Opinion: Five key storylines ahead of the Commonwealth Games

Will the Silver Ferns fail to win a medal for the first time?

In the past, New Zealand’s netballers have been a dead-set shoe-in to step on the podium at the Games. After all, they’ve never finished worse than second in the history of the event.

This time, things are different. They’re without key players such as Kayla Cullen, they’ve won just 53% of their games under coach Janine Southby and they’re coming off back-to-back losses to Jamaica.

The Aussies remain out in front, but the Sunshine Girls, England and South Africa have all closed the gap. The Ferns have lost eight of their last 11 matches and the writing is on the wall.

They need a massive lift if they’re to medal.

Can New Zealand’s track cycling team bounce back from a world champs horror show?

NZ had a disappointing showing at the world champs.
NZ had a disappointing showing at the world champs. Photo credit: Photosport

New Zealand’s known for its prowess inside the velodrome, but an interesting tactical decision has already put them on the back foot. They decided to make their athletes peak for two events - the world champs in the Netherlands in March and the Comm Games.

That decision backfired in Europe, with the gun men’s sprint team slumping to sixth, the team pursuiters failing to podium, and Rushlee Buchanan claiming the country’s only medal.

Australia decided not to send their men’s sprint team to the world champs, preferring to keep their powder dry for the Games. We’ll soon find out who made the right call.

Can New Zealand’s women’s sevens team get revenge on Australia in their own backyard?

The Aussies won a dramatic final at the Rio Olympics in 2016, leaving the Kiwi players in tears. It fired up New Zealand, who responded by beating their arch-rivals in the next five clashes between the sides.

That streak was snapped recently in Sydney, where the green-and-gold pumped them 31-0, becoming the first team in women’s World Series history to complete a tournament without conceding a point.

New Zealand’s named a star-studded line-up, including the likes of Portia Woodman, Sarah Goss and Michaela Blyde, and they’ll need to be firing on all cylinders if they’re to upset the Aussies on home soil.

Portia Woodman is critical to the Black Ferns Sevens' chances of gold.
Portia Woodman is critical to the Black Ferns Sevens' chances of gold. Photo credit: Photosport

Is Hamish Bond the real deal in cycling?

The double Olympic rowing champion’s made the transition from the water to the road look easy, spending hours charging down country roads, clocking up the kilometres on his time-trial bike.

He’s now the national champion and recently won the Oceania title as well. The 32-year old looms as a strong medal contender at the Games, although he’s still relatively untested at the top level.

He won the title in New Zealand without matching up against the country’s best time-trialler, Paddy Bevin, and a puncture during the World Champs last year flung him down the field.

However, if you focus solely on the Commonwealth Games-eligible riders from the World Champs, Bond was fourth fastest.

He’s got the drive, determination and willingness to push past any mental barriers, and the Gold Coast is a perfect place to chuck down an impressive marker ahead of Tokyo 2020.

Will the Dame and the King of Timaru strike gold?

New Zealand boasts shot-putting royalty in Dame Valerie Adams and Tom Walsh, two of the sport’s greatest ever athletes.

Adams has made a remarkable comeback to the sport since giving birth to her first child in October. She’s been steadily improving ahead of the Comm Games and it’ll be fascinating to see what distance she can throw across the ditch.

Walsh has been singlehandedly destroying the field, crushing his New Zealand record in late March and hurling the ninth-biggest throw of all time. He’s now just 45cm short of the world record and the 26-year old enters the meet in career-best form.

He looks a ridiculously hot favourite for gold, something he’s never won before at the Games.

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