It's always a challenge at this time of year to condense a year's sport into a few paragraphs.
So much has happened during 2019 in Northland's sporting sector with so many athletes rewarded for their efforts on a regional, national and international scale and they deserve their due recognition.
Out of all of Northland's sporting success this year, I think the Northland Farah Palmer Cup (FPC) women's rugby team and Northland's women's rugby programme should be highlighted as one of the highest achieving of 2019.
Turning the clock back about three years, senior women's rugby in Northland had all but dissolved, with the only signs of success in the women's game coming from age-group touch teams who have consistently performed at a high level on the national stage.
However, thanks to the efforts of Northland women's rugby stalwarts and Northland Rugby Union women's rugby development manager Scott Collins, a senior competition made a comeback this year as well as under-18 and under-15 competitions.
While the competition's seven teams (Te Rarawa, Kaikohe, City, Kamo Hawks, Horahora, Dargaville, OB Marist) certainly had their struggles with player numbers, the games were well-contested and they built a solid base from which to launch into Northland's first ever FPC campaign.
With former Black Ferns Cheryl Smith and Susan Dawson as coaches and current Black Ferns hooker Te Kura Ngata-Aerengamate as captain, hopes were high for the fledgling team as they entered the championship division.
Lofty goals of winning the competition were soon brought down to earth when the Kauri suffered losses to Hawke's Bay and Otago .
However, the Northland women were victorious in what would have been the best game across the men's and women's competitions for Northland, with a last-minute Krystal Murray try sealing the 27-21 victory over North Harbour at Whangārei's Semenoff Stadium in September.
Sports academy mooted for Whangārei's decrepit Jubilee Park
I can all too easily remember the elation and ecstasy of the Northland players as the realisation slowly grew that they had achieved the region's first ever win in New Zealand's domestic women's rugby competition.
The squad clearly weren't keen to let that winning feeling subside as they went on beat Tasman and Taranaki twice in a four-game unbeaten run , which saw them qualify for a semifinal against game-one foes, Hawke's Bay.
Even though the Kauri couldn't advance to the final , their appearance in the semifinal indicated the huge potential that exists in Northland women's rugby.
After their limited preparation in what was perhaps an initiative one year too early, the Kauri flew the Northland flag proudly in the FPC this year, despite the geographic isolation and lack of resources they were faced with.
Their success pays testament to what makes Northland such a rich source of sporting talent and it's what makes Northland women's rugby one of the highlights in 2019.
However, with the positive always comes negative and sport is no exception. One investigation of note this year regarded the demise of Northland's former home of rugby league, Jubilee Park.
The Whangārei sports ground has been a regretful stain on the local rugby league community for a long time and hearing of its slow degradation to become a refuge for the homeless was truly saddening for all those who played and watched games there.
Fortunately, there happened to be some light at the end of the tunnel as plans to turn the property into a sports academy for the next generation were publicly discussed and seemed to gain real traction over the three-part series.
For me, the park has always been an eyesore and anything that could turn the facility into something useful for the sporting youth must be preferred, even if it means leaving some of Jubilee Park's history in the past.
Speaking of rugby league, the Takahiwai club announced themselves as the team to beat in 2020 as they went through the 2019 competition unbeaten and claimed the premier title after a thrilling final against the Otangarei Knights.
League's premier competition in Whangārei certainly suffered this year with teams often struggling for players and in some cases, forfeiting matches. Lets hope in 2020, organisers find a solution to this ever-growing problem.
Three personal profiles stood out this year as quintessential Northland stories. Steve York with his inspirational efforts on a bike , including a 33-hour, four lap trip around Lake Taupō, told of a person's true mental and physical ability.
Woman rugby player Bron Hames spoke bravely of her struggles with depression and suicide to emerge one of Northland's most valuable assets for the Kauri.
Northern Districts Cricket employee Kea Perene also broke new ground as she became the first in the country to teach cricket through te reo Māori in schools such as Waipapakauri's Paparore School.
All three individuals are remarkable in their own right, their achievements speak for themselves. However, it is the humility with which they go about their business which makes all those they come into contact with, fully appreciate the legacy they are creating.
And as always, Northland's youth consistently stood out above the rest this year with many examples to quote from.
While I'll endeavour to do a '10 athletes to look out for in 2020' piece in the coming days, the likes of Bella Earl , Gabi Hislop , Tom Robinson , D'Artagnan Gould, Kingiteahuahu Tana , Grace Christey , Ryan Townsend , Maddy Gordon , Oliver White , Riley-Jack Vette-Blomquist and Luke Brooke-Smith were just a fraction of the hugely successful young athletes Northland saw this year.
The importance of nurturing this talent was made abundantly clear by Bernard Goodhue, a father to a very successful rugby family.
With particular relevance to rugby, Goodhue enforced that the youth is key and if we lose them from sport at an early age, we will find it extremely tough to bring them back.
In my mind, he's bang on. The more sport and activity we can expose our children to, provided it is in a positive and encouraging environment, the more likely we will avoid the dim-looking future some sports currently face.
A special mention must be made for regular contributors to the Northern Advocate sporting pages.
Sport Northland chief executive Brent Eastwood, with his column 'Sport Thought', Gwen Lawson with her weekly bowls column, Bill Colgan's racing coverage and Julie Paton's swimming reports have been invaluable assets to the sport section and their contributions along with others can not be appreciated more.
Thank you to all those who read these weekly opinions in 2019. While writing news stories is fantastic for getting across the accomplishments of our sportspeople, opinion pieces are an important way to speak candidly about the issues we face on a regional and national level.
2020 promises to be just as rewarding for Northland's sporting stars as 2019 has been, so make sure you switch back on in the new year to keep up with all things Northland sport.