24 Dec 2017

The Year that was...and wasn't

5:08 pm on 24 December 2017

There was plenty happening in the sporting world over 2017 but the RNZ Sports team have picked a few highlights and lowlights for New Zealand sports fans.


In stark contrast to the Kiwis, the New Zealand women's rugby team were superb in their inception of a world beating plan. The Black Ferns were out to atone for their 2014 disappointment, and atone they did.

World Cup winning Black Ferns arrive home to first class welcome: RNZ Checkpoint

World Cup winning Black Ferns arrive home to first class welcome: RNZ Checkpoint Photo: RNZ / YouTube

Restoring New Zealand's supremacy in women's rugby by relieving England of the World Cup with a come from behind 41-32 victory in the final in Belfast.

After winning four straight Women's Rugby World Cups, beating England in three finals, the Black Ferns failed to make the semi-finals in 2014 and watched England triumph in Paris.

The Black Ferns then capped off their World Cup-winning season by being named the Team of the Year at the World Rugby Awards in Monaco, beating out the All Blacks and England men's team. That's no mean feat.

Back Portia Woodman claimed the Women's Player of the Year gong and Michaela Blyde won the Women's Sevens player of the year award.

A hat tip to the World Series winning Black Ferns Sevens team. New Zealand women's rugby is back on top.


After winning bronze at the Rio Olympics, Walsh won the big event of 2017 the world championship title.

He had to go through the wringer though before finally getting the medal around his neck.

The American silver medallist Joe Kovacs and beaten favourite, another American - Ryan Crouser both lodged protests after Walsh seemingly won the title with a throw of 22.03 metres.

Tom Walsh shot put world champion.

Tom Walsh - shot put world champion and 'all round good bugger'. Photo: Photosport

Walsh's best effort was the equal third furthest winning throw in world championships history, behind only Werner Gunthor's championship record of 22.23m from 1987 and Reese Hoffa's 22.04m from 2007. It matched the distance achieved by Christian Cantwell en-route to gold in 2009.

Walsh ended American Olympic champion Ryan Crouser's ten event winning streak and it didn't go down well.

While Kovacs appealed a no throw he accepted his appeal was rejected Crouser wasn't so obliging even turning up to the medal ceremony with the expectation he would be made winner.

It left a sour taste for Walsh who said it was "bad form".

While 2017 has been lucrative for Walsh it hasn't stopped him getting back on the tools on his return home from the northern hemisphere season.

A builder by trade Walsh over the past few weeks has been putting the finishing touches to a new home in Christchurch.

Hopefully he a decent sized mantelpiece to for his trophies - he might also need to save some space for an Halberg award as he's a strong contender for New Zealand sportsman of the year.


Against all odds, Team New Zealand claimed the America's Cup for the third time in the Auld Mug's history, beating Team USA 7-1 in the final in Bermuda in June.

Despite limited funds and just as limited time, Team New Zealand created an innovation that pedalled their way to America's Cup glory.

Peter Burling at the helm as Team New Zealand race to victory over Artemis. America's Cup Bermuda 2017.

Peter Burling at the helm as Team New Zealand race to victory over Artemis. America's Cup Bermuda 2017. Photo: ACEA 2017 / Gilles Martin-Raget

The brains trust at Team New Zealand's base in Auckland came up with the ingenious cyclor pedals which produced more power to the catamaran's hydraulic system than the traditional arm-powered grinding.

While risky, the innovation proved the difference and Team New Zealand, led by skipper Glenn Ashby and helmsman Peter Burling, made up for the huge disappointment of San Francisco four years earlier to regain the oldest trophy in sport.

It wasn't just what Team New Zealand did on the water that impressed, off the water, Peter Burling's verbal jousts with Team USA skipper Jimmy Spithill provided the publicity the cup needed.

Now Team New Zealand have the Auld Mug back in our corner of the globe and are in the process of planning just what the 2021 America's Cup will look like and where it will be held.

Despite various media reports, the Cup will be raced in Auckland in monstrous monohull designs that will foil just like this year's cats - it's a move back to tradition with some modern flair to keep the average punters happy.


New Zealand drivers continued to shine around the world in 2017, but there is no doubt about the achievement that attracted the most attention.

When he raced for the Toro Rosso team at the US Grand Prix in October, Brendon Hartley became the first driver from this country to take part in a Formula One event for 33 years.

Grand Prix Formula One USA 2017
In the pic: Brendon Hartley (NZL) Scuderia Toro Rosso

Grand Prix Formula One USA 2017 In the pic: Brendon Hartley (NZL) Scuderia Toro Rosso Photo: PHOTOSPORT

The Palmerston North product then got the nod for the final three events of the season, before it was eventually confirmed he would be a fulltime member of the F1 field next year.

The news was simply the icing on the cake on an outstanding 2017 for Hartley, who also won the 24 Hour of Le Mans for the first time and collected his second World Endurance championship crown with Porsche.

Adding to the story, both of those triumphs came alongside countryman and childhood friend Earl Bamber.

Hartley finished an impressive 13th on debut in Texas, before engine issues meant he was unable to finish in Mexico and Brazil and had to settle for 15th at the season finale in Abu Dhabi.

None of that detracted from how impressed Toro Rosso had been with Hartley.

After refusing to throw the towel in and come home after being dropped from the Red Bull programme seven years ago, Hartley can look forward to living out his childhood dream in 2018.


The rugby league world cup - what a disaster. Seeking an example of how NOT to run a campaign, then look no further than the flightless and fightless Kiwis.

First they suffered the indignity of becoming the only tier one nation to ever lose to a tier two team. Then they did it again the following week to be bundled out of the tournament in the quarter-finals; their worst ever World Cup result.

Losing to Tonga was forgivable, but Fiji were made up of mostly second grade and under 20's players. No excuses for that loss. They were woeful.

Even more pathetic was the Kiwis reaction following their limp exit. Instead of fronting up and analysing why they failed so miserably, we were all told how good the team's spirit was, how proud of each other they were. Not one iota of accountability.

Down and out - the World Cup is over for the Kiwis.

Down and out - the World Cup is over for the Kiwis. Photo: Photosport

The bad then turned to the bizarre when the Kiwis accused the media and fans of sabotaging them. Apparently not even reaching the final four (of a sport where only three teams are tier one) was what the fans and media wanted; another successful plot of demise orchestrated by media who can barely manage to organise a cup of tea together let alone a conspiracy.

Coach David Kidwell has to go and a fine tooth comb run through the entire administration to rid it of the knits that got them to this position. Oh they got spanked in the ANZAC test as well, yay, go Kiwis.