2021 Sporting Year in Review: 365 days of headlines that captured sporting world



1 - Kiwi NBA centre Steven Adams returns to Oklahoma City for the first time since he was traded to New Orleans Pelicans and receives a heartwarming pre-game video tribute. He then pounds them for a 14 points/10 rebounds double double in a 113-80 Pelicans victory.

6 - Blackcaps rookie Kyle Jamison takes a pair of five-wicket bags, as New Zealand dispatch Pakistan by an innings and 176 runs at Christchurch's Hagley Oval, snatch the world No.1 test ranking from India. The man-of-the-match performance produced Jamison's fourth five-wicket bag in just six tests - captain Kane Williamson scored 238 runs in his side's only turn at bat.

7 - Clearly relishing his change of scenery, Kiwi NBA centre Steven Adams records his first 'triple double' with 10 points/11 rebounds/10 assists, but it's not enough to give New Orleans Pelicans victory over his old OKC Thunder team, losing 111-110.

12 - Those cheating Aussie crickets are back at it again, with former captain Steve Smith and successor Tim Paine both misbehaving during a drawn test against India at Sydney. Stump-cam vision of Smith seemingly scuffing an opponent's guard goes viral, drawing criticism on social media.

Even more disturbing is Paine's vicious sledging of Indian batsman Ravi Ashwin from behind the stumps, also captured on nearby microphones. The Aussie skipper drops three catches in one day and is fined 15 percent of his match fee, after swearing at umpire Paul Wilson.

17 - American Magic provide the first drama of the America's Cup regatta, when helmsman Dean Barker rounds a marker too fast and catches a squall, crashing into the Hauraki Gulf during the challengers series. Resulting damage keeps Patriot off the water for 10 days and the New York Yacht club entry is never able to mount a serious challenge.

22 - Kiwi UFC champion Israel Adesanya is roasted on social media, after using his Twitter account to put the squeeze on an alleged debtor. The middleweight titleholder posts his target's phone number and urges his 770,000 followers to ring 'Alice', demanding she pay up.

"Dude, using your platform and fan base like that is honestly f**ked," says one response. "Why do you think doxxing is OK?"

22 - Five players are sent home early from Silver Ferns camp, after falling short of coach Dame Noeline Taurua's tough fitness standards, as they prepare to take on Australia for the Constellation cup.

24 - Kiwi UFC star Dan Hooker seems to hint at retirement, after a shocking knockout loss to American Michael Chandler at UFC 257. Hooker is felled just 2m 30s into the fight and leaves his gloves in the Octagon, a suggestion he may not need them again, although he eventually dismisses that act as merely "frustration".

Roger Tuivasa-Sheck ended his frustrations at the Warriors
Roger Tuivasa-Sheck ended his frustrations at the Warriors. Photo credit: Photosport

30 - NZ Warriors captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck announces he will switch codes, signing with the Blues to pursue All Blacks selection. The 2018 Dally M Medal winner was a schoolboy rugby star, before signing an NRL contract with Sydney Roosters as a teenager.


8 - Star quarterback Tom Brady leads Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a 31-9 victory over defending champions Kansas City Chiefs in the NFL Super Bowl. At 43, Brady picks up his seventh win in the American football showpiece, with the previous six coming as part of New England Patriots.

12 - The Australian Open is thrown into chaos, when a COVID-19 outbreak forces the state of Victoria into five-day lockdown literally in the middle of Novak Djokovic's third-round match against American Taylor Britt. Disgruntled fans are kicked out of the stadium under curfew, Djokovic ultimately wins his match and the tournament plays on without spectators, with players deemed 'essential workers'.

21 - After a challenger series stalled by another COVID-19 outbreak in Auckland, Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli dispatch INEOS Team UK 7-1 and progress to the America's Cup match against Emirates Team NZ. The Italians are the only team to employ a dual helmsman - veteran Francesco Bruni and Aussie Jimmy Spithill.

24 - Golf superstar Tiger Woods has to be cut from his wrecked car after an accident in Los Angeles and undergoes surgery for "non-life threatening" injuries that included extensive damage to his right leg.

