Newshub's 2023 Year in Review: Sporting Disappointment of the Year

  • 29/12/2023

You can't always get what you want...


Alex Powell - Liam Lawson misses out on a Formula One seat, again

When Daniel Ricciardo broke his hand in practice for Formula One's Dutch Grand Prix at Zandvoort, Kiwi hopeful Liam Lawson's life changed forever. 

Already embedded with Red Bull as reserve driver for its two teams, Lawson jumped into the cockpit and didn't take a backwards step. 

Driving for AlphaTauri, Lawson impressed from his first race, notched the team's then-best result of the season and even knocked Red Bull stablemate Max Verstappen out of qualifying in Singapore. 

Liam Lawson.
Liam Lawson. Photo credit: Getty Images

Only guaranteed a drive until Ricciardo recovered, Lawson's results became too hard to ignore, but motorsport politics denied the Kiwi a fulltime drive in 2024, as the commercial appeal of Ricciardo and Japan's Yuki Tsunoda saw them both re-signed for next season. 

In September, Newshub revealed that those contracts were signed before he'd even jumped in the car, leaving Lawson, 21, to continue as reserve next season.

Make no mistake, it's when and not if Lawson returns to Formula One as a fulltime driver.


Will Hewett - Football Ferns fail to fire at World Cup

This might seem harsh to many, but the NZ women are my disappointment of the sporting year. 

They had a real opportunity to set the benchmark for women's football in this country, when the FIFA Women's World Cup arrived on our shores. 

It all started so well, with an upset over Norway in the tournament's opening game giving New Zealand their first victory at a senior World Cup. 

From there, things went downhill, as they lost to the Philippines - the only team ranked below them in their group - and drawing with Switzerland to see them bundled out of the tournament. 

The side made unwanted history by becoming the first host of a Women's Football World Cup not to make it to the knockout stage. Yes, there were so many positives to come from the tournament, but their results didn't match. 

Hannah Wilkinson.
Hannah Wilkinson. Photo credit: Photosport

They had the opportunity to transfix a nation, just like the Matildas did in Australia, which could've propelled women's football in New Zealand to another level.


Grant Chapman - Social media bullying of rugby referees

Any referees, for that matter.

Wouldn't it be nice for a losing team to walk off the field with their heads held high, and NOT grizzle about how they were robbed by the refs or umpires or TMO or VAR?

Wouldn't it be great if bandwagon fans could resist the temptation to share their toxic misinformation on social media?

We only have to look at the fallout from the Rugby World Cup final, when All Blacks supporters rekindled their hatred for ref Wayne Barnes, who had apparently robbed them 15 years ago with a non-call that probably belonged to his linesmen anyway. That's a whole generation ago.

Then the third match official copped it for having too big an influence on the game.

Wayne Barnes issues a yellow card during the Rugby World Cup final.
Wayne Barnes issues a yellow card during the Rugby World Cup final. Photo credit: Getty Images

While coach Ian Foster deserves respect for his work with the All Blacks over the past 12 months, the moaning from their camp after losing to South Africa did them no credit.

Our own Super Rugby Pacific final was no better, with losing Chiefs coaching Clayton McMillan passively-agressively refusing to blame ref Ben O'Keeffe, but tacitly endorsing the crowd's booing of officials at post-game presentations. 

At least give McMillan credit for checking on O'Keeffe's mental health afterwards.

Good teams and good coaches take officials out of the equation by dominating their opponents. If you can't do that, you should simply learn to live with the result. 


Sullivan Harnett - Silver Ferns' worst World Cup

I can't go past the Silver Ferns. I'd thrown some money on them to win the tournament at the start, but they did not live up to those expectations in South Africa.

A draw with the hosts, then three straight losses to miss out on a medal at the World Cup, just was not good enough.

Dame Noeline Taurua coaching at the Netball World Cup.
Dame Noeline Taurua coaching at the Netball World Cup. Photo credit: Photosport

Yes, they did bounce back with wins later in the year, beating Australia and narrowly losing the Constellation Cup, but not winning your pinnacle event must make the year a disappointment.  


Stephen Foote - Black Ferns

Last year, the Black Ferns had the world at their feet.

The people's champions were the unanimous selection as Team of the Year, after their hometown heroics at the Rugby World Cup, winning the final in highly dramatic fashion and turning the nation into women's rugby experts.

Turn the page to 2023 and it's a much different story. The transition from saviour Sir Wayne Smith to new coach Allan Bunting has been fraught, to put it kindly.

The freewheeling expansive style under Sir Wayne has disappeared, as has any momentum garnered from their Cup exploits, with a lacklustre showing at the inaugural WXV1. They whiffed on their chance to consolidate their crown by limping to defeat against France and being put to the sword in a World Cup final rematch against England. 

England's Abby Dow leaves the Black Ferns defence grasping at air.
England's Abby Dow leaves the Black Ferns defence grasping at air. Photo credit: Photosport

Sure, they recorded some lopsided wins over Australia, but let's face it, Australia are terrible, as are every other team beneath the gulf that separates the top three from the rest of the global pack.

Success next year will be critical to ensuring that wave of goodwill surrounding the women's game doesn’t fizzle out with minimal fanfare.


Tia McDougall - Silver Ferns

The defending champions finished fourth at the Netball World Cup, their worst result ever.

The team that went was incredibly talented and it was off the back of a highly competitive ANZ Premiership season that saw some incredible skill showcased, but for some reason fell flat.

Nothing clicked. I know it was a major blow when Grace Nweke suffered an injury, but at World Cup level, it's not good enough to build your team around one player.


Grant Chapman - Blues

Can we please stop referring to their match-up against the Crusaders as a 'rivalry'?

Sure, the Auckland-based Super Rugby side claimed the only crown to elude the South Island juggernaut over the past seven years - the hit-and-giggle trans-Tasman contest during COVID-19 - but even we Aucklanders don't count that as a real thing.

During Leon MacDonald's tenure as coach, the Blues have been bullish about their massive improvement and how another Super Rugby title is just around the corner - two decades after their most recent.

Marcel Renata reflects on the Blues' semi-final defeat to Crusaders.
Marcel Renata reflects on the Blues' semi-final defeat to Crusaders. Photo credit: Photosport

When they finally beat the Crusaders in 2022, before falling in the final, they actually seemed on the verge of a breakthrough.

Their most recent encounter was a 52-15 drubbing in this year's semis suggests they are as far away from their next title as they ever were.

Perhaps the only glimmer of hope comes from Scott Robertson's promotion to the All Blacks job, taking MacDonald with him. That should level the playingfield somewhat.


Newshub Sport wishes you a Merry Christmas... see you in the New Year!