When it comes to sport, Tauranga athletes, teams and clubs are always pushing the envelope. This year was another in which they reached for the stars. Bay of Plenty Times' sports team - Kristin Macfarlane and David Beck - rank their favourite moments.
1. When the Black Caps didn't lose the Cricket World Cup:
The 2019 ICC World Cup final between the Black caps and England is undoubtedly a sporting moment that will go down in history as one that united the nation in both shock and pride. It was a thrilling final which resulted in both teams scoring 241 runs and both scoring 15 in the super over shootout. New Zealand's didn't lose the final, but they didn't win either. It was England that were crowned world champs decided by the team that scored the most boundaries but the achievement of making that final - and technically being equally the best cricket team in the world is an extraordinary sporting moment. With our Black Caps being led by Tauranga's own cricket star Kane Williamson it's undeniable that we can lay claim to this milestone as our own.
2. The Silver Ferns win the Netball World Cup:
Leading the Silver Ferns to their first World Cup title in 16 years were two Bay women. Silver Ferns coach Noeline Taurua - Silver Fern 108 and a former Rotorua woman who went to school in Taupō - and assistant coach, Tauranga-based Silver Fern 109 Deb Fuller, led New Zealand's national netball team to world cup glory when they clinched a memorable 52-51 win over Australia in the Vitality Netball World Cup final in Liverpool. Fuller took on her role in September 2018, the month after Taurua's appointment - and in that timeframe of from their appointment to their world cup win in July, the pair transformed a team that had lost to Malawi at the Commonwealth Games in 2018.
3. Sam Cane recovers from broken neck:
In October 2018, the nation held its collective breath when Reporoa's finest export Sam Cane went down with a severe neck injury against South Africa. He had two vertebrae fused together and wrapped in metal before spending six months on the sidelines. He made his return for the Chiefs earlier this year and very nearly turned their season around before playing for the All Blacks at the World Cup. While the result of that tournament did not go to plan, the fact that Cane was even there, fully fit, was remarkable.
4. Les Elder is named captain of the Black Ferns:
The 32-year-old was named the captain of the national women's rugby team, the Black Ferns, in May taking over from Fiao'o Faamausili, who retired after leading the five-time world champions since 2012. Her appointment was a testament to not only her skills on the field but her leadership in all aspects of the sport. The Tauranga-based Bay of Plenty specialist No7, who made her Black Ferns debut in 2015, has a genuine love for the game, actively working towards growing women's rugby in the Bay of Plenty region. Her grit and approachable demeanour make her an ideal leader and advocate for the sport. Next year, Elder takes on the new journey of motherhood and we have no doubt she'll show just as much class in her new role.
5. Bay of Plenty Steamers beat Hawke's Bay in the Mitre 10 Cup Championship final:
In the words of The Four Seasons: "Oh what a night". Everything came together for the Steamers in 2019, they thrilled fans with electric performances and high-scoring wins all season before showing grit and determination to beat Hawke's Bay 12-7 in front of a raucous Rotorua crowd in the final.
6. Bay Oval hosts its first test match:
Years of hard work to secure an international test match at Bay Oval finally paid off this year, with the June announcement that Mount Maunganui's Bay Oval was confirmed to host the first Black Caps vs England Test match in November. The test match meant the Bay Oval would become New Zealand's ninth test venue. Last month the wait was over and Bay Oval successfully hosted its inaugural international five-day cricket match.
7. Mount Maunganui make their first women's Intercity Trophy hockey final appearance:
They may have gone down to their Bay of Plenty rivals, Rotorua Aces, by the end of the women's Intercity Trophy hockey final but they were the underdogs going into that match and managed to lead 3-0 at halftime. Making their final debut of the competition came after beating previously unbeaten Hamilton Old Girls' and a lot of their season success was attributed to a strong core of players, as well as their tight network, creating a positive, inclusive culture where players only motivate each other.
8. Luuka Jones wins her first Canoe Slalom World Championship medal
Bay of Plenty paddler Luuka Jones realised a decade-long dream when she claimed bronze in the K1 final at the Canoe Slalom World Championship in Spain. The result was also crucial in that it guaranteed her selection for the Tokyo Olympics.
The introduction of Water Polo on the Waterfront to Tauranga:
It was an event like no other in Tauranga, involving more than 100 water polo athletes playing a fast-paced all action tournament in an 18m by 13m makeshift pool inside the Tauranga Harbour. Inspired by similar events in Australia including the four-day international Water Polo by the Sea event in New South Wales, February's inaugural Water Polo on the Waterfront tournament acted like a trial with hopes of it becoming an annual tournament. Well, it's back in 2020 and one of the organisers, Danny Kayes, some changes will be introduced to make the event even better than the first.
10. Bay of Plenty Rugby appoints their first female to their board:
Rounding out the top 10 is an appointment off the field which made history. Kiriwaitingi Rei became an independent director on the board - the first time in the 108-year history of the union, a woman has become a board member. It was a clear sign of the changing times in Aotearoa and will pave the way for women all over the country to continue breaking glass ceilings.