Tiger Woods is cut from the wreckage of his car crash near Los Angeles
Tiger Woods is cut from the wreckage of his car crash near Los Angeles. Photo credit: Getty

28 - Months of trash talk - primarily between respective managers David Higgins and Mark Keddell - finally culminate in the long-awaited heavyweight showdown between former world champion Joseph Parker and local rival Junior Fa, with the former scrambling to an unconvincing unanimous points victory at Auckland's Spark Arena.


7 - Kiwi UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya suffers his first loss in the Octagon, when he steps up to light-heavyweight division and succumbs to Pole Jan Blachowicz by unanimous points decision at UFC 259. 

7- The world champion Silver Ferns rally from eight goals down at halftime to beat Australia 45-43 and lift the Constellation Cup for the first time since 2012. Due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, the four-test series is staged entirely in New Zealand and the home team take full advantage, winning three times and needing only a one-goal loss in the final encounter to secure the trans-Tasman trophy.

7 - Opener Martin Guptill smashes 71 runs off 46 balls to steer the Blackcaps to victory in the fifth T20 international against Australia, clinching the series at Wellington. Spinner Ish Sodhi is named Player of the Series, with 13 wickets over the five encounters.

12 - Boxer Joseph Parker has name suppression lifted and is revealed as the sportsperson allegedly linked to an international drugs conspiracy, which had already seen two ringleaders jailed for a combined 35 years. The Crown Prosecutor claimed there was "insufficient evidence" to prosecute Parker, who maintained his innocence, as he left to team up with his new trainer in Ireland.

17 - Team NZ sweep the last five race of the first-to-seven series to rally past Luna Rossa and retain the America's Cup off Auckland. The Italians lead 3-2, but Kiwi skipper Peter Burling produces his best start of the contest to trump Aussie rival Jimmy Spithill in the decider.

Team NZ celebrate their successful defence of the America's Cup
Team NZ celebrate their successful defence of the America's Cup. Photo credit: Getty

Team UK are confirmed as Challenger of Record for the next defence, which Team NZ hint may be staged offshore.

21 - Parents are outraged after a national tag footabll tournament is declared "friendly only", after organisers run out of referees to officiate games.

22 - The mental health of elite athletes falls under a spotlight, after world lightweight sculling champion Zoe McBride withdraws from the Tokyo Olympics and retires, claiming the pressure to maintain her 57kg weight "wasn't worth it".

The next day, Silver Ferns captain Amerliaranne Ekenasio reveals her battle with mental health issues, a theme that would become all too familiar - and tragic - as the year wears on.

24 - Two-time Olympic rowing champions Eric Murray and Hamish Bond are named the Halberg Award Decade Champions, heading previous supreme winners the All Blacks, All Whites, Silver Ferns, Emirates Team NZ, kayaker Lisa Carrington, golfer Lydia Ko and shot putter Tom Walsh.

27 - All Blacks and Black Ferns stars - including All Blacks captain Sam Cane, Black Ferns Sevens skipper Sarah Hirini and original World Cup-winning captain David Kirk, put their signatures to a letter, emploring NZ Rugby not to sign a $465 million deal with US private equity company Silver Lake.  

28 - UFC star Isreal Adesanya lands in more hot water on social media, after an inflammatory tirade on Instagram that outrages anti-rape groups and sees him lose BMW as a sponsor.


3 - Sky rugby commentator Joe Wheeler is blasted by anti-racism campaigners, after making fun of Highlanders loose forward Kazuki Himeno and his Japanese accent, referring to me as "leally, leally good" in victory over the Crusaders. Wheeler is taken off air and undergoes sensitivity training. 

18 - Kiwi golfer Lydia Ko breaks her three-year LPGA title drought, with victory at the LOTTE Championship in Hawaii. The former world No.1 had finished second at the ANA Inspiration Major two weeks earlier and extended to a seven-shot margin for her 21st tournament win.

25 - Teenager Reece Walsh makes his NZ Warriors debut in a 42-20 loss to Melbourne Storm, after an early release from Brisbane Broncos. By the end of the season, Walsh will replace captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck at fullback and come within a hamstring niggle of a State of Origin debut for Queensland.


2 - Boxer Joseph Parker keeps his hopes of another world heavyweight title alive - barely - with a split-decision victory over Brit Derek Chisora at Manchester. Chisora knocks Parker to the canvas during the first round, but the Kiwi picks himself up and swings the fight his way by the end.

