By Liam Rātana
There have been many memorable New Zealand sporting moments over the past two decades. King Carlos giving it to Crusaders fans in 2005, Jerry Collins and Russel Packer answering nature’s call during games, and Northern Mystics lifting each other like netball includes lineouts are just a few examples of what could’ve made this list.
To pay tribute to New Zealand sport, we narrowed it down to a list of the 20 most iconic New Zealand sporting moments from the last 20 years.
All Whites go undefeated at the 2010 World Cup
It may seem strange to some to be celebrating a team that didn’t win a single game at a tournament but the All Whites were the only side to go undefeated at the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. The team opened with a one all draw against Slovakia in their opening match, before taking on defending champions Italy. The game will be etched in New Zealand football fan’s minds forever, after the Kiwis walked away with a 1-1 draw and the respect of the football world. A goalless draw with Paraguay meant that the All Whites finished the tournament unbeaten and while it wasn't enough for them to progress out of the group, they did make history.
Michael Campbell winning the US Open
In 2005, golfer Michael Campbell (Ngāti Ruanui, Ngā Rauru) failed to make the cut at his first five tournaments that year. However, he quickly turned things around, making the cut in all but one of his next 16 tournaments. Campbell then went on to sink a six-foot birdie, qualifying for the US Open. It was a close battle between Campbell and Tiger Woods throughout the tournament, but the Māori boy from Hāwera went on to win by two shots, becoming the second ever New Zealander to win a major.
Valerie Adams winning her second Olympic Gold medal
Adams was 20 years old when she attended her first Olympics in Athens, finishing seventh in the women’s shot put. Four years later in Beijing, she became the first New Zealander to win an Olympic gold medal in track and field since John Walker in 1976. Adams unluckily finished second in London in 2012 but was later upgraded to gold after it was revealed Belarusian Nadzeya Astapchuk had tested positive for a banned substance.
Steven Adams lands a $143.3 million deal with the Oklahoma City Thunder in the NBA
Whatever the Adams family have for dinner, I want some. Valerie’s brother Steven also happens to appear in the list, being New Zealand’s highest-earning sportsman of all time. At just 23 years old, Adams signed a four-year $143.3 million deal with the Oklahoma City Thunder in the NBA. The contract was not only huge for Adams but also the next generation of New Zealand basketballers, who now had a Kiwi to look up to in the NBA.
Māori All Blacks beating the British and Irish Lions
It was a clear June night at Waikato Stadium in 2005. With only 20 minutes left on the clock, the New Zealand Māori are leading the British and Irish Lions by three points and are preparing for a lineout on their opposition’s five-metre line. The ball is thrown in but tipped by the Lions, the Māori recover it, and sling it wide. Spencer goes front-door to Tipoki (Ngāti Porou), wraps back around, and passes it to Leon Macdonald who steps back in, beating five defenders and crossing the line to put the Māori up by 10. The Lions score a late conciliation try, but the Māori hold on to beat them 19-13, their first ever win over the side.
Black Caps make first ever Cricket World Cup final
Five runs required with two balls remaining, but we only needed one. South African born Black Cap Grant Elliot smacks a six against his birth nation to send New Zealand to their first-ever Cricket World Cup final in 2015, in front of a sold-out Eden Park.
All Blacks crowned world champions for first time in 24 years
60,000 Kiwis crammed into Eden Park to witness their national team seek redemption for a disappointing 2007 campaign. Tony Woodcock crossed the line from a beautiful lineout move to score the only try of the match. Our fourth-string first-five Stephen Donald then took the field for what would be the biggest match of his career. Donald slotted a clutch penalty to put the team up by eight points. France struck back with a try of their own, but the All Blacks defended well for the last 30 minutes of the match, holding on to be crowned champions for the first time since 1987.
