What was good, bad, sad, ugly and utterly bizarre about the world of sport in 2023? CHRIS COGDALE wracks his brain to recall some of the stuff that cranked his handle over the year!
Top of the list has to be all the unsung heroes – the coaches, administrators, volunteers, referees/umpires/officials – who make every sport tick over, and without them, it just wouldn’t happen.
For seat-of-the-pants excitement, one cannot beat the Black Caps’ stunning one-run win over England in the cricket test for the ages at the Basin Reserve. It was only the second time a test had been decided by the smallest of margins [after Australia vs West Indies 1993], and just the fourth occasion a team has won after following on.
What about Rocco Berry? The Greytown product had a breakout season for the NZ Warriors. However, he was outshone by teammate Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, who scored a remarkable 24 tries, many with spectacular diving finishes and little wiggle room in the corners. Of course, the Warriors making it all the way to the last four in the NRL has to make the list.
Bonza!! Cracker!! The Women’s Football World Cup – what more can be said? Labelled by Fifa as “by far and away the best ever”, the tournament drew record crowds and massive television audiences and proved to the world that the Antipodean cousins could put on a bloody good show. Spain prevailed 1–0 over England in the big dance.
The All Blacks exceeded expectations, making the Rugby World Cup final, but the highlight has to be the courageous 28–24 quarterfinal triumph over Ireland.
The Kiwis’ 30–0 drubbing of the Kangaroos in the final of the Pacific Rugby League series is worth raving about. That duck egg makes it extra special.
The Phoenix men sitting at the top of the table, and the women are in the top four. Long may it continue.
The loss of a couple of doyens of New Zealand sports coverage with prolific writer Ron Palenski and legendary photographer Peter Bush departing for the great sportsfield in the sky.
The big wet! I cannot recall a wetter winter sports season in my 30-plus years covering sports here! Coupled with some poorly prepared sports fields that made for bad games and bad viewing.
The Silver Ferns struggled to get out of first gear at the Netball World Cup and, for the first time in their history, missed out on a world championship medal.
A first-up loss to a touring second-string England followed. Two wins in the Constellation Cup against Australia saved some face, just enough to avoid them dropping into the ugly category.
The Wallabies’ performance at the Rugby World Cup. I know many will roll about in pure joy at the demise of our cousins from across the ditch, but the flow on, if not arrested, could have serious ramifications for Super Rugby and the Rugby Championship.
Technology in the officiating of sport. Brought in by sports codes to get rid of the howler, it has too often become the domain of nit-picking nerds looking over every minute detail. If it can’t be done quickly and accurately, get rid of it, and sport will become a better watch!
The Rugby World Cup final. This has nothing to with the All Blacks falling at the last hurdle but all about the lack of continuity with countless interjections from an over-officious and, at times, wrong TMO, as well as deliberate slowing down tactics by the Springboks making what should have been the showcase of the sport an ugly embarrassment.
The death threats aimed at the referee Wayne Barnes and TMO Tom Foley in the aftermath only add to the ugly nature of what was an ugly game.
NZ Rugby’s handling of the future of the All Blacks coaching role early in the year was nothing short of disgraceful and unfair to incumbent Ian Foster.
Does it get any uglier, though, than Spain’s football president, Luis Rubiales, smacking an unwanted kiss on the lips of midfielder Jenni Hermoso during the medal ceremony after their victory in the World Cup?
SOMETHING A LITTLE DIFFERENT TO FINISH ON
Let’s wrap up the year with a couple of bizarre little titbits that tickled my fancy.
New Zealand speed skier Tawny Wagstaff set a new national record of 248.61kmh at the world championships in France, but he was still almost 7kmh off the world record of 255.50kmh. With nothing more than a specially designed aerodynamic suit and a helmet as protection, these guys and girls are nuts.
The Isle of Man were bowled out for a record-low score of 10 in a T20 international with Spain, who brought up the winning runs with sixes off the first two balls, although the first was a no-ball, meaning the game was won off one legitimate ball.
And a shout out to my old school, Westlake Boys High School, for winning the World Schools Rugby Festival, beating St Michaels of Ireland 28–21 in the final!
On that note, that’s my lot for 2023. See ya in 2024!