Top five 2017: Most promising sports athletes for the New Year

Aumua's form for Wellington saw him earn an All Blacks call-up for the end-of-year-tour.
Aumua's form for Wellington saw him earn an All Blacks call-up for the end-of-year-tour. Photo credit: Getty

Asafo Aumua

Who said the Mitre 10 Cup doesn't matter, when it comes to All Black selection?

The barnstorming 20-year-old exploded onto the scene in late 2017, with electric performances for Wellington at provincial level.

The hooker earned a call-up to Steve Hansen's side for the end-of-year tour. He didn't feature in a Test match, but he showed his potential in short showings against the Barbarians and French XV.

Hurricanes fans will be licking their lips at the mouth-watering prospect of a Dane Coles/Aumua one-two punch for the 2018 Super Rugby season.

Even with Coles in front of him at both franchise and Test level, you can expect Aumua to make a serious dent in many a defender and potentially establish himself as Coles' permanent backup.

Israel Adesanya

Adesanya will make his UFC debut in February.
Adesanya will make his UFC debut in February. Photo credit: Getty

The talented striker has unlimited potential and is a bona fide superstar in the making for the world's leading MMA organisation, having signed a multi-fight deal this past week.

The Nigerian-born New Zealander has an impressive kickboxing record of 50 wins/five losses and is undefeated through 11 MMA fights, with all wins coming via stoppage.

The UFC is crying out for exciting stars, and the Kiwi is charismatic, charming and, more importantly, extremely violent when the cage door shuts.

Watch this space, because 'The Style Bender' could shock the fighting world in 2018.

Nathan Cleary

Cleary looks set to earn higher honours in the New Year.
Cleary looks set to earn higher honours in the New Year. Photo credit: Getty

Forty-one games into his NRL career, with James Maloney playing alongside him in 2018, Nathan Cleary is the heir apparent to Johnathan Thurston, as Australia's next great halfback.

The 20-year-old oozes class and composure, which was magnified in the Panthers' astonishing come-from-behind win against the Warriors in Round 10 last season.

Trailing 28-6 at halftime, Cleary masterminded a 32-point comeback win, showing maturity well beyond his 19 years at that time.

A blue jersey awaits for the son of former Warriors coach Ivan, a half-decent start to the season for Penrith combining with new teammate Maloney will likely see the young pivot thrust into the pressure cooker of Sate of Origin.

Never fear, Blues fans - this kid has the goods and is set to make his name in 2018.

Shea Ili

Ili has been instrumental for the Breakers so far in the 2017-2018 NBL season.
Ili has been instrumental for the Breakers so far in the 2017-2018 NBL season. Photo credit: Getty

The 25-year-old is set to be New Zealand basketball's next breakout superstar.

2017 was a year of maturity for the Breakers point guard, as he looked to finally establish himself as a potential six-man for the New Zealand NBL franchise.

A career-best 23-point game in October has been followed by great run of consistency for Ili, but it was his form for the national side that got the attention of punters.

Ili was outstanding for the Tall Blacks during the Asia Cup, averaging 15 points and five assists to earn a spot on the tournament's All-Star lineup.

If Ili continues his rapid rise, don't discount the young baller from playing a starring role in a Breakers run at another Australian league title.

Richie Stanaway

Stanway inked a deal with Tickford Racing for the upcoming Supercars season.
Stanway inked a deal with Tickford Racing for the upcoming Supercars season. Photo credit: Photosport

The motorsport world knows who Richie Stanaway is, but when 2018 is all said and done, the 26-year-old will be a household name in New Zealand.

The well-travelled Tauranga native recently inked a deal with Tickford Racing for the upcoming Supercars season.

It's a scary thought for the entire field that a driver with such raw speed and technical know-how is about to step into a full-time drive with one of the big-three teams.

Stanaway was a standout with the Ford works team in the 2017 enduos, winning the Sandown 500 with Cameron Waters, then dominating the first four hours of the Bathurst 1000, before a few technical gremlins and an accident they played no part in starting cost the exciting duo a chance at victory.

Stanaway impressed peers, analysts, fans and his team with his ability, leading to the New Zealander picking up the seat vacated by veteran driver Jason Bright.

The Kiwi beat out several young Australian drivers to earn the spot and is a dead-set chance to finish top three in the championship.

Lookout Giz and Scotty Mac - there's a new Kiwi in town.

Newshub.