When I run a quick comb to flick away the unkempt fringes from the eyes of sport, only one thing puts the face of the year 2017 in a frame for me.

It wasn't the revitalising tour of the British and Irish Lions in New Zealand, Sir Colin "Pinetree" Meads falling, the uprising of the minnows from the South Pacific Islands in the Rugby League World Cup, championing the elevation of the female status through the rampant Black Ferns or, for that matter, elite American sportspeople kneeling during their national anthem in defiance of Donald Trump's presidency and his political prejudices.

Oh, don't get me wrong here. They all are potently significant turning points of the year and justifiably demand chapters of their own in defining the parameters of the rules of engagement, not just in volatile sporting arenas but society.

The reality is sport always guarantees reaching some turning point where, ironically, once the dust settles, the infusion of morality puts everything in perspective.


No, for me it was something less provocative — even banal to the extent that it would go by unrecognised as rest and rotation (R&R).

It's the strength and the commitment of the country's two flagship teams' coaches to stray outside their comfort zones to embark on a journey of growth.

Just as All Blacks coach Steve Hansen did in rugby, Black Caps coach Mike Hesson has begun to experiment more and more with players on the "fringe of selection".

This signals not just a turning point of lessons learned but actually providing a platform of transparency into the future.

In a world fixated purely on results, it's quite easy to overlook the importance of establishing a template that can transport not just a team but an entire code into higher echelons.

With social media trolls daily depositing their uncensored 10c worth, it can't have been easy for coaches of their ilk to take the plunge, as it were, into the pool of uncertainty

The risk of losing is ever present in the international arena where defeats could take the gloss off end-of-season global and national accolades, never mind curtail the gestation phase of lucrative individual contracts.

Dare I say it, embracing the ritual may not necessarily have been a lightbulb moment but more an expedient exercise to ensure there isn't a mass exodus of a pool of talent.


When talent comes to the fore it is only typical that people harbour an innate desire to elevate the status of players they feel deserve a place in a team, perhaps more than the incumbents.

Whether it was through injury or R&R, a rash of players was put on the conveyor belts of the All Blacks and Black Caps' assembly lines to see if they were good enough to be part of a sum that has the propensity to make the whole hum uncontrollably.

It goes without saying the final sleek design of a team is always the prerogative of the mentors.

Black Caps coach Mike Hesson has dared to experiment with players on the
Black Caps coach Mike Hesson has dared to experiment with players on the "fringes of selection". Photo/Photosport

Of course, not every model of the All Blacks and the Black Caps got rave reviews but, needless to say, Hansen and Hesson and their support crews have been able to see things with a lot more clarity.

Perhaps, more significantly, they have been able to shut up unsubstantiated rhetoric on how someone or other should open batting or bowling or play at first five-eighth or fullback.

It was obvious to many that Central Districts Stags opening batsman George Worker deserved a start at home even last summer but his exploits this season lend credence to that assertion.

Hesson also opted for Auckland Aces batsman Colin Munro for a more aggressive opening approach and that has come to pass, too, albeit it against mediocre opposition from the West Indies.

Further analysis is required now to ascertain if the pair are more versatile.

For me, Worker shows a level of comprehension in the white-ball format that demands exposure in test cricket whereas Munro comes across as someone who is trying to catch the eye of international T20 talent scouts, although Hesson and his co-selectors may argue it's simply a case of yin and yang to unsettle bowlers and take the shine off the ball.

The argument of earning the right when you're putting the numbers on the board also surfaces, which takes us to Jesse Ryder.

To suggest players should keep carving runs and taking wickets if overlooked for national duties is frankly unreasonable and grossly unfair, especially in cricket.

The fine line between national honours and "unlucky" is quite often having the opportunity to showcase one's skills.

In rugby, Damien McKenzie appeared to be the people's choice but, physically and technically, came up short with the ABs despite his raw talent so the question is where next for him?

On the flip side, Reiko Ioane excelled as a winger but will Hansen put him in the midfield where the Aucklander believes he can be most potent?

That's why 2017 will go down as the year of evolution for me.

You see, change can cause discomfort but in the pursuit of growth nothing is more demoralising than inertia.

No doubt, Hansen and Hesson will be mindful that growth and comfort make odd bedfellows so bring on 2018 with the promise of untold dynamism.