2021 Sporting Year in Review: Biggest Disappointments - All Blacks fans, look away

Sometimes, things just don't go the way you want them to. Sport is no exception.

While 2021 gave Kiwis some incredible sporting highs, they were of course balanced out by the lows.

Be it on-field disappointment or off-field failures, New Zealand's sporting public had to endure plenty of letdowns over the last 12 months.

Newshub's sporting experts take a look back at the moments that left us the most disappointed this year...

Brad Lewis, Newshub digital sports producer

All Blacks

This one is easy for me. The All Blacks started the season unconvincingly with a sluggish 60 minutes against Fiji, and aside from the second test against the Wallabies and the northern tour test against Wales, they remained below par.

The All Blacks after their loss to France.
The All Blacks after their loss to France. Photo credit: Image - Getty Images

Realistically, they should have lost both tests against the Springboks, saved only by Jordie Barrett's boot, and they never quite seemed to click as a unit, despite undoubted quality across the park.

Wonder if the coach is the problem?

Stephen Foote, Newshub digital sports producer

All Blacks

A Rugby Championship title, a 19th consecutive Bledisloe Cup win and a record 101 test tries still aren't enough to sugarcoat the plain and simple truth - this All Blacks side are barely a top-five international team.

Flattered by a comfortable sweep over a rudderless Australia, a late escape act in a game they probably deserved to lose against South Africa, and pointless blowouts against virtual club sides Tonga and USA, the All Blacks headed north for the first time since 2018, riding a wave of confidence.

What awaited them was an unforgiving reality check against - like it or not - the sport's true global powerhouses.

After dispatching a near third-string Wales, the New Zealanders were dealt an unapologetic wake-up call against firstly Ireland, then France in two of the most comprehensive All Blacks losses in recent memory.

All Blacks coach Ian Foster.
All Blacks coach Ian Foster. Photo credit: Image - Getty Images

The cracks that had emerged early in coach Ian Foster's tenure turned to chasms under the pressures of genuine, white-hot, test-rugby intensity, most glaringly in the backs, where the lack of established combinations, and an attack that eschewed patience and creativity were brutally exposed.

Several All Blacks veterans fell well short of their lofty standards, and an absence of discipline and leadership at crucial stages of tests - areas where previous All Blacks sides have thrived - were conspicuously absent and compounded by a revolving door of captains.

The demands of their 'unprecedented' three-month tour were rolled out as a buffer for much of the criticism aimed at the All Blacks, which left players from the amateur era cringing, not to mention their gigantic 36-man squad and the extra cavalry flown in.

Heading into Rugby World Cup eve next year, expect the already-hot spotlight shining on Messrs Foster, Plumtree and Mooar to reach incandescent levels should the same lack of spark and purpose rear its head again.

Grant Chapman, Newshub digital sports lead 

NZ Warriors' early release of Roger Tuivasa-Sheck

One thing that keeps Warriors fans still believing, despite their team's repeated inability to make NRL playoffs, is their fighting qualities.

While eight playoff appearances from 27 seasons is not a great payback for that loyalty, they have usually retained a proverbial 'mathematical chance' until late in most campaigns, keeping their followers hoping until the very last.

Roger Tuivasa-Sheck.
Roger Tuivasa-Sheck. Photo credit: Image - Getty Images

So the decision to cut their captain and best player loose after six straight losses and six points out of the top eight - but with six games still remaining and one of the kindest schedules over the final rounds - was baffling.

Roger Tuivasa-Sheck had already announced his switch to the 15-a-side code and was eyeing an NPC stint with Auckland to make that adjustment, but still had unfinished business with his current employers.

Cheated of a fitting fan farewell at Mt Smart Stadium, maybe the club felt it owed him something for sticking around through the COVID-19 pandemic and didn't want to hold him back further, with another NZ lockdown looming. 

But his departure was a sign the Warriors had run up the white flag with plenty left to play for.

Sure enough, they won three straight without him, taking them to the brink of the post-season, before the wheels finally fell off in spectacular fashion.

By then, RTS was long gone and never got to play for Auckland. What a waste.

Lucy Thomson, Newshub sports reporter & producer 

Managed Isolation and Quarantine system

After a tumultuous 12 months, courtesy of the COVID-19 pandemic, the biggest disappointment and challenge for athletes this year was undoubtedly navigating the MIQ system.

Hundreds of teams and individuals from around the country were forced to undergo the mandatory two-week isolation period, some on more than one occasion. This not only presented a physical challenge when it came to preparing for events, but a mental one as well.

Managed Isolation and Quarantine.
Managed Isolation and Quarantine. Photo credit: Image - Getty Images

Because of this, several of our teams, including NZ Warriors, NZ Breakers and Wellington Phoenix were forced to base themselves across the Tasman, away from family and friends, in order to compete. 

The challenge of then securing MIQ spots through the lottery system to return home was one that many struggled with.

That said, hats must go off to all the athletes that competed in 2021, despite the added challenges of COVID-19. 

Ollie Ritchie, Newshub sports reporter

All Blacks

Yes, there were lots of wins, lots of tries and lots of points, but when you look at the opposition they played - Tonga, Fiji, USA and Italy - that should be the case. 

Sam Whitelock leads the All Blacks' haka before their defeat to Ireland.
Sam Whitelock leads the All Blacks' haka before their defeat to Ireland. Photo credit: Getty

The four tests against South Africa (two), Ireland and France were where things went wrong. This was the chance to show the real progress they'd made under Ian Foster and unfortunately none was seen. 

All Blacks hierachy face a long summer, with a big response in 2022 surely needed. 

The Black Ferns were also thoroughly underwhelming and will need a huge turnaround, if they're to even contend at next year's World Cup on home soil.

Alex Powell, Newshub digital sports producer


Even with the additions of props Addin Fonua-Blake and Matt Lodge, and the game's brightest shining star in fullback Reece Walsh, NZ Warriors still underwhelmed in another season stuck in Australia.

Again missing out on the NRL playoffs, the Warriors lost eight games by six points or fewer, and one more by eight points, pinpointing the team's need for a better game manager, with Shaun Johnson due to return for 2022.

Chad Townsend dejected as the Warriors lose to St George Illawarra Dragons.
Chad Townsend dejected as the Warriors lose to St George Illawarra Dragons. Photo credit: Image - Getty Images

With arguably their most exciting roster in a long time, the Warriors' 12th placed finish leaves the club struggling to find its identity as a side under coach Nathan Brown. Even by their own standards, 2021 was disappointing for the Warriors. 

Roger Tuivasa-Sheck's departure cast a pretty horrible shadow over the campaign before a ball was even kicked, with the captain released early to return to New Zealand while there were still points to play for.

A final-day fracas with Gold Coast Titans was the icing on the cake for the club, with players choosing to show the wrong kind of fight fans had craved all year.

But, y'know, 2022 could be their year and all that.