The pair later agree to a December 19 (NZ time) rematch.

2- NZ Warriors legend and Dancing with the Stars winner Manu Vatuvei reveals he is the sportstar facing methamphetamine-related charges. His name has been suppressed for almost two years.

In October, 'The Beast' admits to one charge of importing a Class A drug, but earlier denied importing and possessing for supply.

2 - Scott Dixon and Scott McLaughlin score a Kiwi 1-2 in the IndyCar Genysis 300 at Fort Worth, Texas. Dixon's victory is the 51st of his career - equal with motorsport legend Mario Andretti - and gives him a win in each of the last 19 years on the US circuit.

In his first full IndyCar season, McLaughlin - the reigning Aussie Supercars champion - is eventually named Rookie of the Year.

8 - Despite playing two men short for five minutes, the Crusaders overcome the Chiefs 24-13 in the Super Rugby Aotearoa final, capturing their fifth consecutive title. Both hooker Codie Taylor and winger Sevu Reece are yellow-carded during the second half, but Chiefs fullback Damian McKenzie misses three kicks at goal that would have swung momentum their way.

7 - Changes to Olympic weightlifting qualification mean Kiwi Laurel Hubbard will likely become the first openly transgender athlete to compete at the Games. Opposition to her inclusion begins to gather momentum, including a group of former NZ Olympians who claim it would undermine the gains made by women's sport in recent times.

8 - Blackcaps wicketkeeper Tim Seifert tests positive for COVID-19, as the Indian Premier League is suspended and players flee the subcontinent. Seifert is forced to isolate alone in India, while his NZ teammates gather in the Maldives, before returning home.

Tim Seifert breaks down, after contracting COVID-19 at the Indian Premier League
Tim Seifert breaks down, after contracting COVID-19 at the Indian Premier League. Photo credit: Photosport

21 - Veteran Newstalk ZB sports host Martin Devlin is taken off air, after throwing a punch at a colleague. Devlin admits to emotional issues since the death of his father and later suffers a near-fatal mental health episode, eventually resigning from his role.

23 - City Kickboxing fighter Fau Vake dies in hospital, after he and his brother are attacked on Auckland city street. The mixed martial arts community, led by UFC champion Israel Adesanya and trainer Eugene Bareman, is outraged and lobby Government for tougher laws on "coward punches".

Ofa He Mooni Folau eventually pleads guilty to two charges of assault with intent to injure and sentenced to six months' home detention, likened to a COVID-19 restriction by Vake's teammates.

25 - The simmering rivalry between golf stars Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau goes viral, after the pair exchange barbs during a Golf Channel interview at the PGA Championship. For the rest of the year, even non-golf fans are fixated on their every interaction, but they eventually bury the hatchet to team up at the Ryder Cup and then contest a head-to-head match in Las Vegas, scheduled for 12 holes, but won by Keopka in nine. 


7 - In one of the most-watched boxing matches of the year, living legend Floyd Mayweather runs rings around YouTube star Logan Paul in an exhibition fight at Miami Gardens, Florida. No judges, so no official result, but at least Paul goes the distance against the 15-time world champion over five weight classes.

13 - Kiwi UFC star Israel Adesanya scores a shutout victory over Italian Marvin Vettori to retain his middleweight crown and immediately sets sights on a rematch with the man he defeated for the title - Aussie Robert Whittaker. The trans-Tasman rivals eventually confirm that bout for February 13 (NZ time).

Blues celebrate their Super Rugby Trans Tasman victory
Blues celebrate their Super Rugby Trans Tasman victory. Photo credit: Photosport

19 - The Blues break an 18-year title drought, defeating the Highlanders 23-15 in the Super Rugby Trans Tasman final. The southerners lead 15-13 with 10 minutes remaining, but replacement Harry Plummer kicks a clutch penalty to edge the Blues ahead, then replacement loose forward Blake Gibson clinches victory with a late try. 

24 - Kyle Jamison is named Man of the Match, as the Blackcaps beat India by eight wickets in the World Test Championship final at Southampton. Jamison takes seven wickets - including a five-wicket bag in the first innings and Indian superstar Virat Kohli twice - and veteran Ross Taylor hits the winning runs.

