2021 Sporting Year in Review: Brightest NZ Future Stars - Next great Formula One star emerges

As a pandemic-plagued 2021 draws to a close, Newshub's sporting experts reflect on the highs and lows of another dramatic year that featured (finally) the Tokyo Olympics, another All Blacks campaign and international honours for our Blackcaps cricketers. 

Our top NZ prospects to watch in 2022 are...

Alex Powell, Newshub digital sports producer

Liam Lawson

New Zealand has been blessed with some outstanding, if unheralded drivers in recent years.

Scott McLaughlin dominated Supercars over in Australia, before moving to the US for a crack at IndyCar, alongside the legendary Scott Dixon, leaving Shane van Gisbergen behind to win the 2021 title.

Brendon Hartley's been a staple for success at the Le Mans 24 hour race, with wins in 2017 and 2020, as well as earning a short stint in Formula One with Toro Rosso.

But without question, the best is still yet to come, with not one, but two drivers on the cusp of F1 in Liam Lawson and Marcus Armstrong.

As a Red Bull junior driver, Lawson is probably the likeliest to break into F1 first, with four driver's seats available across two teams, as opposed to Ferrari junior Armstrong with only two.

In his first Formula Two season, Lawson notched one win and another two podium finishes to finish ninth in the championship, with Red Bull's team principal Christian Horner personally shoulder-tapping him for an F1 test drive with Alpha Tauri at the Abu Dhabi season finale.

Lawson probably won't step up up until 2023 at the very earliest, but he's put himself into pole position to be the next Kiwi at the pinnacle of motorsport.

David Nyika in action at Tokyo Olympics.
David Nyika in action at Tokyo Olympics. Photo credit: Photosport

James Regan, Newshub sports reporter

David Nyika

The year 2022 will be huge for rising heavyweight boxer Nyika.

After his first professional bout in February, which he won by knockout in a matter of seconds, he stormed to an Olympic bronze medal in Tokyo. 

The two-time Commonwealth Games champion has his sights set on the threepeat at Birmingham next year and will have a wealth of valuable experience behind him by then. 

Currently in England, he’s been working with Joseph Parker, trainer Andy Lee and world champion Tyson Fury to prepare for his second pro fight. There aren’t many on the planet who could boast that kind of posse to help him learn the ropes. 

Nyika admits working alongside Fury was confronting at first, but what better way to learn than to have the world's best by your side.

At just 26 years old, he has such a bright future, and is definitely one to keep an eye on next year and beyond. 

Grant Chapman, Newshub online sports editor

Niamh Fisher-Black

As women’s cycling slowly gains ground on its male equivalent in terms of competitive opportunity and profile, New Zealand is well placed at the forefront of that revolution.

Promising Kiwi cyclist Niamh Fisher-Black riding at Spain's La Vuelta.
Promising Kiwi cyclist Niamh Fisher-Black riding at Spain's La Vuelta. Photo credit: Getty

Fisher-Black, 21, is already well known among local bikies, but has also made a splash internationally during 2021, claiming the blue jersey as the UCI Best Young Rider. 

She capped her campaign with ninth overall at the prestigious Giro Rosa, where she also claimed age-group honours.

And Fisher-Black has achieved all this as part of a powerful SD Worx outfit that features some of the world’s best performers, including three-time world champion Anna van der Breggen, which means she often rides in support of teammates.

Stephen Foote, Newshub online sports producer

Will Jordan

In a year to forget for All Blacks fans, Will Jordan has been one of just a few to enhance their reputations on the field.

Tasman Mako and Crusaders fans have pointed to his exploits in a black jersey with a smug sense of 'I told you so', as the Christchurch native has tightened his stranglehold on the No.14 jersey.

The 23-year-old boasts an arsenal of attacking abilities arguably not seen since the great Christian Cullen, with an innate sense for a gap and the kind of natural on-field instincts that simply can't be taught.

Blessed with blistering acceleration, a sixth sense for a gap and rock-solid fundamentals, Jordan is like Ben Smith on steroids.

Now the selectors must do his prodigious talents justice by dispensing with their outside-back rotations and allowing him to soar in 2022.

All Blacks wing Will Jordan has been revelation in 2021.
All Blacks wing Will Jordan has been revelation in 2021. Photo credit: Photosport

Alex Chapman, Newshub sports reporter

Devon Conway

My initial instinct for this was to go with a youngster, but will go a bit leftfield instead.

Blackcaps batsman Devon Conway has announced himself on the cricket world stage with a handful of magnificent performances, which sees him averaging at least 50 runs in all three international formats. 

A double hundred on test debut at the home of cricket - Lord's, not Cornwall Cricket Club - as well as a solid performance in the World Test Championship final, has seen him already touted as an utter star of the future, despite being 30.

Yes, the ex-pat South African let himself down when he punched his bat and broke his hand at the Twenty20 World Cup, but that's a lesson for us all to not vent at a solid piece of wood. 

He would've been epic in India, but it wasn't meant to be. Regardless, Conway is destined to  score plenty more runs yet for the Blackcaps.

Blackcaps batsman Devon Conway celebrates his double century on test debut.
Blackcaps batsman Devon Conway celebrates his double century on test debut. Photo credit: Photosport

Brad Lewis, Newshub online sports producer

Liam Lawson

It's crazy to think the Hastings native is still a teenager, given the growing pedigree he has as one of the best young motorsport talents in the world.

A member of the famed Red Bull Junior programme, Lawson won two races in this year's F2 Championship, including at Monaco, although that race was cruelly taken away from him for a starting procedure error. 

The flying Kiwi also came razor close to winning the German DTM crown, had he not crashed out of the last race of the season.

Lawson is as close to an F1 seat as he can be and if he can secure a top-three finish in the 2022 championship, the big dance awaits with Alpha Tauri in 2023.