Sonny Bill Williams
After the Christchurch mosque terrorist attack, one of New Zealand’s most polarising figures in its entire sporting history became a symbol of unity. Williams had prayed at the mosque in his playing days. He took leave from the team to spend time with his fellow Muslims after the attack, initially taking part in a prayer with thousands of others. He also spoke out against Islam stereotyping and right wing extremism.
Fans of both the All-blacks and betting sites wouldn’t have put their money on Williams having the 2019 he did when it came to rugby, however. His year even included spending time on the bench after the All Blacks were knocked out of the World Cup by England. Having said that, there always seem to be a surprise or two when it comes to Williams’ career. He earned a deal worth a reported $10 million with Toronto Wolfpack in the European Super League at 34 years of age.
Despite that impressive deal, 2019 will be remembered as the year in which Wiliams’ best moments were off the field.
Competitive skiing may not rank among New Zealand’s biggest sports. We may recall certain names like Claudia Riegler and Annelise Coberger, but we could equally go many years without even hearing about skiing. Alice Robinson is one person who just might be able to change that. The 18-year-old schoolgirl skier made a great start to 2019 with some stunning performances in Europe, showing the world that there’s a new sporting star from New Zealand.
It was the start of the 2019/20 season, however, when Robinson first showed just how special she really is. She beat U.S.superstar skier Mikaela Shiffrin in Austria to claim a second World Cup race victory for New Zealand after Riegler won more than 20 years ago. Earlier victories include a silver media in the World Cup final and the world junior Slalom title. The sliver media, in which she came second to Shiffrin, ensured she would receive worldwide attention.
Along with all of her success and plaudits, Robinson also managed to deal with a coaching change, maintain first-rate school grades, and cope with logistical tasks that competitions from bigger countries aren’t exposed to.
The Black Caps
How could we ever forget the World Cup cricket final at Lords? The match was full of controversy and drama, with New Zealand somehow losing to England. However, the Black Caps win over India in the semifinal was equally as memorable and was a major part of the journey.
New Zealand has still to win a World Cup, but there were some truly shining moments for the team in 2019. The whole country was on its feet when it charged its way into the 2015 final. That wasn’t an easy act to follow, and yet the Black Caps did even better playing away from home in England. Thee consecutive losses were put behind them as they beat favourites India over two days at Old Trafford, with rain curtailing the first day.
The final was extraordinary. England remained in the game thanks to four bizarre overthrows off the bat of Ben Stokes, and a Super Over was needed to tie the game. It was a sensational game, with many observers calling it the best one day game ever played. There were contentious overthrows off Stokes’ bat, and the same could be said for the Super Over target being set by the boundary countback system. Some even suggested that the two teams should share the trophy. New Zealand already had a reputation for attempting to restore the reputation of the game, and handled the disappointment with grace.