29 Dec 2019

2019 New Zealand sport power rankings

10:20 am on 29 December 2019

New Zealand had plenty of top sporting moments of 2019, RNZ unveils its top teams and athletes of the year.

Maria Folau holds the World Championship Trophy as the team celebrate winning the Netball World Cup with a 52-51 victory over Australia in the final.

Silver Fern Maria Folau holds the trophy as the team celebrates winning the Netball World Cup. Photo: Photosport

From the world championship-winning Silver Ferns to Ardie Savea's incredible season in yellow and black, RNZ looks back at the best of New Zealand sport for 2019.

Top five teams of 2019

1. Silver Ferns

Coming off their worst ever result at a Commonwealth Games in 2018, the Silver Ferns turnaround in 2019 was nothing short of extraordinary.

Silver Ferns shooter Ameliaranne Ekenasio.

Silver Ferns shooter Ameliaranne Ekenasio. Photo: Photosport

Just 11 months before the 2019 World Cup, Netball New Zealand unveiled Noeline Taurua as the new coach tasked with turning the Silver Ferns around.

Taurua got to work quickly, implementing a stringent fitness regime known as the yoyo test to get her team up to the standard she wanted in the lead up to the tournament.

At the World Cup, New Zealand was unbeaten in the first pool round, then lost to Australia in the second group stage, setting up a nervous encounter with Commonwealth Games champions England in the semifinals.

Guided by a near flawless shooting performance from Ameliaranne Ekenasio, the Ferns beat the hosts 47-45, setting up another showdown with long-time rivals Australia.

Like their first encounter, only one goal separated New Zealand and Australia in the final - with the Ferns winning 52-51 to mark an incredible turnaround.

The only downside from the year came in November when Australia retained the Constellation Cup after the series ended in a 2-2 draw.

2. Black Caps

This was a memorable year for New Zealand cricket fans.

New Zealand's Martin Guptill (2R) celebrates with teammates after running out India's Mahendra Singh Dhoni for 50 during the 2019 Cricket World Cup first semi-final between New Zealand and India at Old Trafford in Manchester.

The Black Caps celebrate their victory over India in the Cricket World Cup. Photo: AFP

The Cricket World Cup in England will be forever remembered as the tightest finish in history.

After a successful start to the tournament, the Black Caps scraped into the semifinals, largely thanks to their pool match against India being called off due to rain, finishing fourth ahead of Pakistan on net run rate.

Then, what many thought was against all odds, New Zealand beat India by 18 runs in a thrilling contest that spanned two days, again because of rain.

The drama didn't end there for the Black Caps - New Zealand heart rates were sent into overdrive just a few days later in the small hours of 14 July.

After 100 overs of cricket, New Zealand and England were tied, both on 241, so the match was sent to a Super Over.

Again, after the two overs, both teams were tied, each scoring 15 runs. With the scores tied, the match was decided on boundaries, with England taking the spoils for scoring nine more than New Zealand.

The images of a distraught Martin Guptill, who came up about a metre short of victory for New Zealand in the Super Over, was one that broke many Kiwi hearts while simultaneously sending England fans into euphoria.

The match had many controversial moments, including Trent Boult's catch that ended up being a six as he stood on the boundary rope, to Ben Stokes' deflected overthrows in the final over of England's innings.

It was the second successive World Cup that New Zealand finished runners up.

On a brighter note, the Black Caps won a Test series against Bangladesh at the start of 2019, another series in Sri Lanka after the World Cup and then at home against England.

3. Black Fern 7s

After a hugely successful 2018 that included winning the Sevens World Cup, the Black Ferns Sevens went from strength to strength in 2019.

New Zealand women's rugby sevens team huddle.


The team won the first three events of the season in the US, Dubai and Sydney, finished fifth in Japan, won again in Canada and second in season ending tournament in France, crowning them champions for the year, 10 points ahead of the second placed US team.

The team also won the inaugural Hamilton Sevens Fast Four tournament, winning all three matches against France, England and China before beating France again in the final.

4. Crusaders

Three-peat - a term most associate with the Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls NBA dynasty of the 1990s.

The Crusaders celebrate their win after taking out the 2019 Super Rugby title.

The Crusaders celebrate their win after taking out the 2019 Super Rugby title. Photo: PhotoSport

New Zealand now has its own three-peat champions - the Crusaders - after winning back to back to back Super Rugby titles.

Scott Robertson's men capped off another incredible season with 11 wins, three draws and two losses in the regular season.

That was followed by a convincing quarterfinal victory over southern neighbours the Highlanders, a close fought 30-26 win over the Hurricanes in the semis, and a 19-3 championship-crowning win over the Jaguares in the final in Christchurch.

5. Peter Burling and Blair Tuke

After a year off to pursue glory in the Volvo Ocean Race, Blair Tuke and Peter Burling teamed up once again to try to reclaim 49er World Championship crown the pair had won four times previously.

Blair Tuke and Peter Burling celebrate their fifth world title

Blair Tuke and Peter Burling celebrate their fifth world title. Photo: Photosport

It didn't take long for the pair to find their rhythm, winning the Olympic test event and a European title before two third placings in World Cup regatta and Oceanias.

It all culminated in the 49er World Championships, staged in their own backyard on the Hauraki Gulf in Auckland.

The duo overcame capsizes, broken equipment and failures to finish some races to win their fifth World Championship in the gold fleet finale.

