It is the season to be jolly...some of the time. Who has got it, who ain't.
Who will we all be talking about this time next year?
All Black sensation Rieko Ioane. It's his time, 2017 told us that. He's not magical in the David Campese sense — Ioane is more a bigger version of the muscular South African greyhound Bryan Habana. If only Habana had operated in a more creative team, instead of being reduced to a kick-chasing and intercept hunting. Ioane will do that and a lot more.
What will we all be talking about this time next year?
The All Blacks' shaky-looking defence of the World Cup. There are a lot of danger signs and you don't even have to look hard to find them (try a forward pack falling apart, injury wise). Stand by for a nervous nation.
Is Australian wonder Steve Smith cricket's finest test batsman behind Donald Bradman?
He has gone a long way to making that case, a total surprise for a former leg spin bowler. He's not only continuing a long line of outstanding Aussie captains/batsmen - Chappells, Border, Waugh, Ponting, Clarke - but surpassing them.
Where will optimism meet its match in 2018?
Women's rugby. The feel good factor stemming from the Black Ferns is heartening for women's sport in general. But I suspect even the players know the realities, that a sort of paid amateurism is the limit. The line "still a lot of work to be done around the commercial viability" sticks out, from stories in the last few days about a possible professional competition.
Where will pessimism meet its match?
The Blues...seriously. Stop laughing.
Will it just be more of the same in tennis?
Is Roger Federer going to go on forever? He's still ranked at two (behind over-30 Rafael Nadal) at the age of 36. Not that the Fed gives a stuff about the rankings anymore. He's staying in the moment, and still has an extraordinary amount of good ones.
Shock resignation prediction...
Steve Tew will decide to step down as head of New Zealand Rugby, not that he will let the cat out of the bag in 2018. The hard working Tew will leave the high pressure job after the 2019 World Cup (just a hunch). Tew is an iron man, but rugby needs freshening up.
Will new CEO Raelene Castle "fix" Australian rugby?
Sorry, and with all due respect, I don't quite get the Raelene Castle thing. Kiwi Castle certainly didn't "fix" the Bulldogs league club, far from it. Netball hardly took a great leap forward when she was the New Zealand boss — it actually went backwards in both wider appeal and results particularly via a dog of a trans-Tasman competition. Breaking the glass ceiling is brilliant and worth celebrating in itself, but Castle doesn't have a lot of runs on the board. Australian rugby is fractious and Castle didn't show a lot of political savvy at the Bulldogs.
Which outside All Black prospect will make a World Cup case the selectors cannot ignore?
Crusaders centre Jack Goodhue.
Will the Commonwealth Games grab the public?
This gathering of nations with few real links is a play thing of the old guard, an anachronism and a bit of a yawn. But Kiwis love Kiwis who win, and the Gold Coast helps considerably. Our time zone, our people.
Who is the world's best footballer?
FIFA voters are obsessed with Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, but give me Belgium and Manchester City's creative midfielder Kevin de Bruyne any day. Every match is his stage.
Who will win the World Cup in Russia?
See above. Belgium — their group is so weak they are certain to make the knockout stage. Then again (cue Jaws music)...Germany. A Germany v Belgium final sounds good.
Can the Wellington Phoenix be saved?
No. They are dog tucker. Give the A-league licence to Auckland City. If an A-league team fails in Auckland for a third time so be it. Auckland have the near-perfect coach waiting — Spaniard Ramon Tribulietx knows the New Zealand scene, what players from this country can and cannot do. The Phoenix have lost any identity they had, and Wellington doesn't even have a remotely suitable stadium for A-league games. Get cracking, Aussie football bosses.
Can the Warriors be saved?
Highly unlikely. They are in a permanent tail spin. The Auckland-based-NRL club is obligated to find local talent, but the very best local talent is best advised to join Australian clubs. The day has long gone when the Warriors had a chance of attracting the very best Aussies. They might enjoy the odd reasonably good season when things fall into place, but never anything startling or permanent. All very disappointing...and expect more of the same in 2018.
Will Brendon Hartley move through the F1 field?
Hartley was the most surprising and exciting Kiwi sports story of 2017, doing enough with Toro Rosso late in the year to win a permanent Formula One call-up for 2018. Toro Rosso have belatedly teamed up with engine makers Honda, who split from battling McLaren, and there will surely be teething issues. That is tough on Hartley. Then again, expectations aren't high so he might get added breathing space.
Are you sick to death of Shane "Warnie" Warne stories (apparently) detailing amazing escapades such as bar room conversations?
A leading question.
Who would you most like to salute from New Zealand sport?
People like Hartley, Chris Wood (English Premier League) and Steven Adams (NBA), for making it at the highest level in professional sport. They are beacons for sports diversity in RugbyLand. Adams is enjoying something of a performance revival with the Oklahoma City Thunder, even though the team is struggling to meet expectations. Wood has made a promising start in the EPL at Burnley, the over-achievers who are thriving on the merest hint of a goal. Put it this way, Burnley score a lot less than Warnie (I think).
Who have I forgot?
Joseph Parker - too much bluster comes out of the Parker camp.