Chris Rattue runs through the good, the bad and the ugly from New Zealand's sporting year.

Zoi Sadowski-Synnott and Nico Porteous in bronze

Zoi Sadowski-Synnott and Nico Porteous. Photo / Photosport
Zoi Sadowski-Synnott and Nico Porteous. Photo / Photosport

Can we celebrate bronze? Yes we can, when it's 26 years between Winter Olympics medals and a couple of 16-year-olds are on the podium.

Let's face it, a lot of New Zealanders would have trouble describing what a big air and freestyle halfpipe involve. We have a fair amount of snow, but not exactly an avalanche of winter sports stars.

Not to worry. New Zealand finally had a couple more Winter Olympic medals to tuck in the draw, alongside Annelise Coberger's silver from 1992.


A dramatic few hours in the Korean Games produced New Zealand's two youngest Olympic medallists.

Sadowski-Synnott reckoned it was a "pretty crazy feeling". Fellow Wanaka wonder Porteous, who was so nervous he vomited three times atop the course, said he was inspired by news of Sadowski-Synnott's success.

Hockey star Stacey Michelsen's shootout goal

Black Sicks captain Stacey Michelsen celebrates after scoring the winning goal in the penalty shootout against England. Photosport
Black Sicks captain Stacey Michelsen celebrates after scoring the winning goal in the penalty shootout against England. Photosport

New Zealand broke a long run of shootout failures with Michelsen magically flicking the ball over England's keeper to win the semifinal.

It was a memorable duel, with New Zealand bringing on goalkeeper grace O'Hanlon as a specialist shootout saviour-saver.

The Black Sticks went on to smash Australia in the final with chants of "Ki-wi" reverberating around the Gold Coast stadium, and claim gold for the first time.

"I said to the girls, this is the most excited I've been for a game of hockey," captain Michelsen said after the final.

Jonelle and Tim Price (and Otis and Molly) in world domination

Tim and Jonelle Price. Photo / Photosport
Tim and Jonelle Price. Photo / Photosport

Jonelle Price celebrated her Badminton Horse Trials victory by celebrating her winning horse Molly.

The 15-year-old Molly - or Classic Moet to her posh friends - is a bit of a character.

Price wrote: "Molly would, if she were a person, come from Swindon (or West Auckland for our NZ followers), be a couple of stone overweight, have several tattoos, wear a too-tight leather jacket over skintight leopard skin pants, have a boyfriend with an IQ of 10 who is a club bouncer, and four children by four different fathers.

"Molly is a legend but a kind of rock and roll one like Mick Jagger as opposed to the Princess type!"

It was an amazing performance from Motueka's Price, who took sixth months off after giving birth to the couple's first child Otis in August last year.

She also won at Luhmuhlen on another horse, saying the year was "beyond my wildest expectations".

When Tim claimed the Burghley Horse Trials prize it gave the couple three of the sport's top six titles for 2018.

"I'm really just trying to stay up with the missus," Tim reckoned.

Sam Gaze and Anton Cooper's vitriolic mountainbike duel

Sam Gaze. Photo / Photosport
Sam Gaze. Photo / Photosport

Gaze lost the plot during the Commonwealth Games race, giving the finger towards Cooper who had not stopped to help his countryman deal with a puncture.

Gaze, who produced a brilliant fightback to pip Cooper for gold, was no better after the race accusing his compatriot of bad sportsmanship.

"What I portrayed yesterday is nothing short of embarrassing," said an apologetic Gaze later.

It is rare to see such open hostility between Kiwi competitors. There was a tut-tut reaction although the rawness of Gaze's behaviour could be viewed as welcome honesty in an era of heavily contrived responses.

Controversy aside, it was a thrilling race, with Gaze's triumph reversing the result in Glasgow four years earlier.

Tom Walsh in world record territory

Tom Walsh. Photo / Photosport
Tom Walsh. Photo / Photosport

Walsh recorded the ninth best throw of all-time, and the best for 15 years, with a monster 22.67m heave at Waitakere Stadium.

"It's getting closer and closer," Walsh said about the world record of 23.12m set by American Randy Barnes in 1990.

"Every day it gets more and more of a possibility. I just know I've got more up my sleeve still."

Rugby, rugby, rugby...

Gayle Broughton hugs try scorer Michaela Blyde following the end of the Commonwealth Games final. Photosport
Gayle Broughton hugs try scorer Michaela Blyde following the end of the Commonwealth Games final. Photosport

The All Blacks' final quarter comeback from a 13-30 deficit at Loftus Versfeld was extraordinary. The NZ Herald headline 'The great escape - New Zealand break South African hearts' summed it up.

Test rugby is in great heart thanks to contests like this, setting up a fascinating World Cup next year.

Ireland's later victory over Kieran Read's side, while a tough pill to swallow for All Black fans, was among the other fabulous battles, as was New Zealand's fortunate victory over England.

