Chris Rattue predicts the sporting news stories for 2020.
New Zealand (and Australia) named as hosts of the FIFA Women's World Cup in 2023
You never know with FIFA. You can't rule anything out with that mob. The inspection takes place early next year with the decision to be made in June.
Colombia, Brazil and Japan are the other contenders. Japan might be the favourites – but you can't hold everything in Japan, surely. Fingers crossed.
Sparks flying in the cricket commentating department
Spark's securing of rights to major cricket in this country will change the way it is covered.
For starters, Ian Smith is staying with Sky, which removes one of the game's most influential commentators from a significant part of the action.
Rumours are flying, with the Alternative Commentary Collective - Jeremy Wells and co. – rumoured to be in the frame. The big question: where will stalwarts like Simon Doull fit in? Men like Smith and Doull are central to quality control. That Smith wasn't even approached by Spark is significant. Stay tuned.
Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury drew their previous bout, but there's always a winner in the pay-per-view boxing era: the promoter. The numbers are eye watering, but their re-match set for February will be one of the highest grossing heavyweight clashes ever. Oh yeah – apart from a lot of cash, the winner gets the WBC belt and a likely date with Anthony Joshua. I'm picking a Wilder win.
The America's Cup AC75 boats take to Auckland's waters for their World Series in December, the final precursor to the Big Show in early 2021. In a departure from the recent trend, there will be no points carrying into the America's Cup itself. But there will be a lot at stake, and the series is something of a conundrum. Decent fleet racing will suggest a thrilling America's Cup contest but the possibility New Zealand will lose the prized cup. If Team New Zealand clears off into the distance, the euphoria will come with fears that technology has created a boring, lopsided contest.
Someone else wins a grand slam tennis tournament
Hard to believe at their age, but the Big Three have won all of the last 12 Grand Slams. When it comes to playing best of five sets tennis, Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have got the field covered.
We'll go with the young Greek giant Stefanos Tsitsipas to break the stranglehold. Someone from the younger brigade needs to step up. The one man who has had a bit of Grand Slam success in the past six years, Stan Wawrinka, is sliding.
The great unknown: Andy Murray, coming back from his horrible hip injury, who has been forced to withdraw from the Australian Open.
Eddie Osei-Nketia and Arthur Porritt
The teenage sprinter with rugby aspirations was big news in bursts during 2019. His bid for Olympic glory should be a massive story in 2020. He has the credentials to become just the second Kiwi to make an Olympic 100m final, and the first to break the 10 second barrier. It's a long shot, but if he does make the final Olympic lineup he will join 1924 bronze medalist Arthur Porritt in a rather small Kiwi sprint pantheon. It might also be a chance to reflect on Porritt's amazing life.
Nathan Brown for Stephen Kearney
New Warriors owner Mark Robinson has been publicly blunt about his expectations, and it doesn't bode all that well for coach Stephen Kearney's tenure.
The Warriors targeted a number of players as key signings last year and missed out on the lot, which hardly helped the club's image and prospects.
Among the assistants called in late 2019 was the former Newcastle Knights coach Nathan Brown, ostensibly as a specialist assisting the hookers. But with Kearney on shaky ground, Brown's presence must raise the possibility that he is being lined up to take over as coach. This desk has been told that Kearney will have about six matches to show he is on the right track.
The Warriors start the year against Newcastle Knights (a), Canberra (Eden Park), Manly Sea Eagles (a), Wests Tigers (h), St George Illawarra Dragons (a) and Sydney Roosters (h). On 2019 form they will be lucky to win more than one of those.
One way or other, Ian Foster is going to be big news. In theory, he deserves a bit of leeway as the new All Black coach, as he builds a new side with a new coaching team. A handful of greats have retired from tests, and Brodie Retallick is unavailable in 2020.
But Foster was not a universally popular choice ahead of Scott Robertson, and there was widespread suspicion over the New Zealand Rugby coaching appointment process. Foster needs to hit the ground running against Wales and Scotland. On one hand, their dismal record against New Zealand suggests Foster will get off to a winning start. On the other, poor performances or dare we say it a defeat would put him under huge public pressure.
Captain Not So Fantastic
Naming the All Black captain for the past 15 years has involved little more than sticking out a press release, with reaction at a minimum.Tana Umaga, Richie McCaw, Kieran Read. Easy.
