Opinion: Five best Commonwealth Games plotlines (and the lessons learned)

OPINION: If you measured the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in medals, then the past two weeks were nothing but successful for the Kiwi contingent.

With 46 medals, including 15 golds, this was the most fruitful haul achieved outside of New Zealand.

But if you judge the Games on drama and intrigue, there was more than enough to keep you entertained, providing plotlines that were more 'real' than any reality TV.

And unedited, unless you count those infuriating ad breaks.

Here's a sample:

Transgender weightlifter suffers career-threatening injury in pursuit of gold medal

When Kiwi Laurel Hubbard suffered a dramatic elbow injury attempting a Games-record clean and jerk in the heaviest (105kg-plus) weightlifting division, many described it as tragic. Others regarded it as karma.   

Hubbard's mere presence divided onlookers right down the middle - opponents and sporting purists were furious, but she became an instant hero to the PC brigade. 

It was nice that the New Zealand team and Commonwealth Games organisers were progressive enough to welcome Hubbard to the event, but you get the feeling administrators have not quite figured this issue out yet.

If nothing else, Hubbard has pushed the boundaries, which will either open the door to more like her or force sports to tighten up their rules around transgender athletes.

Bad blood in the forest between feuding mountain-bike teammates

Wasn't this the story that just kept giving?

Kiwi Sam Gaze made up an incredible amount of lost ground over the final lap to overhaul defending champion Anton Cooper for gold.  He then acted like a bit of knob in the aftermath, accusing his rival of bad sportsmanship, flicking him the finger and snubbing him in post-race celebrations.

Gaze was fined by the sport's governing body and later apologised - smart move - but then undid that good work with his sour demeanour during a subsequent media session. Cooper stopped short of accepting the apology, probably realising that it wasn't that sincere.

This incident laid bare the intense rivalry that can exist at this level, even between teammates, and the curious unwritten code of conduct that applies within some sports.

Sam Gaze
Sam Gaze silences his critics (but not for long). Photo credit: Getty

While Gaze considered Cooper took unfair advantage of a mechanical misfortune to push his claim for victory, no-one else really saw it that way - notably, even others in the cycling community.

Hopefully, Gaze learned a little humility and that behaviour relatively common within a certain sport may not necessarily translate into the real world. His boorish conduct afterwards certainly undermined his tremendous performance on the bike.

The Silver Ferns lose four games in a week and return home without a medal for the first time ever

This was like watching a slow-motion car crash. 

One of our premier international teams was suddenly losing to opponents they would normally dispense with easily and no-one could explain why.

The finger was pointed everywhere - at the coach, at the players, at the shooters specifically.

Katrina Grant
Katrina Grant reflects on a loss to England. Photo credit: Photosport

Audiences were outraged when TVNZ commentator and former Silver Fern midcourt Jenny-May Clarkson reduced captain Katrina Grant to tears by daring to question player commitment.

If the All Blacks had lost to Samoa or Georgia, those questions would rightfully be asked of them. As a former custodian of the 'black dress', Clarkson was absolutely the right person to ask and that's why Grant reacted the way she did, which was exactly the appropriate response.

But for years, the knock on international netball has been that it just wasn't competitive, with Australia and New Zealand dominating world championships and Commonwealth Games tournaments.

Clearly, given England's win over the Aussies in the Gold Coast gold-medal game, that is no longer the case. They and Jamaica are now legitimate challengers to the status quo, and even Malawi and Uganda are showing dark-horse potential.

Yes, the Silver Ferns have probably conceded ground, but remember, since Glasgow 2014, they have lost a couple of once-in-a-generation players in Laura Langman and Casey Kopua, as well as legendary coach Waimarama Taumaunu. 

They'll be back - they still have much to contribute to our sporting landscape.

The Black Sticks women - for so long, the little team that couldn't - finally find a way to win

On the opposite side of the performance spectrum to our netballers, the hockey women were on the upswing, producing probably the most heart-warming Kiwi performance at the Games.

Their record in penalty shoot-outs was about as bad as the England football team against Germany, but rather than leaving that issue to chance, they did something about it, appointing a specialist goalkeeper whose sole job was to prepare for that one moment she was needed.

Black Sticks celebrate
Black Sticks celebrate Commonwealth Games gold medal. Photo credit: Photosport

Remember the year the Silver Ferns practised a whole bunch of scenarios, including having a player sent off, and then won a world championship despite having a player sent off in the final? This was that.

Thankfully, the unbridled joy at beating world No.1 England in the semis carried over to the final, where they never let arch-rivals Australia in the hunt and captain Stacey Michelsen was rewarded with her appointment as NZ flagbearer for the closing ceremony.

If this is free-to-air sport, you can keep it

Sky Sport gets a hard time for its alleged mistreatment of subscribers (and media rivals), but one thing it doesn't do - it never drops an ad break into the middle of a sporting event.

And especially at that moment when the contest is about to be won or lost.

The omens were not great when we missed seeing entire countries entering the stadium during the opening ceremony. Arriving alphabetically by continent, at one point we cut out during the Caribbean and returned in time to see India departing the scene.

But when the coverage was interrupted just as the mountain bike race got really interesting - Gaze fixing a flat on the side of the track and Cooper disappearing into the trees - that was the final straw. It left the in-studio host trying (unsuccessfully) to explain what had happened during our absence, when she didn't quite understand it herself.

Sure, there's no such thing as a free lunch and TVNZ has to pay the bills somehow, if not through subscribers, but if it is to secure more sports broadcast rights in future, it has to respect its viewers better than that. 

Grant Chapman is Newshub online sports editor.