Grim year for Wellington sport

Looking back on Wellington's sporting year

JOSEPH ROMANOS
Last updated 15:11 24/12/2013

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The Wellingtonian

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Wellington sport had its usual forgettable sports year in 2013.

Except for odd pockets of sports sunlight, which serve only to offer false dawns, Wellington sport underperforms to a remarkable level year after year.

The fate of Ricki Herbert probably summed up the year.

He began 2013 as the All Whites and Phoenix coach and has now lost both jobs.

The Phoenix were 10th and last in the A-League when Herbert lost the Phoenix job in February. Chris Greenacre took over, but it didn't help - the Phoenix still finished last, despite super striker Jeremy Brockie's 16 goals during the season.

For the 2013-14 season, Ernie Merrick is in charge, and still the Phoenix are propping up the points table.

The All Whites had hoped to repeat their wonderful 2009 performance and qualify for another World Cup, but 5-1 (away) and 4-2 (in Wellington) losses to Mexico put paid to those thoughts.

Herbert copped some blame for his strategic planning. It must be said, however, that Herbert shepherded Wellington and New Zealand football through some exciting times. He deserves credit for that.

Wellington cricketers haven't won a trophy for years. In 2012-13 the men finished halfway down the Plunket Shield table, lost in the one-day semi-finals and lost the Twenty20 final to Otago.

In Andy McKay, Grant Elliott, James Franklin, Jeetan Patel, Michael Papps, Mark Gillespie, Luke Ronchi and Jesse Ryder, there were plenty of big names. But they couldn't deliver consistently.

This season Ryder has headed to Otago, under-rated all-rounder Harry Boam is in hibernation and speedster Scott Kuggeleijn is back with Northern Districts. Strike bowler Brent Arnel has shifted to Wellington.

The personnel has changed, but the results have remained spotty.

In the women's game, Sophie Devine, Lucy Doolan and Sian Ruck, all internationals, played well and Wellington were second to Otago in the Twenty20 competition and third in the one-day tournament. Still no silverware.

Wellington netball fans have also had a long wait, but the signs are propitious.

Central Pulse coach Robyn Broughton has gathered a team of internationals - including Katrina Grant, Liana Leota, Donna Wilkins, Te Huinga Reo Selby-Ricket, Camilla Lees, Paula Griffin and Joline Henry.

They finished fifth in the trans- Tasman championship, easily their best result. Now further boosted by veteran shooter Irene van Dyk, the Pulse are looking for a semi-finals berth or better in 2014.

With players of the calibre of Dane Coles, Jeffery Toomaga- Allen, Jeremy Thrush, Victor Vito, Beauden Barrett, Conrad Smith, Cory Jane, Julian Savea and TJ Perenara - all chosen for the All Blacks in 2013 - you might think Wellington would have pressed for domestic rugby honours.

But no - the Hurricanes managed just 11th in the Super 15. The Lions threatened to win the ITM Cup for domestic rugby, heading the round robin section and smashing Counties-Manukau in the semi. But in the final at the Westpac Stadium, Wellington were comprehensively outplayed 29-13 by Canterbury.

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Wellington swimmers acquitted themselves well, Fiona Robinson, Gareth Kean, Samantha Lee and Samantha Lucie-Smith all earning selection for the world champs in Barcelona, where their efforts were overshadowed by Lauren Boyle's heroics.

The pick of Wellington's swimmers, however, was Paralympian Mary Fisher, who won five gold medals and a silver at the IPC world champs in Montreal. Fisher excelled in freestyle, backstroke, butterfly and medley.

Lee, a former world surflifesaving champion, won the women's section of the German Cup - the world rescue champs - in Germany in November, a notable achievement.

Wellington were nowhere to be seen in the national senior hockey, golf or tennis events, but Martin Knight did bring a swell of pride by winning the New Zealand men's squash title, scoring an upset win over Campbell Grayson in the final.

Sadly, Wellington lost two of its stalwarts when hardworking rugby league administrator and historian Bernie Wood and former Wellington rugby coach Bill Freeman died during the year.

- The Wellingtonian

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