25 - NZ Warriors re-sign former superstar half Shaun Johnson on a two-year contract, after he is cut loose by Cronulla Sharks. Johnson left the Warriors acrimoniously in 2018, after falling out with then-coach Stephen Kearney.

27 - Tour de France riders stage a protest, after a sign-waving fan steps in front of the peloton and causes a massive crash on the opening stage. German Tony Martin is the primary victim, but the first three days are marred by other incidents that alarm the riders.


3 - Will Jordan scores five tries, as the All Blacks open their 2021 campaign with a 102-0 romp over Tonga, an encounter that just highlights the difficulty Pacific nations have fielding their strongest teams in the professional era. Tonga coach Totai Kefu calls for a change to international eligibility rules.

11 - The much-hyped UFC trilogy bout between lightweights Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier ends when the Irishman trips and breaks his leg, gifting victory to his rival. The pair first fought in 2014, when McGregor scored a TKO victory, but Poirier won the January 2021 rematch in the same manner.

12 - Italy edge England in a penalty shootout at Wembley Stadium to take out the Euro 2020 football crown. Luke Shaw puts the home side ahead after just two minutes, but Italian defender Leonardo Debucci equalises and keeper Gianluigi Donnarumma makes two crucial saves in the shootout.  

14 - Back-to-back tries to hooker Ben Hunt help Queensland avoid a State of Origin whitewash, with a 20-18 win over New South Wales in a match shifted from Sydney to Gold Coast, due to a worsening COVID-19 outbreak south of the border. The Blues had already clinched the series with victory in the opening two clashes at Townsville and Brisbane.

22 - Concerned over COVID-19 protocols in the United Kingdom, NZ Kiwis withdraw from the Rugby League World Cup, scheduled for October. Several leading players, including captain Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, had already expressed their reservations.

Australia soon join their trans-Tasman rivals and the tournament is eventually postponed 12 months.

23 - Postponed 12 months and repeatedly facing cancellation during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Tokyo Olympics finally begin, with Black Ferns Sevens captain Sarah Hirini and boxer David Nyika leading a small New Zealand contingent into the opening ceremony.  

27 - After one unsuccessful season with New Orleans Pelicans, Kiwi centre Steven Adams is traded to Memphis Grizzlies for the 2023 NBA season. The Pelicans finished 31-41 in an abbreviated season and missed the playoffs, while Adams averaged 7.6 points and 8.9 rebounds. 

27 - US gymnastics superstar Simon Biles withdraws from Tokyo Olympics competition, after appearing to injure herself during her first event - the vault - but later admitting to mental health issues. She still receives a silver medal as part of the American team and later returns to claim bronze in the balance beam.

29 - Rowers Kerri Gowler and Grace Prendergast open New Zealand's gold medal account at the Tokyo Olympics, winning the pair on Sea Forest Waterway. The reigning world champions would return to the medal podium the next day as part of the women's eight that took silver.

30 - Single sculler Emma Twigg and the men's eight continued New Zealand's Olympic rowing success, powering to victory at Sea Forest Waterway. Twigg had returned from retirement to break her run of fourth-place finishes, while the eight were the last crew to qualify only weeks earlier, but brought a third Olympic gold for former pairs supremo Hamish Bond.  

31 - The Black Ferns Sevens beat France 26-12 for gold at the Tokyo Olympics, making up for their disappointment at losing the final to Australia five years earlier at Rio. New Zealand need extra time to overcome Fiji in the semi-final, but were ultimately named best female team of the Games.


2 - After months of conjecture over whether she should be allowed to compete in women's weightlifting at the Tokyo Olympics, Laurel Hubbard fails to register a lift in the snatch discipline, finishing out of the medals in the +87kg division.

5 - Kayaker Lisa Carrington becomes New Zealand's most successful Olympian, winning the fifth gold medal of her career and third of the Tokyo Games in the K1 500. Earlier in the week, Carrington had finished on top of the podium in the K1 200 and combined with Caitlin Reagal for victory in the K2 500

Lisa Carrington wins gold at the Tokyo Olympics
Lisa Carrington wins gold at the Tokyo Olympics. Photo credit: Getty

9 - Track cyclist Olivia Podmore dies, hours after posting on social media about the pressures of high-performance sport. Podmore had competed in sprints at the 2016 Rio Olympics and medalled at the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, but missed selection for the Tokyo Olympics.