New coach Foster faces a tricky choice between Sam Whitelock and Sam Cane. Whitelock, who turned 31 in October, won't be an automatic selection by the next World Cup.
Cane isn't even an automatic choice now. The previous coaching regime which included Foster used him as an impact forward in the World Cup semifinal loss to England.
Same results with more fanfare and less criticism.
At a guess, that's how Supercars superstar Scott McLaughlin would like the 2020 season to pan out.
The 2019 season could hardly have gone any better for the Kiwi, who wiped out the opposition when it counted, including at Mt Panorama, as he won his second successive title.
But the continual snipes form some opponents took a bit of gloss of his extraordinary defence of the title he first won in 2018. He will be hot favourite to win a third consecutive title, but it's hard to pick how David Reynolds and co. will react.
There are some in Supercars obsessed with denigrating McLaughlin and DJR Team Penske and it's hard to see the hardnosed Aussies quietening down.
If the 2019 world rowing championships are any indication, New Zealand will have a field day on the water at the Olympics.
New Zealand snared four golds, all to the women, in Austria. Grace Prendergast, Kerri Gowler and co. could become household names on their exploits in Japan. And there's a redemption story on offer from Emma Twigg, the single sculler who retired briefly after finishing fourth in Rio.
Shot put star Tom Walsh's place in the New Zealand sports pantheon is already assured. He has won gold in all the right places except the Olympics, and is ranked number one in the world. Should he win this country's first field gold Walsh – our only Olympic field medalist - will reach legendary status.
The Black Ferns did their best to rationalise their Olympic silver medal in Rio, but everyone knows that deep down missing out on gold hurt.
Sarah Hirini, Portia Woodman, Michaela Blyde, Ruby Tui and co. have got back to winning ways under new coach Allan Bunting, even though he took a mysterious break this year. Bunting and Cory Sweeney will be co-coaches in the Olympic year – the last time New Zealand tried that arrangement was for the men's World Cup in 1991 and that didn't turn out too well. But history is made to be broken.
Rugby, rugby, rugby...it is certain to draw a lot of the Olympic attention for Kiwis. The women will be hot favourites, while the men are much better prepared than Rio but face more of a lottery.
Gymnast Simone Biles and swimmer Katie Ledecky will dominate the Olympics
Biles' story goes beyond the mat, perhaps the greatest gymnast ever revealing she was a victim of sexual assault by team doctor Larry Nassar. Her story will always be one of triumph over tragedy, no matter what happens in Japan. It is also a warning, about the need to be ever vigilant about the safety of kids.
Certain swimmers have become synonymous with particular Olympics due to their extraordinary medal hauls and freestyler extraordinaire Ledecky has been handed an added opportunity in that department. No sooner had she won four golds in Rio, Ledecky set her sights on Tokyo. A women's 1500m has been added for these Olympics so she will be gunning for six golds, including two relays. China's Wang Jianjiahe is among the few capable of pushing Ledecky.
Liverpool will win their first Premier League title – even their most cautious fans must feel that this time the lead is already insurmountable. They won the last of their 18 first division title 30 years ago – hard to believe. The new Premier League competition was introduced in 1992.
Steven Adams will finally pull on the black singlet
Yes, we're going bold with this one. It's a risky call because our only current Kiwi NBA player has held out for a long time, supposedly over perceived ill-treatment in this country early in his career.
It's an all or nothing Olympic moment for the Oklahoma City Thunder centre, as new Tall Blacks coach Pero Cameron prepares a team for the June qualifying tournament in Serbia (after the NBA season). Cameron is a giant of Kiwi basketball – his presence will surely be a lure. Maybe Adams' sister Valerie - the Olympic shot put legend - could put in a call as well.
Tiger Woods goes close to winning a 16th golf major…
…but doesn't add to his tally, despite his amazing feat in the Masters last year. There are still question marks over whether his battered body can last the distance. At 44, it will be a massive ask. But if anyone can, Tiger can….and if he does, it will probably be at Augusta again.
Sonny Bill Williams makes the news
Even based in Toronto, where he is playing for the local Super League side, he's more than capable of generating a few headlines down under. If he does decide on a return to international league, we're picking it will be for Samoa against England in Sydney rather than with the Kiwis. SBW loves a cause, and the promotion of Samoan and PI sport is a worthy one.