Honorable mention - The Kiwis

A clean sweep against the British and Irish Lions helped the New Zealand Rugby League team return to the top of the international standings.

A loss to Australia before the series was the only slight on the side.

Top individuals of 2019

1. Noeline Taurua

As pointed out above, Noeline Taurua's influence on the Silver Ferns can't be understated.

Silver Ferns coach Noeline Taurua - Constellation Cup Game 2, between the NZ Silver Ferns v Australian Diamonds, held at Spark Arena, Auckland, New Zealand.  16 October 2019       Photo: Brett Phibbs / www.photosport.nz

Photo: Photosport Ltd 2019

An incredibly driven coach who expects the best out of herself and her athletes, Taurua was a huge influence on New Zealand sport in 2019.

2. Lisa Carrington

The two-time Olympic champion had another phenomenal year in the canoe - winning both the K1 200m and K1500m gold medal at the World Championships in Hungary.

New Zealand kayaker Lisa Carrington, 2019 World Championships.


The K1 200m victory was her seventh successive title, finishing almost two seconds ahead of the runner up.

The 30-year-old, last year's Supreme Halberg winner, is a strong favourite to win another gold at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

3. Israel Adesanya

Adesanya's rise through the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) middle weight division in 2019 was nothing short of extraordinary.

The 30-year-old started the year with a unanimous decision win over UFC legend Anderson Silva in an exhausting three round bout that won Adesanya the Fight of the Night award.

Israel Adesanya celebrates winning the UFC middleweight world title belt.

Israel Adesanya. Photo: Photosport

Two months later at UFC 236 in April, Adesanya beat Kevin Gastelum for the interim middleweight championship in what was a five minute five round marathon.

That win set Adensanya up for a unification bout with Australia's Robert Whittaker in October, which the New Zealand-Nigerian won by knockout to become the undisputed UFC middleweight champion and extend his mixed martial arts record to 18-0.

Adesanya ended the year 2019 as the seventh ranked pound-for-pound fighter in the UFC.

4. Scott McLaughlin

'Dominant' would be an understatement for describing the year Scott McLaughlin had in the 2019 Supercars Championship.

Scott McLaughlin wins the 2019 Australia Supercars Championship. The New Zealand driver hoisted the trophy following yesterday's final race of 2019 at Newcastle 500.

Scott McLaughlin wins the 2019 Australia Supercars Championship. The New Zealand driver hoisted the trophy following yesterday's final race of 2019 at Newcastle 500. Photo: EDGE Photographics

McLaughlin won 18 out of 31 races in 2019, including the Bathurst 1000, on his way to a second successive title in his Ford Mustang.

The 26-year-old finished more than 600 points ahead of the second placed Shane van Gisbergen in the standings.

5. Amelia Kerr/Sophie Devine

White Ferns allrounder Sophie Devine had a Women's Big Bash League (WBBL) to remember in late 2019, averaging 77.66 with the bat while taking 16 wickets at an economy of 20.25.

Sophie Devine

Sophie Devine Photo: Photosport

She was the top scorer for the tournament with 699, enough to earn her the title of player of the tournament.

Devine helped her Adelaide Strikers to the WBBL final, where they were beaten by Brisbane.

The 30-year-old also had international success in 2019, scoring a half century and 47 runs in the White Ferns' three match series against Australia.

Kerr, meanwhile, also featured heavily in the WBBL in 2019] with eventual champions Brisbane.

Amelia Kerr bowling.


In her 14 regular season matches the 19-year-old nabbed 12 wickets at an average of 25 and economy off 6.18.

The leg spinner was playing in her first full year as a professional since finishing high school in 2018.

6. Ardie Savea

Fresh off being named New Zealand Rugby's best player of 2019, Hurricanes and All Blacks flanker Ardie Savea had a year to celebrate (albeit without a World Cup).

All Black Ardie Savea

Ardie Savea wearing his silicone pink wedding ring Photo: RNZ / Joe Porter

Savea had what many would say was his best year in both the yellow and black jersey in 2019, helping the Hurricanes reachthe semifinals of Super Rugby, and the All Blacks to the semifinal against England.

Savea played so well in fact, the man who was usually the 'impact' player off the bench in the back row forced his way into the starting XV for the All Blacks alongside Sam Cane and Kieran Read.

He was also nominated for World Rugby player of the year, but lost that title to South Africa's Pieter Steph du Toit.

The 26-year-old also become a stronger leader off the field, adding his voice to a number of social causes, as well as showing young rugby players that it's okay to wear goggles while playing (Savea revealed he suffered eye issues).

Honorable mentions

Corey Webster

Webster was New Zealand's best player at the Basketball World Cup in China, showing he can foot it with even the best NBA players with pin point three pointers against MVP Giannis Antetekoumpo in the group stage.

Abby Erceg

In 2019, Erceg competed in her fourth Women's Football World Cup where the Football Ferns finished last in their group.

She was also part of the North Carolina Courage team that won the 2019 National Women's Soccer League title in the US.

Bruce Anstey

Coming back from a second fight against cancer in 2018 (this time in the lungs and spine), Anstey won this year's Classic Lightweight 250cc TT at the Isle of Man.

Sonny Bill Williams

2019 marked the end of an era for New Zealand sport with Sonny Bill Williams signing off on his All Blacks career to take up a Rugby League contract in Canada.

Williams' support of Muslims in New Zealand and around the world was also inspirational following the terrorist attack in Christchurch in March.