Her death is being treated as suspected suicide and triggered an ongoing review of Cycling NZ high performance culture.

11 - Blackcaps great Chris Cairns is put on life support at a Sydney hospital, after suffering am aortic dissection in his heart. Cairns continues to make slow progress in his rehabilitation.

14 - Hurricanes board member Troy Bowker steps down, after accusing fellow board member Sir Ian Taylor of "sucking up to the left Māori​ loving agenda". Hurricanes halfback TJ Perenara accuses Bowker of "underlying racism".

16 - Former Wallabies star and Tonga rugby coach Totai Kefu is left fighting for his life, after three people break into his Brisbane home and attack him and his family. Kefu and his son and daughter all suffer stab wounds, but fully recover.

23 - Paul Coll becomes the first Kiwi to win a British Open men's squash crown, defeating Egyptian top seed Ali Farag in the final. Coll follows Dame Susan Devoy, who captured the women's title eight times and Leilani Joyce once.

27 - Swimmer Tupou Neiufi captures New Zealand's first gold medal at the Tokyo Paralympics, winning the S8 100m backstroke.

28 - Shot putter Lisa Adams follows in the footsteps of older sister Dame Valerie Adams, throwing a Paralympic F37 record of 15.12m to win New Zealand's second gold medal at the Tokyo Games.

Lisa Adams celebrates her gold medal at the Tokyo Paralympics
Lisa Adams celebrates her gold medal at the Tokyo Paralympics. Photo credit: Photosport

31 - Swimmer Sophie Pascoe becomes the first Kiwi to win 10 Paralympic gold medals, when she takes out the S9 100m freestyle at Tokyo. Pascoe was already New Zealand's most prolific Paralympic performer, with 18 medals since Beijing 2008 and would add another gold over S10 100m backstroke at Tokyo.


3 - Kiwi Holly Robinson produces a final-round dagger to capture F45 javelin gold at the Tokyo Paralympics, overhauling British archrival Hollie Arnold and Dutch Noelle Roorda with her sixth throw of 40.99m. Robinson had finished second to bronze medallist Arnold at Rio 2016, the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games and three times at world championships.

3 - Long jump Anna Grimaldi defends her T47 long jump crown at the Tokyo Paralympics, leaping a Games record 5.76m in the fourth round. 

4 - Two-time US Open champion Naomi Osaka steps away from tennis, after struggling with mental health issues throughout the year. Osaka earlier withdrew from the French Open and did not contest Wimbledon, citing reluctance to front for media conferences, but finally pulls the pin on her campaign, after losing to Canadian teen Leylah Fernandez in the third round at New York. 

5 - The All Blacks overcome a red card to fullback Jordie Barrett and the loss of captain Ardie Savea to complete a Bledisloe Cup sweep of Australia, with a 38-21 victory at Perth. David Havili has a try double and Barrett is later cleared of further punishment, after making contact with his boot to Marika Koroibete's face, while leaping to take a high ball.

5 - NZ Warriors end another season outside the playoffs with an ill-disciplined 44-0 loss to Gold Coast Titans. After a second season marooned across the Tasman by COVID-19, the Warriors finish the match with only 10 players, after Jazz Tevaga, Matt Lodge and Kane Evans are all sin-binned in the final minutes for fighting. 

12 - Briton Emma Raducanu becomes the first qualifier to win a Grand Slam tennis title, when she overcomes Canadian Leylah Fernandez in an all-teen US Open women's final. Raducanu had captured headlines at Wimbledon, when the last surviving player from the host nation was mentally overwhelmed in the round-of-16, but promised to come back better - she makes good on her promise at New York.

13 - NZ-born Quade Cooper earns a shock recall to the Wallabies and kicks a last-gasp penalty goal for a 28-26 win over world champions South Africa at the Gold Coast. The controversial first-five hadn't played for Australia since 2017, but scores 23 points in the Rugby Championship victory.

