2021 Sporting Year in Review: Fearless Predictions - More frustration for All Blacks

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. 

But what does 2022 hold in store? We consult the crystal ball...

Alex Powell, Newshub digital sports producer

Roger Tuivasa-Sheck doesn't make the All Blacks

Tuivasa-Sheck is a fantastic athlete and is a welcome addition to NZ rugby circles, but I cannot see how he breaks into the All Blacks in 2022.

If he's wanting to play as a winger, he's already behind Will Jordan, Sevu Reece and George Bridge. Anyone remember Caleb Clarke?

If he wants to play fullback, he's behind Jordie Barrett.

Midfield? He's behind Anton Lienert-Brown, Rieko Ioane, David Havili and Jack Goodhue.

It'll be incredibly hard to justify All Blacks selection ahead of the above, with only Super Rugby Pacific to find his feet back in the 15-man code.

What's more, Auckland's exit from the NPC means he'll have to hit the ground running without playing rugby for more than 10 years, when he lines up to start the year with the Blues.

That's not to say RTS won't be in contention for the All Blacks' tilt at the Rugby World Cup in 2023, but he must really kick the door down to force his way into Ian Foster's plans for the next 12 months.

Grant Chapman, Newshub digital sports lead

Mark Dunphy’s America’s Cup revolt

Incensed by Team NZ’s decision to take the next defence of the ‘Auld Mug’ to Ireland, the Kiwi rich-lister puts his money where his mouth is and forms his own syndicate, under the auspices of the New Plymouth Yacht Club.

To helm the AC75, Dunphy hires everyone’s favourite Aussie sailor, Jimmy Spithill, who jumps at the chance to topple his archrivals in a defender series.

Team NZ celebrate their America's Cup win
Team NZ celebrate their America's Cup win. Photo credit: Photosport

The millionaire also engages the Olympic men’s cycling pursuit team to power the boat, convincing them the programme would serve as ideal preparation for the Paris Olympics.

Fast forward to 2024, Spithill and Team Taranaki defeat Team NZ for the right to defend the Cup, which they duly achieve, and Dunphy uses the 2028 regatta as the catalyst to redevelop the New Plymouth waterfront.

Stephen Foote, Newshub digital sports producer

Warriors to make top eight

It almost seems a bit sad that such a prediction is bold enough to place under this category, but history doesn't lie.

The Warriors' playoffs drought is now at three years and counting, which doesn't seem awful, until you consider that was their only top-eight finish of the past 10 seasons.

No doubt, at the very least, the Warriors have the talent to compete with the mid-upper echelon of the NRL, but beyond the obvious disadvantages of their forced relocation, persistent injury issues in key positions have plagued the Warriors and prevented consistent selection, which has impacted the development of key combinations.

The key next year will be keeping a clean bill of health to help foster those.

Recruitment-wise, there are definitely reasons to feel encouraged. Say what you will about the return of injury-prone prodigal son Shaun Johnson, but he will provide some much-needed direction and game management in the halves, as well as an ability to apply pressure with a kicking game that has been conspicuously absent.

Tohu Harris exits the 2021 NRL season
Tohu Harris exits the 2021 NRL season. Photo credit: Getty

Ash Taylor carries his caveats, but is a risk well worth taking and has, by all accounts, looked fantastic in pre-season training. Taniela Otukolo could answer some questions at hooker, where the Warriors have lacked the kind of ball-playing explosiveness that has become the earmark of the elite sides in the modern era.

The departure of Kane Evans has increased the collective IQ of an enormous pack, where I still hold hope the Lodge/Fonua-Blake pairing could become one the competition's best, not to mention the promise of another step up for breakthrough menace Josh Curran.

And just imagine having talisman and best player Tohu Harris at the helm and healthy?

We've said it before and we'll say it again - it's our year, lads. Let's gone.

Mark Graham, Newshub sports producer

Blues to topple Crusaders in (real) Super Rugby

I'm a Crusaders fan and always will be.

I've thoroughly enjoyed their domination while working in Auckland newsrooms over the years, but my constant and purposely annoying gloating to my Auckland colleagues may finally come back on me, because the 2022 Blues squad is stacked!

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

With the addition of a linebreaker like Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, they'll win it all. With him, Beauden Barrett, Rieko Ioane and Caleb Clarke, the Blues backline will be almost unstoppable. 

Lydia Ko will win a Major in 2022

This may not even be a bold prediction with her form at the tailend of 2021.

Her body language on course seems to have changed immensely this past year - she just seems to have her old mojo back. Plus, with the distance that she's added off the tee, Ko is looking like an even more complete golfer. She could actually win more than one major.

Black Ferns win the Rugby World Cup

They obviously need to improve their fitness and with Super Rugby Aupiki kicking off next year, this will really help players get into the shape they need to be.

Black Ferns challenge opponents on their northern tour
Black Ferns challenge opponents on their northern tour. Photo credit: Photosport

On top of this, the home-crowd factor will be huge and really help motivate the team to rediscover the form they had before COVID-19 wiped out their playing schedule.

The entire country will get behind them and that support will see them defend the title.   

Brad Lewis, Newshub digital sports producer

Wallabies win Bledisloe Cup

In 2021, there were small signs that Dave Rennie has Australia pointing in the right direction, but they still have a mental block against the All Blacks, who had three fairly comfortable victories over their trans-Tasman rivals.

So why will the Cup swap for the first time since 2003? Because Rennie is a better coach than Ian Foster and his best XV is good enough to finally wrench 'Bill' from the NZ Rugby trophy cabinet.

That, and I was told to be fearless, so fearless this is.

Narelle Sindos, Newshub sports reporter & Big Wraps podcast host

All Whites will qualify for FIFA World Cup in Qatar

Despite potentially missing some of their best players for the Oceania qualifiers in March, the team won't have too much trouble progressing to the inter-continental playoff, which as we know has changed.

All Whites star Chris Wood
All Whites star Chris Wood. Photo credit: Photosport

Going up against the fourth-best CONCACAF side will be no easy feat, but the chances of beating them in a one-off game at a neutral venue are pretty good.

The All Whites have been building well under Danny Hay, with a lot of fresh faces coming through to beef up competition for places.

Qatar 2022 here we come.