The Herald Sport team celebrate the greatest New Zealand athletes from this decade.
McCaw survived the 2003 and 2007 Rugby World Cup disappointments to lead the All Blacks to glory in the next two tournaments. The 2011 triumph was the stuff of legends; McCaw ignoring a broken foot to drive an exhausted All Blacks side home in the final against France at Eden Park. Four years later, his All Blacks fended off South Africa in a semifinal before smashing Australia at Twickenham. No player has had a greater influence on New Zealand rugby. He set incredible standards with the Crusaders and All Blacks, and was among the best on the field in virtually every game he played.
Twenty professional wins, two major titles, 104 weeks at world No 1, US$10 million in career earnings ... but probably the most impressive number is 14. That's how old Ko was when she won the New South Wales Open to become the youngest person to win a professional tournament. It was the start of what has been a remarkable run for Ko which saw her win 15 tournaments on the LPGA in the space of six years, including the Evian Championship and ANA Inspiration, two of the LPGA's five majors. Ko also finished second at two majors and third on four occasions during the run while also winning silver at the inaugural women's Olympic event in Rio. She was named as one of Time magazine's 100 most influential people in 2014, alongside the likes of Beyoncé, Cristiano Ronaldo, Barack Obama and Serena Williams.
The 39-year-old is an IndyCar legend, who won three of his five series titles during the decade. His 46 race victories is the most for current drivers, and third best in history behind the legendary AJ Foyt and Mario Andretti.
Draws are not a sexy sports item. But the All Whites' feat of drawing with Slovakia, Italy and Paraguay at the 2010 Fifa World Cup finals was a fabulous achievement in the global game. The most extraordinary effort came against world champions Italy, where the Kiwis led before Italy equalised through a fortunate penalty. At the centre of it all was Nelsen, the masterful Blackburn Rovers defender with a dominant personality.
Langman is the best netball midcourter of her generation, and has probably surpassed Sandra Edge as the Silver Ferns' finest in that position. The 33-year-old from Hamilton got her due reward in 2019 — a World Cup gold medal at the fourth attempt. She had been absent while playing for an Australian club but was made captain on her 2018 return — that said plenty about her status.
Women's rugby is on the rise in a new era of professionalism and it found a star in Woodman to add that extra sparkle. The 28-year-old was in the World Cup-winning team two years ago and is a XV-a-side gun, but she makes the biggest mark in sevens. Woodman, the daughter of former Northland and All Blacks wing Kawhena, is a try-scoring sensation on the world circuit, where the Black Ferns dominate.
The towering lock couldn't find the necessary drive in his home province Canterbury, but it was a different story once he headed north. Retallick was an instant success with the title-winning Chiefs in 2012 and 2013, and gained immediate All Blacks selection. Retallick brought new skills to lock, notably a fine short pass. The 2014 World Player of the Year and World Cup winner is our finest tight forward since Colin Meads.
Samoa-raised Tuivasa-Sheck, an Otahuhu College standout, bypassed the Blues and Warriors to start his NRL career with the Sydney Roosters. A huge workrate and stunning sidestep emerged as the hallmarks of his game, and the struggling Warriors scored a coup with his signature for 2016. Through troubled times, his performances for the Warriors are exceptional, he took on club and country captaincy at a young age, and is the first Warrior to win the NRL's prestigious Dally M award.
Adams won her second Olympic shot put gold medal in 2012 — after Nadzeya Ostapchuk was drug disqualified — and just dipped out to American Michelle Carter's famous last put in Rio in 2016. A glorious career which started with a 2002 world junior gold was still thriving during this decade. Highlights included a 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games silver shortly after her first child was born.
Dissecting the decade: The best and worst of the All Blacks
Won seven of equestrian's major titles plus three world and Olympic medals during the decade and got to his sixth Olympics, equalling Mark Todd's New Zealand record. It wasn't an entirely happy decade for Nicholson, with the disappointments including an unresolved dispute with the national body and a bad fall which required neck surgery. But the 58-year-old's enduring career and brave return from that horror injury cemented him as a sporting legend.
Sarah Hirini (Goss)
The rugby star was part of the World Cup-winning Black Ferns in 2017 but is best known for driving the sevens side to the top of the world standings during a new professional era. She is the first woman to play 200 games on the world sevens circuit and led the team on a massive winning streak which came to an end in Japan this year. The 27-year-old, who has won Olympic silver and Commonwealth Games gold, has been a key to setting up women's rugby for a prosperous future.
It ended in tears but there was a lot of joy along the way. Kieran Read had Richie McCaw's enormous boots to fill as All Blacks captain after the 2015 Rugby World Cup, and he largely pulled it off. At his finest, he was the best player in the world. He led the All Blacks on a quality rampage before it slowly unravelled leading up to the 2019 tournament. But there was no more dominant New Zealand sports figure during the decade.
