25 Dec 2018

A sport writer's Christmas wishlist

3:05 pm on 25 December 2018

If it's Christmas, then it's time to draw up a sporting wishlist for 2019.

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen with the Webb Ellis trophy.

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen with the William Webb Ellis trophy. Photo: Photosport

I'd like to see the All Blacks win the Rugby World Cup, I would.

Where else can you start in New Zealand, than with rugby. That conclusion hasn't been reached without a bit of soul searching. Flag waving New Zealanders boring people to death about the All Blacks can be a bit of an embarrassment, but the current team are good enough to win in Japan next year and it's hard to make a compelling case for anyone else.

I'd then like to see Steve Hansen walk away.

After the inevitable parades and talk of knighthoods and statues, Steve Hansen's time as All Blacks coach will be done. Three world cup titles, two as head coach, would make him a legend. For generations to come, fathers would tell children about how great New Zealand had it when Hansen was coach. But that won't entitle him to a job for life at New Zealand Rugby. The team belongs to the people, not one man, and it will be another coach's turn to see where they can take it, without Hansen's input.

I'd like to see sanity prevail in secondary schools' rugby.

The specifics of what St Kentigern College got up to, and how other schools reacted to it, are largely immaterial. What matters is that people beyond the first XV bubble got to see just how distasteful the whole thing is and the absurd lengths schools will go to beat one another. It's kids' sport. Let's get some perspective here and treat it for what it is. You don't see Steve Hansen carrying on like this and his team's results actually matter.

I'd like to see a minnow win the Cricket World Cup.

Sri Lanka, Pakistan, New Zealand, the Windies as they're known now. Anyone but England, India or Australia. The Black Caps have as good a shot as anyone, provided they can get runs out of Colin Munro and Martin Guptill at the top of the order.

I'd like to see a result at Hagley Oval.

It's not quite 2019 but New Zealand's test against Sri Lanka, starting on Boxing Day, carries that Christmas wishlist component. And, after the dull draw at the Basin Reserve, you just want to see one team win.

I'd like to see India win at the MCG.

The same goes for the Boxing Day test between Australia and India. The life-less MCG drop-in pitches have made for attritional cricket in recent times, with batsmen piling on runs but only slowly. Let's hope for a bit of spice here and for India's quick bowlers to dominate.

I'd like to see banned players actually banned.

If you cheat and then you lie, as three Australian cricketers were found to have this year, then you deserve what's coming to you. The trio: Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft, received bans from cricket but never really served them. Smith and Warner, two fine players, were welcomed into Twenty20 leagues and have spent time with the Australia team. That makes a mockery of the situation.

Steve Smith has been banned from cricket for a year.

Banned Australian cricket captain Steve Smith has still been able to play cricket professionally overseas. Photo: Photosport

I'd like to see Naomi Osaka win another Grand Slam singles title.

Without delving too deeply into Osaka's triumph over Serena Williams at the US Open - and why she wasn't able to celebrate it - you just hope she gets another opportunity.

I'd like to see NRL players stop discrediting their code.

Again, getting into specifics here is dangerous territory, but it seems safe to say Australian rugby league players could behave better. A lot better. It would be naive to think male teams across all codes don't drink and don't enjoy the company of others, it's just that few generate quite the same headlines as the NRL boys.

Merry Christmas everyone.