2021 Sporting Year in Review: Outstanding NZ Male Athletes - James McDoanld rises to occasion

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 male performers were...

Stephen Foote, Newshub digital sports producer

Kyle Jamieson

In a platinum year for the Blackcaps, rookie quick bowler Kyle Jamieson has been the shining light for both the present and future of the burgeoning national side.

This year, Jamieson has evolved from one of the world's most promising young talents to simply one of the most talented bowlers walking the earth, terrorising elite batting line-ups with a release that comes from the clouds, variation to burn and cricketing IQ far beyond his 26 years.

Kyle Jamieson
Kyle Jamieson Photo credit: Photosport

What better place to announce your arrival than the World Test Championship final, where - with the eyes of the world watching - the Aucklander produced a virtuoso display of seam bowling, claiming a five-wicket bag - including the key scalps of Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma - to be named Player of the Match and clinch a historic NZ victory.

Putting aside his relative Twenty20 struggles - if you can call becoming an instant multi-millionaire at the IPL auction a 'struggle' - the red ball is where you truly create a legacy and Jamieson is already on pace for greatness.

In India last month, he surpassed Shane Bond as the fastest to reach 50 test wickets, needing just nine matches to his idol's 12 - also good enough for the eighth-fastest ever.

His bowling average currently stands at an absurd 16.03 runs per wicket, which is comfortably the best among any active test bowler and ranks him a staggering fourth on the all-time list... as in fourth-best in the HISTORY of all test bowlers.

While that number is obviously inflated by his relative lack of experience, there's little reason to doubt he has plenty of history left to write.

Grant Chapman, Newshub digital sports lead 

Hamish Bond

Hamish Bond
Hamish Bond Photo credit: Getty Images

I admit it, I have a man-crush on Bond. Anyone who can achieve what he has over two international sports - rowing and cycling - deserves that.

After sharing the Halberg Decade Champion award with pairs mate Eric Murray, and flirting with cycling excellence on both road and track, Bond returned to the water to guide the men’s eight to unexpected Olympic gold.

Yes, he was just one member of the crew, but you suspect the twice Olympic champion/eight-time world champion dictated a culture change that saw the big boat fail to qualify at last year’s world championships, sneak into the Tokyo field at a last-ditch regatta in June and simply blow away their rivals when it counted. 

The eight can’t win Team of the Year (although they come close), but they were the only NZ men to mount the top of the medal dais and Bond was likely the difference-maker.

Alex Powell, Newshub digital sports producer 

Devon Conway 

Devon Conway
Devon Conway Photo credit: Getty Images

Devon Conway's international debut was hyped to the point of parody in 2020, but the South African-born Blackcap showcased exactly what he's about in 2021 - scoring runs.

After a home summer that saw him make waves as a white-ball batter, Conway was thrust into a test debut at Lord's, batting out of position at the top of the order.

But if Conway had nerves or doubts, the opening two days in London put pay to the notion he might not be the Blackcaps' man.

The elegant left-hander stroked his way onto the Lord's honours board with 136 not out at stumps on day one and pushed on to 200 on day two, before being run out. 

Another 80 at Edgbaston a week later helped the Blackcaps earn a 1-0 series win over England, before he topscored in the World Test Championship final with 54, as New Zealand lifted the inaugural title.

At the Twenty20 World Cup in the UAE, Conway took the gloves and gave a good account of himself as a wicketkeeper, even if he did miss the final with a broken hand, punching his bat after getting out against England.

In three tests, Conway scored 379 runs at 63.16. In three ODIs, Conway scored 225 runs at 75. In 14 T20 Internationals, Conway scored 428 runs at 47.55, establishing himself as an automatic all-format player for years to come.

Andrew Gourdie, Newshub sports presenter 

James McDonald 

James McDonald
James McDonald Photo credit: AM Show

For James McDonald, 2021 has been the standout year in a phenomenal career

At just 29, he became the youngest ever inducted into the NZ Racing Hall of Fame - and that was before he enjoyed most of the unprecedented success he experienced in the back half of the year. 

He has claimed 12 of his 59 Group 1 victories in the last 12 months, the most significant being his Melbourne Cup win aboard NZ-trained and owned mare Verry Elleegant at Flemington in November. 

His victory with Zaaki in the MacKinnon Stakes also saw him set a new record for the most wins by a jockey across the prestigious Melbourne Spring Carnival, with 10. 

On top of all this, he claimed another jockey premiership in Sydney, where he also piloted Nature Strip to victory in the richest turf race in the world - the $15m TAB Everest.   

McDonald has been consistent, but as proven by his wins in the Melbourne Cup, The Everest and his 12 Group One victories, he delivers in the big moments on more occasions than any of his peers.  

Luke Robinson, Newshub sports reporter 

James McDonald

In an underwhelming Olympic year for the most part from the men, 'JMac' stands out to me.

The pint-sized jockey won the Everest aboard Nature Strip in emphatic fashion and then perfectly steered Verry Elleegant to Melbourne Cup glory, breaking the record for most wins in the Melbourne Cup carnival in the process.

McDonald also claimed another Sydney jockey title, and continues to dominate the New South Wales and Australian racing scene. 

Brad Lewis, Newshub digital sports producer 

Shane van Gisbergen 

Another year and another Kiwi dominates the Supercars series.

For the fifth time in six years, a New Zealander claimed the much sought-after crown, with van Gisbergen winning his second title, following three from countryman Scott McLaughlin.

But SVG didn't just thrive in Supercars. He won the New Zealand Grand Prix in an open-wheel single-seater that he had tested for two days, after scooping the Battle Of Jack's Ridge rally crown - beating the likes of Hayden Paddon in the process - late last year.

Shane van Gisbergen
Shane van Gisbergen Photo credit: Getty Images

Van Gisbergen is a driver of immense talent, who - like the greats around the world - is always able to find the extra tenth-of-a-second when he needs it.

Six race wins to open the Supercars campaign effectively ended the title race in the first two months, as 'The Giz' ended the season with 14 in all, 23 podiums, six pole positions and a 211-point advantage over teammate Jamie Whincup.

It's hard to see the Aucklanders' dominance ending anytime soon, with McLaughlin oversees and Whincup retired.

Bathurst winner Chaz Mostert will pose a threat, as will Cam Waters, while new teammate Broc Feeney has natural speed, but none have the pedigree of van Gisbergen.