Kiwis beat Kangaroos in Brisbane to claim RLWC 2008
For avid New Zealand rugby league fans, we knew it would be an uphill battle to even contest against what was arguably the greatest ever Kangaroos side, let alone at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane, the mecca of Australian rugby league. The Kangaroos scored two quick tries to find themselves up by 10 with only 20 minutes gone. However, it didn’t take long for the Kiwis to strike back via Jeremy Smith and then Jerome Ropati. Lockyer then scored his second to see the Kangaroos take a four-point lead into the sheds. However, the Aussies self-destructed after the break. Benji Marshall (Ngāi Tūhoe, Ngāti Awa) pounced on a Billy Slater brain explosion and the Kiwis earnt a penalty try after Lance Hohaia (Tainui) was taken out. Adam Blair (Te Rarawa, Ngāpuhi) then put the icing on the cake for the Kiwis, handing them their first ever Rugby league World Cup.
Breakers winning three in a row
The Breakers were the first New Zealand team to win a major Australian sports competition after beating the Cairns Taipans in 2011. They remained a dominant force for the next two years, claiming a repeat title in 2012 and then finding themselves in the final for a third year in a row in 2013. The Breakers were strong favourites going into the finals series, having won 13 in on the trot. They dominated the Perth Wildcats, sweeping them in two straight games to claim a historic third title in a row, a feat which no other NBL club has yet achieved.
The Warriors beat the Melbourne Storm to advance in the 2011 NRL playoffs
The Warriors were fortunate to qualify for the 2011 NRL finals, constantly dropping in and out of the top eight throughout the season. They lost their first finals match against the Brisbane Broncos but made the most of their second chance, beating Wests Tigers to advance to the preliminary final. Although no team had ever beaten the minor premiers in a preliminary final, the Warriors were confident knowing that they were one of only two teams to upset the Storm at AAMI Park that season.
2003 Netball World Cup win
The Silver Ferns hadn’t won a Netball World Cup in 16 years and the 2003 final was Australia’s to lose according to most commentators. However, the New Zealanders had the support of the local Jamaican crowd behind them, illustrated by their jeering of the umpires following the controversial sending off of Temepara Bailey (nee George) (Ngāpuhi). It was a nailbiter right to the very end, with New Zealand leading by only two points heading into the final minute. However, the Kiwis remain composed enough to hold their lead and claim the gold.
Lisa Carrington becomes the first New Zealand woman to win multiple medals at an Olympics
Lisa Carrington (Te Aitanga-a-Māhaki, Ngāti Porou) made history at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janiero, winning gold in the K1 200 metres event and bronze in K1 500 metres. It wasn’t the best of starts for Carrington in the K1 200m final, finding herself in third near the half-way mark. However, she proved her champion status with an impressive run to the line to finish 0.4 seconds ahead of her nearest rival with a time of 39.864 secs. Carrington was then back on the water the next day to claim bronze in the K1 500 metres event.
Shane Cameron vs David Tua
It was billed as the fight of the century between two of the country’s most successful boxers. Cameron (Ngāti Rongomaiwahine) called out Tua after climbing the ladder to be ranked 6th by the WBO and 15th by the IBF. At a press conference a couple of months out from the fight, Cameron’s promoter Ken Reinsfield infamously stated that it would be “lights out” for David Tua. Unfortunately for Reinsfield and Cameron, the opposite would be true. The Mountain Warrior looked more like a mountain goat on the night, hitting the canvas for the first time with 30 seconds left in the first round. Cameron found his feet for about 15 seconds, before Tua was on the attack again, decking Cameron for the second time in the round. Controversially, Tua struck Cameron twice whilst he was on the floor, which is grounds for a disqualification. Cameron lasted a whole 14 seconds in the next round before referee Bruce McTavish called a stop to the bout, with Tua showing why he once competed for the world title.
Israel Adesanya winning UFC Championship
No one had entered the Ultimate Fighting Championship surrounded by so much hype than Israel Adesanya. The Nigerian-born New Zealander had already claimed world titles in two different kickboxing classes and had caught the eyes of mixed martial artists around the world. He quickly rose through the UFC ranks, breezing through the middle weight class and finding himself matched up against Kelvin Gastelum for the interim title. It was a back and forth battle, with both fighters taking damage throughout. However, Adesanya left no doubt in the judge’s minds after the fifth round, dropping Gastelum again and winning by unanimous decision.