At 25, the Timaru builder became the first New Zealand male to medal at the world athletics championships. The Rio Olympics bronze medallist joined Dame Valerie Adams (shot put 2007, 2009, 2011 and 2013) and Beatrice Faumuina (discus 1997) as New Zealanders to win world titles. He's also won two world indoor titles and Commonwealth Games gold and silver.
Hamish Bond and Eric Murray
The rowing duo won a record 69 straight races in the pairs from 2009 to 2016, winning two Olympic golds and eight world championship titles. In a discipline of such technical nous, they have overcome every conceivable doubt in every heat, semifinal and final on every course. Their international dominance in Olympic sport rivalled that of the great American hurdler Edwin Moses. The pair split in 2017, Bond still competing in sport but Murray "golfing and drinking beers".
It took 391 tests but New Zealand cricket finally had a triple century maker when skipper McCullum cut India's Zaheer Khan to the third man boundary at the Basin Reserve in 2014 in an innings which rescued his side from defeat. (New Zealand had got close before, when Martin Crowe was dismissed on 299 at the same ground.) McCullum also led the Black Caps on a magical run to their first World Cup final in 2015 while his approach to the game and strategies were lauded in the cricket world.
The idea of playing in the NBA, one of the most popular sporting leagues in the world, seems simply unattainable for a Kiwi kid. Yet Adams went a step further than fellow NBA Kiwis Sean Marks and Kirk Penney and became one of the big names in the league. He was also the first New Zealander to be drafted in the first round when he was selected 12th by the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2013. He quickly made a name for himself as a centre not to be messed with in the post.
Adesanya's rapid rise towards the end of the decade stands out as a great New Zealand sports story. The immigrant teen from Rotorua was bullied and discovered a passion for mixed martial arts. He quickly took the sport's biggest stage by storm, and beat Robert Whittaker for the UFC middleweight crown this year. He is one of the sport's most exciting and marketable stars, and carries the torch for the burgeoning Kiwi MMA scene.
Wood is New Zealand football's best attacking talent since Wynton Rufer. Since working his way up through a series of loan spells across English football before two impressive seasons with Leeds, Wood finally established himself as a Premier League staple with Burnley.
The sight of Beauden Barrett sprinting towards the tryline in the 2015 Rugby World Cup final to seal the All Blacks' second-straight triumph will be imprinted on every Kiwi rugby fan's mind. It was a thrilling burst of skill and pace that rubber stamped the All Blacks' decade of dominance. The Steve Hansen era will be remembered for its supremacy and ability to thrill fans with an attacking brand of rugby — and no one embodied that more than Barrett.
Steady brilliance with the bat and a glut of centuries puts him in consideration as one of our top three cricketers. Known for his master stroke play with a textbook off drive and iconic moments including "that six" against Australia in the 2015 World Cup pool match, a slog sweep six to seal another dramatic pool play win over South Africa at this year's event and his 242 not out against Sri Lanka at the Basin.
Pascoe has recorded an unbelievable 23 titles in the pool including six Paralympic gold medals this decade after first making a splash at the Beijing Games in 2008. Her five medals in Rio took her total medal count to 15, overtaking Eve Rimmer's eight gold medals and 14 total medals to become New Zealand's most successful Paralympian.
The numbers are extraordinary: 17 world championship medals, 10 of which are gold, two Olympic gold medals and a bronze, three New Zealand Sportswoman of the Year gongs. As the Herald's Michael Burgess wrote: "Carrington has provided the quantum leap; no one has dragged a sport from the basement to the penthouse so effectively, and so rapidly. It's easy to forget, but kayaking was in a parlous state before she emerged." It should carry on into the next decade, starting in Tokyo.
Sonny Bill Williams
Divisive and transcendent, SBW has spent time in three different sports this decade, winning two rugby World Cups, an NRL Premiership and a New Zealand heavyweight boxing title. In a time when we want our athletes to have more of a voice, Williams has done that, most notably with his work following the March 15 Christchurch terror attacks.
Peter Burling and Blair Tuke
The pair have won seven 49er world championships (most recently on home waters) and followed up their 2012 Olympic silver medal with gold in Rio. Burling is among the great tacticians in modern sailing, helming Team New Zealand's recapture of the Auld Mug in Bermuda in 2017. He also won the 2017-18 Volvo Ocean Race bronze and the 2015 moth world championship gold.
After Drysdale's illness-hit 2008 Olympic bronze medal row, there were doubts over his ability to fulfil his single sculls promise. Fast forward 11 years, and the 41-year-old has a couple of Olympic gold medals and could well end up with another piece of silverware at the Games in Tokyo next year.