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Well, what a year 2014 has been for sport. And it’s only October, so there is plenty still to come!
Okay, we are New Zealanders, so let’s start with the year in rugby, which has just had a minor hiccup after the All Blacks suffered their first loss of the season falling 27–25 to South Africa. That aside, though, they have had a near-perfect season so far. They swept aside England 3–0 in the series in June, retained the Bledisloe in style at Eden Park with a demolition of Australia, and have won their third-straight Rugby Championship. SBW comes back into the fold for the end-of-year tour, which will be almost as exciting as the All Blacks playing the USA in Chicago.
In terms of Super Rugby, the Crusaders were the best of the New Zealand teams as they marched into the playoffs for the 13th-straight time and, with it, a chance to claim their eighth Super Rugby title. Now here it is. They were robbed. Absolutely robbed. Referee Craig Joubert penalised Captain Fantastic Richie McCaw in the dying minutes of the game to give Bernard Foley the chance to win it for the Waratahs. And win it he did. A heartbreaking end to another amazing season for my beloved Crusaders, but panic not: they will be back next season.
All Black of the Year (to date): Brodie Retallick
Super Rugby Player of the Year: Colin Slade
Best Find: Malakai Fekitoa
What we witnessed in last Sunday’s Grand Final was an event of epic proportions. The best Grand Final for some years, and the most deserving premiers! South Sydney brought everything to this game; however, the final score certainly didn’t reflect the knife-edge that this game was played on. And that was the story of the NRL in 2014. So many close games, particularly in the playoffs; the Warriors missed the playoffs again; NSW won Origin (finally); and the Dally M Medal was shared for the first time in its history.
For the Warriors, they have some serious improving to do. It has started already, with an overhaul of the coaching staff currently taking place, and the signature of some stars being heavily chased. I do have a good feeling about the Warriors chances in 2015, though, and I would be surprised if they weren’t serious playoff contenders. For now, though, let’s sit back and reminisce on what was an epic season, topped off by the greatest of Grand Finals.
Player of the Year: Johnathan Thurston
Biggest Loss to the Game: Sam Burgess
Biggest Prick: James Graham
Now, while basketball isn’t the biggest sport in New Zealand, it sure gets a lot of attention. This mainly comes from America’s NBA, a competition that Kiwis seem to go nuts for. Now, with the inclusion of Steven Adams in one of the competition’s frontrunners, OKC, there has been even more reason to get excited. Adams proved to be an instant star in the NBA, and this got everybody talking. He is quickly proving to be one of the finds of last year’s NBA Draft, averaging over three points and four rebounds per game, and his Kiwi charm is making him a very likeable figure throughout the NBA.
Outside of Steven Adams, the NBA dished up another nail-biting playoffs series; however, the Finals were anything but. Tim Duncan and the Spurs dished an almighty hiding to LeBron and the Heat, taking the series in five games. Now with LeBron heading back home to Cleveland, everyone is talking up the Cavs’ prospects of claiming next year’s NBA title. They won’t. That will come down to the Spurs and someone else again, with San Antonio making virtually no changes to their star-studded roster. With tip-off to the next NBA season only days away, the excitement is certainly already building.
I could sit here for hours breaking down every different sport, but Duncan and Cam will yell at me. And no one wants that.
Other sporting highlights this year include Brendon McCullum notching up New Zealand’s first triple-century at the Basin Reserve earlier in the year. What a moment in New Zealand cricket that was. To go along with that, Corey Anderson broke the world record for the fastest-ever One Day hundred, smashing a century off just 36 balls. It’s been a good year for New Zealand Cricket so far, and as the South Africans come to our shores towards the end of the month, let’s hope that can continue.
Rory McIlroy took the golfing world by storm this year, pocketing millions of dollars in prize money and taking out most of the tournaments around the world, including the US Open and the PGA Championship. With Ryder Cup victory with team Europe to go alongside his other wins, 2014 has certainly been Rory’s year so far.
Well, that brings to a close your sports section for the 2014 Salient.