17 - NZ Cricket abandons its tour of Pakistan on the eve of the first one-day international at Rawalpindi, after a security threat is detected against the Blackcaps. The tour is their first to that nation since 2003, one year after a fatal bomb blast outside their Karachi hotel, and their withdrawal, followed by Australia days later, is condemned by Pakistan cricket fans.

17 - While other codes grind to a halt under another COVID-19 outbreak, Silver Ferns captain Gina Crampton and vice-captain Sulu Fitzpatrick, along with midcourt Peta Toeava and rookie shooter Grace Nweke, are allowed to escape Auckland's lockdown to join the team to face England. Hit by injuries, the inexperienced squad eventually lose their three-test series to the Roses.

20 - NZ Breakers are forced to part ways with star guard Tai Webster, after he refuses COVID-19 vaccination. Facing another season based in Australia, players are required to be fully vaccinated by Victoria state government protocols.

Webster's anti-vax brother, Corey, was also released by the club in August.

25 - Fullback Jordie Barrett kicks a last-gasp penalty to steer the All Blacks home 19-17 over South Africa in the 100th test between the old rugby rivals and clinch the Rugby Championship crown. Sevens days later, the Springboks snatch victory in similar fashion, as Barrett and Elton Jantjies swap goakicks in the closing minutes.

Aleksandr Usyk defeats Anthony Joshua for the three world heavyweight crowns
Oleksandr Usyk defeats Anthony Joshua for the three world heavyweight crowns. Photo credit: Getty

26 - Ukranian Oleksandr Usyk stuns world heavyweight boxing champion Anthony Joshua in a unanimous points decision to seize the WBA, WBO and IBF belts. The pair face a rematch sometime in 2022.

26 - Rookie Warriors star Reece Walsh is found with cocaine, after being detained by police at Surfer's Paradise. He fronts a media opportunity the next day to apologise, and is eventually fined, suspended two games - on top of his game for fighting against Gold Coast - and ordered to undergo alcohol counselling.

27 - Team USA overwhelm Europe 19-9 to claim golf's prestigious Ryder Cup - their biggest win in 46 years. 

27 - UFC lightweight star Dan Hooker overcomes Nasrat Haqparast at Las Vegas, then blasts New Zealand's COVID-19 lockdown and MIQ system, vowing to stay in the United States to pursue his career. Hooker had his Auckland camp closed down twice for contravening lockdown protocols. 

City Kickboxing teammate Israel Adesanya echoes Hooker's frustration, promising never to fight in New Zealand again.

28 - Days after being named captain, Wellington Phoenix star Steven Taylor retires, disappointed at not being offered a two-year contract extension. Taylor steps down after a career that includes 13 years at English Premier League club Newcastle and 61 games for the Phoenix.


10 - In an all-time boxing classic, Briton Tyson Fury knocks out rival Deontay Wilder in their third meeting to retain his WBC heavyweight crown. Fellow Brit Dillian Whyte looms as Fury's next opponent in 2022. 

16 - Former Blackcaps captains Stephen Fleming and Brendon McCullum meet as opposing coaches in the Indian Premier league final, with Fleming's Chennai Super Kings prevailing by 27 runs over Kolkata Knight Riders.

16 - After a decade's absence, Rally NZ is confirmed for a return to the 2022 World Rally Championship, scheduled for September 29-October 2.

18 - Māori All Blacks and Chiefs star Sean Wainui is found dead in a car accident near Tauranga. The news stuns the rugby community in New Zealand and abroad. Wainui scored a record five tries in his final appearance for the Chiefs against NSW Waratahs in June.


2 - NZ-owned, bred and ridden Verry Elleegant storms to victory at the Melbourne Cup, beating hot favourite Incentivise into second. Trainer Chris Waller almost scratched the horse under a 57kg weight handicap and jockey James McDonald was a late call-up to ride, after his previous mount was withdrawn.

15 - Mitchell Marsh and David Warner plunder the Blackcaps attack to guide Australia to victory in the T20 World Cup final at Dubai. New Zealand beat favourites England to reach the final, but lose the services of batting star Devon Conway, after he breaks his hand punching his bat.

19 - Aussie cricket captain Tim Paine - the man appointed to restore honour, after the 2018 'Sandpapergate' scandal in South Africa - steps down, after being implicated in a sexting scandal.

