Rotorua athletes excelled in various sporting codes throughout 2018 and you get the feeling some were only just getting started. Here are sports reporter David Beck's 10 local individuals to keep an eye on (in no particular order).
- Tayla Earle (netball)
The 18-year-old, who started secondary school at Rotorua Girls' High School and at the end of Year 10 moved to Auckland to attend Saint Kentigern College, has signed with ANZ Premiership team the Northern Mystics for the 2019 season. Now the real work begins as she fights for a place on the court.
- Kaleb Trask (rugby)
This year was one in which Trask took massive steps in his rugby career. He represented New Zealand at the Under-20 Rugby World Cup, led the Bay of Plenty Under-19s to the Jock Hobbs Memorial title and started the majority of the Bay of Plenty Steamers' Mitre 10 Cup games after Mike Delany was injured. With Delany now retired there should be plenty of opportunities for Trask to further his game this year.
- Anja Jennings (weightlifting/crossfit)
The 15-year-old burst on to the weightlifting scene in September when she broke national records for the snatch and clean and jerk in the under-15, under-53kg girls' division at Secondary Schools Nationals. Two weeks later she beat her own records at the New Zealand Junior Olympic Weightlifting Championships. National talent scouts have taken notice and with aspirations of competing at the Crossfit Games as well, it appears the world is Anja's oyster in 2019.
- Blake Evans (motorsport)
In 2018, at just 14 years of age, Rotorua's Blake Evans joined the likes of New Zealand racing legend Nick Cassidy in becoming one of the youngest winners of the Formula First Winter Series. He has since taken his racing to the next level with a move up to the Formula Ford class. He has shown great maturity during his short career so far and seems destined for greater things.
- Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi (rugby)
In 2018 the former Rotorua Boys' High School student did what every young rugby player dreams of - made his All Blacks debut. An impressive Super Rugby season with the Chiefs saw him shoot up the national halfback rankings. While he did get a lot of game time for the All Blacks, he spent much of the year in camp with them and is in a great position to push for a World Cup spot.
- Lisa Adams (athletics)
Having famous siblings like Valerie and Steve Adams comes with a bit of pressure, but Lisa takes it in her stride. She has a form of cerebral palsy which affects one side of her body, but is willing to try her hand at most sports. Last year she gave para-athletics a go and in her first competitive outing won the shot put and discus at the New Zealand Track and Field Championships. Rumour has it she spent some of the off-season training with Valerie. Watch this space.
- Hayze Perham (rugby league)
Perham made this list last year when, fresh out of Rotorua Boys' High School, he signed an NRL contract with the Warriors. In 2018 he was a dominant force in the Intrust Super Premiership and now, with Shaun Johnson's shock more to Cronulla, Perham is among the frontrunners to replace him in the halves this season.
- James Tauariki (golf)
James has had the potential to be our next great golfer for years, but in 2018 the 16-year-old made national headlines when he scored a 13-under par 57 at Springfield Golf Course, one of the lowest rounds of golf ever seen in New Zealand.
- Sarah Walker (BMX)
Olympic silver medalist Walker has had a horror run of injuries in recent years, but she is letting nothing crush her dream of competing in Tokyo next year. She made her way back onto a world cup podium in 2018, showing she still has what it takes to compete at the highest level, and will face some crucial racing this year in her efforts to qualify for another Olympics.
- Lewis Ryan (triathlon)
Ryan is an accomplished mountain biker, but after competing at Xterra Rotorua early last year he decided to work on his weaknesses and become a more well-rounded athlete. Then, in September, he outraced some classy opposition to finish first at Xterra Taiwan. Keep an eye out for him on more podiums this year.