Meanwhile, the Black Ferns' domination of the women's sevens circuit is creating an All Black-like aura around them.

Superstar Portia Woodman revealed internal divisons over previous coach Sean Horan, but the team appears firmly back on track under Allan Bunting.

Silver Ferns angst...

Katrina Grant. Photo / Photosport
Katrina Grant. Photo / Photosport

Captain Katrina Grant hinted at internal ructions during a disastrous Commonwealth Games campaign, saying: "We haven't had the right direction over the last few months."

If coach Janine Southby was on shaky ground before that, her fate appeared sealed at that point.

The drama didn't stop there. Former Silver Fern Jenny-May Clarkson, working for TVNZ, reduced Grant to tears when she said people were questioning the players' pride.

It was a top piece of television which revealed how much playing for the Silver Ferns meant to Grant, although Clarkson copped it in some quarters.

Followed by a glimmer of Silver Ferns hope...

The ship has not been righted, yet, under new coach Noeline Taurua. But a 55-44 victory over Australia in Hamilton broke a nine-match losing streak with star shooter Maria Folau scoring 40 from 41 attempts.

Unfortunately they crashed again in the final Constellation Cup clash in Wellington.

What dark places? Anthony Joshua makes light work of Joseph Parker

New Zealand's Joseph Parker versus England's Anthony Joshua. Photosport
New Zealand's Joseph Parker versus England's Anthony Joshua. Photosport

Kiwi-Samoan heavyweight boxer Joseph Parker said he would go to "dark places" in an effort to beat massive Brit Anthony Joshua in their Cardiff unification showdown.

But Parker fell short, even though he made Joshua go the distance for the first time.
Former champ Lennox Lewis reckoned it "wasn't the scrap I'd hoped it would be but AJ fought well and smart".

Like many others, Lewis felt the Italian referee had been too eager in breaking up the fighters.

Mike Hesson walks

Mike Hesson during a press conference announcing his resignation as Black Caps cricket coach. Photosport
Mike Hesson during a press conference announcing his resignation as Black Caps cricket coach. Photosport

The superb New Zealand cricket coach made a shock departure a year before the World Cup, indicating he was drained.

"I know what's required in the role over the next 12 months ... I don't feel I've got the capacity to give the job what it deserves," said Hesson, who took over in 2012 after rapid-fire coaching changes.

His reign included elevating Brendon McCullum to the captaincy over Ross Taylor, a huge controversy which proved history-turning.

New Zealand won 21 of 53 tests under Hesson, and 65 of 119 ODIs. He departed with New Zealand ranked fourth in all three forms of the game.

Football Ferns uprising...juniors rising

Andreas Heraf. Photo / Photosport
Andreas Heraf. Photo / Photosport

A revolt by 13 Football Ferns led to the resignation of Andreas Heraf, the Austrian who had assumed enormous power in New Zealand football.

Heraf, the country's technical director, had gone against FIFA guidelines in also operating as a national coach, but that was only part of the problem.

A subsequent review by an employment lawyer found widespread problems within the game, and said Heraf had intimidated players and staff with "bullying behaviour".

Far better news followed when the under-17 team won New Zealand's first FIFA medal by coming third in the world tournament in in Uruguay.

Hamilton's Grace Wisnewski scored after just 15 seconds as New Zealand beat Canada in the bronze medal match.

Clanger in the Hanger

The less said about Sonny Bill Williams' return to the boxing ring in this charity fight — billed as the Banger in the Hanger — the better.

Shaun Johnson departs

Shaun Johnson. Photo / Getty
Shaun Johnson. Photo / Getty

The Kiwis shock victory over Australia, with test rookies Joseph Manu and Brandon Smith leading the way, might have been the league story of the year...but then Shaun Johnson struck.

Having been invited by the Warriors to test the market when his $1m-a-year contract ended in 2019, the brilliant but erratic Johnson opted to quit and head to the Cronulla Sharks.

"From our point of view, the sort of money that he was on, I think it's fair to say that it's going to attract some questions about performance," Warriors football manager Brian Smith said.

Johnson said his main goal was to win a premiership.

"[The Warriors are] looking to win a premiership and if they don't see me as worthy of what they were paying me that's fine."

School rugby examination

St Kentigern fans. Photo / Photosport
St Kentigern fans. Photo / Photosport

Auckland's first XV competition erupted in controversy when it was revealed 10 rivals would boycott playing St Kentigern College over that school's luring five players from outside of the province.

Mt Albert headmaster Patrick Drumm said: "This is not what school sport should be about."

His St Kents counterpart David Hodge retorted: "So many young boys and their families want to come to St Kentigern because of the quality of the education that they get here."

Opinions are flying thick and fast, with All Blacks star Rieko Ioane telling the boycotters: "Just because they recruit doesn't mean you pull (the) plug. Don't run from the competition."

Stay tuned in 2019.