Team New Zealand win 2017 America’s Cup
It had been 17 years since Team New Zealand were crowned back-to-back champions in the America’s Cup. There were expectations that Pete Burling and his crew would be good but not many expected them to be 7-1 good. The crew wowed on their AC Class catamaran, making the mornings of Kiwis all over with their dominant performances, none more so than their 55 second win in the final race of the series. The win also saw Burling become the youngest ever helmsman to win the cup, aged just 26.
Levi Sherwood makes history
Kiwi freestyle motocross rider Levi Sherwood made history in 2017, becoming the first rider to ever land a no-hands double backflip. Sherwood also had his best year of competition that year, claiming three major titles, the Nitro World Games, Red Bull X-Fighters and two gold medals at X Games. At those same X Games, Sherwood became the first rider since Travis Pastrana to win Moto X Freestyle and Best Trick at X Games. Sherwood stunned his rivals with a second run that included three double backflips with three different variations in one run.
Tall Blacks perform haka against USA
An estimated 2.2 billion people around the world play basketball. The USA have long been considered the best, having been crowned world champions five times since 1950. In their match against New Zealand, the Kiwis began as most international New Zealand squads do, with a haka. Many players in the USA team and viewers back in the States had never witnessed a haka before and it was easy to see. From James Harden’s look of pure confusion to Kenneth Faried’s raised eyebrows, the USA was in shock. The clip went viral on YouTube, amassing over 12 million views and taking Māori culture to the world.
New Zealand wins five Olympic gold medals in one day
At the 2008 Beijing Olympics, New Zealand enjoyed its greatest day at an Olympics ever, claiming five medals in the space of a few hours. The rowers started the run with single sculler Mahe Drysdale, who competed with a nasty stomach virus, and the men's pair of George Bridgewater and Nathan Twaddle winning bronze. The last Olympic race Georgina and Caroline Evers Swindell became the greatest and closest race in New Zealand's Olympic history. Disappointing performances before the Games had some doubting their abilities but the reigning champions showed what they were made of, winning the gold in Beijing by just .001 of a second. Track cyclist Hayden Roulston bagged silver in the 4000m individual pursuit before Valerie Adams blitzed the field in the shot put, with an opening throw of 20.56 to win New Zealand's fifth medal of the day and its first Olympic throwing gold medal.
Auckland City FC place third at FIFA Club World Cup
‘I’ll be at Kiwitea next year’ became the catchcry for avid New Zealand football fans in 2014, following the success of the Auckland City FC at the FIFA Club World Cup. The Aucklanders beat Moroccan champions Moghreb Tétouan in a play-off for the quarter-finals, winning 4–3 in a penalty shoot-out and qualifying for a quarter-final clash against AFC Champions League winners ES Sétif. Auckland City defeated ES Sétif 1–0, courtesy of a John Irving goal, and advanced to the semi-finals for the first time ever. Auckland played Copa Libertadores champions San Lorenzo in the semifinals but unfortunately lost 2–1. A shock upset seemed within reach when a second-half goal from Ángel Berlanga cancelled out Pablo Barrientos' first-half strike for San Lorenzo but substitute Mauro Matos netted San Lorenzo's winner in extra time. The Navy Blues finished the tournament with a historic 4-2 penalty shootout win over Cruz Azul in the third-place playoff after a 1–1 draw at full time, with substitute Sanni Issa scoring the ultimate penalty just days after signing for the club. The result gained the side worldwide acclaim, as the team of part-timers and amateurs defied all expectations in the competition. Club stalwart and defender Ivan Vicelich came third in the Golden Ball award for best player at the tournament, behind Cristiano Ronaldo and Sergio Ramos of Real Madrid.
New Zealand's first Test triple century
Martin Crowe had come agonisingly close to 300-runs against Sri Lanka back in 1991 but New Zealand were still on the hunt for their first triple century. It would take a further 23 years until the feat was finally achieved. The Black Caps were playing India and hoping for a rare series win over the side. However, the batting top order had collapsed, leaving the team on just 94/5. Enter Brendon McCullum. Alongside BJ Watling (124) and debutant Jimmy Neesham (137 not out), McCullum rescued the New Zealand innings, bringing up our first triple ton.