When it comes to sport, Rotorua athletes, teams and clubs are always pushing the envelope. 2019 was another year in which they reached for the stars. Sports reporter David Beck ranks his favourite moments.
1. Bay of Plenty Steamers beat Hawke's Bay in the Mitre 10 Cup Championship final
In the words of The Four Seasons; 'Oh what a night'. Everything came together for the Steamers in 2019, they thrilled fans with electric performances and high-scoring wins all season before showing grit and determination to beat Hawke's Bay 12-7 in front of a raucous Rotorua crowd in the final.
2. Lisa Adams wins gold at the World Para Athletics Championships in Dubai.
In March, Lisa Adams announced herself to the athletics world by breaking the women's para shot put world record. In November, she secured her place in history when she re-broke her own record and claimed gold at the World Championships in Dubai. It marked a rapid rise for the athlete who has never let her left hemiplegia, a form of cerebral palsy that affects the movement and growth of muscles on the limbs of one side of her body, stop her chasing her dreams.
3. The Silver Ferns win the Netball World Cup
Rotorua's Noeline Taurua took over as Silver Ferns coach in August 2018 - 11 months later she had led them to their first World Cup title in 16 years. Those 11 months were scattered with crucial moments and important decisions which shaped the trajectory of the side. It was a remarkable turnaround considering the Commonwealth Games capitulation in 2018.
4. Rotorua Aces make epic comeback in Intercity final
It was the stuff any script writer would be proud of. The Rotorua Aces showed pure fighting spirit and nerves of steel to win an extra-time shootout against Mount Maunganui, after trailing 3-0 at halftime but fighting back to 3-all at the end of normal time.
5. Sam Cane recovers from broken neck
In October 2018, the nation held its collective breath when Reporoa's finest export Sam Cane went down with a severe neck injury against South Africa. He had two vertebrae fused together and wrapped in metal before spending six months on the sidelines. He made his return for the Chiefs earlier this year and very nearly turned their season around before playing for the All Blacks at the World Cup. While the result of that tournament did not go to plan, the fact that Cane was even there, fully fit, was remarkable.
6. Lisa Carrington wins double gold at Canoe Sprint World Championships
Lisa Carrington is an unstoppable force and she demonstrated it again when she won World Championship gold in the K1 200m and 500m in Szeged, Hungary. It was her seventh successive gold in the K1 200m. Bring on the Olympics.
7. Luuka Jones wins her first Canoe Slalom World Championship medal
Another Bay of Plenty paddler Luuka Jones realised a decade-long dream when she claimed bronze in the K1 final at the Canoe Slalom World Championship in Spain. The result was also crucial in that it guaranteed her selection for the Tokyo Olympics.
8. Māori All Blacks host Fiji at Rotorua International Stadium
With one loss to the Flying Fijians, there was no better place for the Māori All Blacks to redeem themselves than the home of Māori rugby in Rotorua. They did just that at Rotorua International Stadium, producing a 26-17 win in front of a 13,404-strong crowd.
9. Edwards makes dream trail-running debut at Tarawera Ultramarathon
There is nothing quite like the atmosphere at the finish line of the Tarawera Ultramarathon and this year we witnessed a super-human effort from Australian Reece Edwards, who finished the 102km race in 8h 22m 51s to win what was his first trail-running ultramarathon. There were many highlights on the day as people from all walks of life ticked off their own personal goals.
10. Rotorua's Kiriwaitingi Rei appointed to Bay of Plenty Rugby board
Rounding out my top 10 is an appointment off the field which made history. Kiriwaitingi Rei became an independent director on the board - the first time in the 108-year history of the union that a woman has become a board member. It was a clear sign of changing times in Aotearoa and will pave the way for women nationwide to continue breaking glass ceilings.