20 - Waikato secures a provincial rugby double in its 100th year, when its men topple defending champions Tasman 23-20 for the NPC premiership crown. Two opportunist tries from centre Bailyn Sullivan clinch victory, after the Waikato women toppled champions Canterbury for the Farah Palmer Cup in October. 

21 - Seven days after losing to Ireland at Dublin, the All Blacks succumb to France 40-25, capping a year that saw them lose three games for the first time since 2009. The defeats fuel doubts over Ian Foster as coach for the 2024 Rugby World Cup in France.

21 - World Cup champions New Zealand suffer their fourth straight defeat on their northern tour, falling 29-7 to France. The Black Ferns had already lost twice to England and once to France, and would face even tougher questions over culture, when veteran hooker Te Kura Ngata-Aerengamate reveals she suffered a mental breakdown on tour.

Shane van Gisbergen celebrates his second Supercars championship
Shane van Gisbergen celebrates his second Supercars championship. Photo credit: Getty

21 - Kiwi Shane van Gisbergen claims is second Supercars crown, after the penultimate race of the season is cancelled for bad weather. With the championship secure, SVG would fall short in his defence of the Bathurst 1000 title, when he punctures in the final laps around Mount Panorama.

22 - Kiwi golfer Lydia Ko fires an eight-under final round for ninth at the season-ending LPGA Tour Championship, enough to secure the Vate Trophy for best average scoring throughout the season.

30 - Oceania Football Confederation announce a World Cup qualification tournament that starts a week before the official FIFA international window, virtually ruling out New Zealand's top professional players from early pool games.

"This would happen nowhere else in the world," protests All Whites coach Danny Hay.


2 - The Women's Tennis Association suspends its tournaments in China, amid fears for the safety of former doubles star Peng Shuai, after she accuses a high-ranking Government official of sexual assault on social media. Peng eventually withdraws her accusations, claiming her post had been misunderstood.

4 - Blackcaps spinner Ajaz Patel becomes the third bowler to take all 10 wickets in an innings, following in the footsteps of Englishman Jim Laker and Indian Anil Kumble, when he dismisses India in the first innings at his birthtown of Mumbai. Patel takes four more wickets in the second innings, but New Zealand crumble to their biggest-ever runs defeat.

Ajaz Patel celebrates another wicket against India
Ajaz Patel celebrates another wicket against India. Photo credit: Photosport

8 - Rookie All Blacks winger Will Jordan is named World Rugby Breakthrough Player of the Year, after scoring 15 tries in 11 tests - including five against Tonga - through their 2021 campaign. 

13 - Dutchman Max Verstappen passes rival Lewis Hamilton on the final lap to take out the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and his first Formula One championship crown. Verstappen and Hamilton were tied heading in the last race, with the former holding a countback advantage.

16 - Black Ferns Sevens captain Sarah Hirini becomes the second woman - after Black Ferns halfback Kendra Cocksedge in 2018 - to capture the Kel Tremain Player of the Year at the NZ Rugby Awards, after leading her side to Olympic gold at Tokyo.

Co-coaches Cory Sweeney and Alan Bunting were named Coaches of the Year, while Ardie Savea was All Blacks Player of the Year.

19 - Kiwi heavyweight Joseph Parker resurrects his world title hopes with an emphatic unanimous points victory over archrival Dereck Chisora at Manchester, erasing memories of his controversial split decision win over the same fighter in May

22 - Former NZ Rugby chief financial officer Nicki Nicol is named to replace Kereyn Smith as NZ Olympic Committee chief executive, after the Beijing Winter Olympics. Former Olympic weightlifter Nigel Avery will replace rowing gold medallist and America's Cup sailor Rob Waddell as chef de mission.

24 - Double Olympic gold medallist Alan Thompson receives a liftetime ban from canoeing, over longstanding allegations of sexual harrassment. Thompson was part of New Zealand's most successful Olympic gold medal haul at Los Angeles 1984.

28 - Australia decimate England in the third Ashes test in Melbourne to secure the iconic 'Urn' in dominant fashion, claiming an unassailable 3-0 lead in the series.

30 - Blackcaps great Ross Taylor announces his impending retirement, signaling the end to one of the most decorated careers in NZ cricket history.