's risers. Photo / Natalie Slade
Lydia Ko is number 3 in Herald on Sunday's list of sport's risers. Photo / Natalie Slade

10. Peter Burlingand Blair Tuke
(Yachting)
The America's Cup beckons; so does the 2016 Olympics. These two young sailors are hardly unknowns any more but their mark on world sailing seems destined only to get bigger. World champions in the 2013 49er class, following their silver medal in the 2012 London Olympics, the pair combined as skipper and tactician in the winning team in the Red Bull Youth America's Cup fought out alongside the big boys in San Francisco this year, a trophy they won comparatively comfortably. They will join the big boys soon; calm and assured sailors with big match temperaments, it is just a matter of time.

11. Zoe Stevenson and Fiona Bourke
(Rowing)
Eric Murray and Hamish Bond remain the country's rowing darlings after cementing a world record 16 straight international regatta victories but Stevenson and Bourke were arguably the bigger risers this year. In their first season as a women's double sculls combination, they took silver at the world championships, pipped by 0.04s in a duel with Lithuania. Stevenson and Bourke sat on the jetty in shock before heading to the dais. It's unlikely to be the last time they make that journey.

12. Lauren Boyle
(Swimming)
Swimming New Zealand grabbed a lifeline with Boyle's three world championship bronze medals in Barcelona. Boyle returned to the pool mentally stronger despite former coach Mark Regan's contract not being renewed in January. Her medals were New Zealand's first at a world championships in 19 years. Her 400m, 800m and 1500m freestyle efforts took the country's tally to eight from four athletes - Danyon Loader, Anthony Mosse and Gary Hurring being the others - in the meet's 40-year history.

13. Marina Erakovic
(Tennis)
A stellar year. Erakovic claimed a WTA singles title in Memphis, the first win by a New Zealander at that level since Belinda Cordwell in 1989. She reached another final in Quebec and also made the third round at Roland Garros and Wimbledon. The 25-year-old finished the year inside the top 50 for both singles and doubles, in the world's biggest female sport.

14. RogerTuivasa-Sheck
(Rugby League)
At the start of last season, Tuivasa-Sheck was a promising young player at Bondi Junction, yet to score a first grade try in a handful of games. He's now an NRL star, with a sidestep to rival Benji Marshall or Brad Fittler in their pomp and a prodigious ability to find the tryline. The 20-year-old was honoured as the Dally M Winger of the Year and the World Cup only enhanced his reputation, especially his two-try performance in the semifinal against England.

Fallers
6. David Tua
(Boxing)
It was the right decision. Tua's retirement after the highly obvious loss to giant Belarusian Alexander Ustinov had to happen. Tua barely fired a shot, looked uncomfortable at the end of Ustinov's long jab and (as he later confirmed) as if his heart wasn't really in it. His was an excellent if frustrating career - all that power, all that durability (he was never knocked out), he beat six world champions but never won a world championship himself. One of our best but his hour never came ...

David Tua stands dejected after losing to Alexander Ustinov. Photo / Getty Images
David Tua stands dejected after losing to Alexander Ustinov. Photo / Getty Images

5. Doug Bracewell
(Cricket)
Bracewell must regret cleaning up after the party at his flat where he cut his foot and missed the first test against England last summer. Since then, he has played three tests and, while a solid toiler in Bangladesh, he's behind Neil Wagner, Trent Boult and Tim Southee in the test bowling pecking order. Bracewell's played 18 tests; in the first nine, he took 37 wickets at 24.05, in the second nine, he's taken 13 wickets at 71.

4. Cory Jane
(Rugby)
He finished 2012 as the best wing in the world but a serious knee injury in a Super Rugby warm-up game saw Jane miss most of 2013. Ben Smith took his place and set a new benchmark for standards. Julian Savea and Charles Piutau played spectacularly well, too, and Jane became the forgotten man, now under pressure to prove he's still the player he was.

3. Cathrine Latu
(Netball)
After being such a formidable presence in previous seasons, Latu almost disappeared without trace in last season's ANZ Championship. As the Mystics lurched from bad to awful to shambolic, recording just one win in the campaign, Latu was one of a clutch of senior players who failed to fire. She bounced back slightly during the Constellation Cup series, gaining extended court time, but was still unable to lift the Ferns to a single win over their main rivals.

2. Joseph Sullivanand Nathan Cohen
(Rowing)
One of Rowing New Zealand's strengths is regenerating talent. The Olympic men's double sculls gold medallists were 'victims' of that policy this year. Sullivan was dropped from the original squad before pottering about Europe in the single sculls during Mahe Drysdale's sabbatical. He is starting afresh next season. Cohen's move into the quadruple sculls failed to secure any European glory before he suffered a heart problem at the world championships. He is taking a break for the time being.

1. Jock Paget
(Equestrian)
Jock Paget was in the form of his life this year. He won Badminton in April, then Burghley in September. That put him on track to pocket close to $500,000 next year if he should win in Kentucky. But it all went wrong in October when his horse, Clifton Promise, tested positive for the banned sedative Resperine. When the B sample came back showing the same result, Paget knew he was facing the prospect of being stripped of his Burghley title. His future is now highly uncertain.

- Herald on Sunday

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