After what feels like decades, New Zealand beat those pesky Aussies. It's the time of the year when we all tend to look back. In that spirit, here are my unofficial sporting winners of 2019.
The Olivia Newton-John You're The One That We Want award to genius netball coach Noeline Taurua.
As natural, open and exuberant as she is ruthless (the closest Silver Ferns who didn't meet her fitness standards got to the world championships in Britain was watching the games on television here), Taurua may also be a magician. From laughing stocks to champions usually takes a coach years. She did it with the Ferns in 11 months.
The Across The Ditch Cup goes to the Silver Ferns.
After what feels like decades (it was actually 16 years), New Zealand beat those pesky Aussies at last. No, it wasn't easy, but one goal can feel like a hundred when you've been the runners-up the last three times.
In the Aquaman Born To Rule category, please step forward Peter Burling and Blair Tuke.
These guys are so good on a boat that Burling could fall in the water twice and a tiller could break on the last day of the world 49er championships in Auckland, and they still went on to win their fifth title. It's not just that the America's Cup heroes are stunning competitors, but you can also usually rely on Burling to come up with a wonderfully laconic comment. In the harbour twice? "It was a bit annoying."
The Pride Of Ohope title goes again to Lisa Carrington.
She won the K1 200m and 500m at the world championships in Hungary, then ran over and helped the K4 crew qualify for next year's Olympics. Carrington got into the water at the Ohope Beach Surf Club because she "had a bad habit of wanting to hang out with my older brothers and their friends", and there's still more than a hint of that perky, gutsy little kid in the world and Olympic champion we see today.
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The Perpetual Motion prize goes to Ardie Savea.
He won almost everything at the annual rugby awards because he deserved to. Savea managed to not only run like the midfield back he was in the Rongotai College First XV, but he also found the energy to get involved in the dark, dirty work at breakdowns. Having him pack down at No 8 in attacking scrums for the All Blacks never quite gelled as hoped for, but it's such a good idea, it'll hopefully be pursued next year.
The Saint Sebastian award for suffering slings and arrows from every Aussie with an axe to grind goes to Raelene Castle.
Of all the Kiwis living abroad involved in sport, Castle, as chief executive of Rugby Australia, has had the toughest year. She may have got some things wrong, but I'd suggest that if you're dealing with (a) a coach as surly as Michael Cheika (b) a loose cannon as wild and keen on money as Israel Folau and (c) almost daily tongue lashings from Sydney's most popular radio announcer Alan Jones, the fact she's still standing speaks to a very strong backbone.
Quote Of The Year: More evidence to support my theory that props have the most interesting minds in a rugby team. Angus Ta'avao, on being moved in April from tighthead to loosehead prop for the Chiefs, summed it up like this: "Imagine going to the toilet and being right-handed and then you've got to use your left hand."
The Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels Dumb And Dumber Award for cultural stupidity goes to Irish writer Ewan McKenna who, bagging the All Blacks haka at the World Cup, wondered why the world was still "pandering to the dance". Hey, Ewan, we'll stop doing Irish jokes if you stop being a dickhead, okay?
And finally, a moment to pause and reflect on how much we've lost, but how lucky we were to have had sports heroes such as Sir Peter Snell, Dame Yvette Corlett and Sir Brian Lochore. They not only had extraordinary talent in common but also modesty so deep rooted it made time with any one of them at once humbling and precious.