Scott McLaughlin v Shane van Gisbergen (Motorsport)

The Kiwi Supercar stars sped past Brendon Hartley's Formula One flirtation as the motorsport story of 2018. But wait, there's more. A lot more.

Making waves...new champ Scott McLaughlin (left) predicts fierce 10-year battle with Kiwi Supercar rival Shane van Gisbergen. Photo / Photosport
Making waves...new champ Scott McLaughlin (left) predicts fierce 10-year battle with Kiwi Supercar rival Shane van Gisbergen. Photo / Photosport

This will be a rivalry well worth following, with neither the typical buttoned-down Kiwi sports personality.

Indeed, McLauglin told the Telegraph they would be "at each other's throats for the next 10 years."

In one of the strangest sports incidents of the year, van Gisbergen jammed McLaughlin in his car at Pukekohe. It was a parking error according to van Gisbergen, but McLaughlin didn't see it that way.

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"Maybe the controversy adds to it," van Gisbergen said of their rivalry.

Sure does.

Warriors v Shaun Johnson (League)

Unfortunately for many die-hard Warriors fans, the 2019 round 18 "home" match against the Sharks was arranged for Wellington just before Johnson's relationship with the club disintegrated.

Then again, many Auckland-based fans may prefer to watch their favourite player turn out against their favourite club from the privacy of their living room.

It will be a game of mixed emotions for many, who were stunned by the mercurial Johnson's dramatic departure.

Shaun Johnson has joined the Cronulla Sharks. Photo / Photosport
Shaun Johnson has joined the Cronulla Sharks. Photo / Photosport

With the Sharks immersed in controversy, Johnson is now being portrayed as a club saviour rather the icing behind a premiership-chasing pack.

Johnson did not downplay the emotional factor about facing his old club.

"I've got some good mates there, some boys I've seen develop into full-blooded first graders that you're around every day for a long time," he said.

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"It's going to be really weird (facing the Warriors) but they're going to be feeling the same.

"They'll be getting stuck into me and I'll be giving as much back."

Sam Gaze v Anton Cooper (Mountain Biking)

The next great race between the feuding Commonwealth Games mountainbikers will, hopefully, be at the Japan Olympics in 2020, but potential prior meeting points include the world championships in Canada this August.

Cooper, currently ranked at nine in the world, and Gaze, who is 16th, will play down their infamous 2018 Gold Coast bust up but the rest of us certainly won't forget it.

Let the games begin...Gaze makes his point as he beats Cooper in the Gold Cost duel. Photo / Photosport
Let the games begin...Gaze makes his point as he beats Cooper in the Gold Cost duel. Photo / Photosport

"We've got two Kiwis now who are - on their day - the best in the world on the mountain bikes...on a perfect day either of us could be Olympic champion," Gaze said, emphasising the need for them to accumulate Olympic qualification points.

Steve Hansen v Joe Schmidt/Warren Gatland (Rugby)

New Zealand and Ireland are the Rugby World Cup favourites, meaning a probable Japan showdown between the departing All Black coach Hansen and Schmidt.

Relationships between Hansen and Schmidt - the leading All Black coaching contender but for his impending retirement - tend to be respectful, but in the World Cup cauldron anything can happen.

Steve Hansen and the All Blacks face a big year in 2019. Photo / Photosport
Steve Hansen and the All Blacks face a big year in 2019. Photo / Photosport

In terms of a spat, there is more potential in the rivalry between Hansen and another Kiwi, Welsh boss Warren Gatland.

The suggestion by the 2017 British and Irish Lions coach Gatland that the All Blacks were deliberately trying to injury halfback Conor Murray will apparently never been forgotten by key Kiwi rugby figures.

Joseph Parker v Junior Fa (Boxing)

They shared the honours in four amateur bouts before Parker zoomed ahead of his fellow South Aucklander as a professional.

The promoters will talk up a storm when it comes to this rivalry, but the prospect of a genuine contest between two Kiwi heavyweight professionals is rare.

There has been growing tension between Junior Fa and Joseph Parker. Photo / Photosport
There has been growing tension between Junior Fa and Joseph Parker. Photo / Photosport

The rival camps will want to make the most of the opportunity so the purse is a sticking point for now.

Even if the fight is unlikely to take place in 2019, the talk will.

Ma'a Nonu v Sonny Bill Williams (Rugby)

One battle for the All Blacks World Cup No 12 jersey will take place within the Blues camp, with the two superstar veterans — average age a mere 35 — lining up for the 2019 season.

The combatants in this midfield selection joust will have the utmost respect for each other but it will be a very different story when it comes to some of the supporters.

SBW is a polarising figure on his own. Throw a revered All Black like Nonu into the mix, and a tinderbox could result.

At least the Blues second five-eighth contenders won't include Rieko Ioane, who will return to where he belongs on the wing in the World Cup year.

Jason Taumalolo v Adam Blair (League)

Ten-test Kiwis forward Taumalolo lead the Mate Ma'a Tonga league revolution which brought the New Zealand team down at the 2017 World Cup.

Kiwis stalwart Blair didn't hold back, slamming Taumalolo for betraying the black jersey.

"I'm passionate about the Kiwis and, for me, I want people that are passionate about the Kiwis as well," Blair said back then.

Blair and Taumalolo tangle on the field, and they've tangled off it as well. Photo / Photosport
Blair and Taumalolo tangle on the field, and they've tangled off it as well. Photo / Photosport

Taumalolo is a certainty for the Tongan team due to play the Kiwis mid-year. If Blair retains his spot, he will be keen to resume hostilities.

Ryan Fox v Danny Lee (Golf)

The most remote rivalry on our list, and not a head-to head deal. But it is very intriguing, nonetheless.

Fox and Lee may play on different golf tours, but are neck and neck in the battle to be regarded as our number one player.

Danny Lee and Ryan Fox are neck and neck for the title of New Zealand's No 1 golfer. Photo / Photosport
Danny Lee and Ryan Fox are neck and neck for the title of New Zealand's No 1 golfer. Photo / Photosport

The Europe-based Fox, who came oh so close to winning the 2018 Irish Open, is ranked at 92. Lee, who plays on the US PGA tour, is just two places behind.

They have reached this point from two very different places - Fox building a solid career beyond some expectations, while Lee lives in the shadow of his amateur brilliance.

Mahe Drysdale v Robbie Manson (Rowing)

Double Olympic gold medallist Drysdale will be facing something more tangible than father time as he tries to get to the 2020 Olympics at the tender age of 41. Rising star single sculler Robbie Manson sits firmly in Drysdale's way.

The veteran has called on old supercoach Dick Tonks to drive his campaign, while Manson is soaking up the lessons he learned in last year's world championship disappointment.

Drysdale won an Olympic selection showdown against the great Rob Waddell in 2008, in a best of three series. But it's advantage Manson this time.

Manson and Drysdale at Lake Karapiro this year. Photo / Photosport
Manson and Drysdale at Lake Karapiro this year. Photo / Photosport

"Mahe's not the only one I've got to race," Manson said during 2018.

Drysdale said there will be trials in 2019 and 2020 and reckoned: "I want that seat back, it's been mine since 2005."

The clash we would have loved to see...Winston Reid v Chris Wood (Football)

West Ham defender Reid's long-term injury means there seems no chance of him lining up against goal-starved Burnley striker Wood on New Year's Eve.

The prospect of two All Whites directly facing each other in the glamour English Premier League is rare indeed. But Reid's return from a wrecked knee is taking much longer than hoped.