2011 rugby’s big year in the cap­i­tal

Kapi-Mana News - - SPORT - By JOSEPH RO­MANOS

The Rugby World Cup dom­i­nated Welling­ton sport in 2011, as it did na­tion­ally.

Not only did hundreds of thou­sands of Welling­to­ni­ans fol­low the World Cup, ei­ther by at­tend­ing early matches or on tele­vi­sion, but the city con­trib­uted some of the key mem­bers of the All Black squad.

Piri Weepu, Con­rad Smith, Ma’a Nonu, Cory Jane and, to a lesser ex­tent, Vic­tor Vito, played im­por­tant roles. Welling­ton also claims a bit of pride, too, in the per­for­mance of Aaron Cru­den of Manawatu and An­drew Hore of Taranaki, be­cause of their link with the Hur­ri­canes.

By the end of the tour­na­ment, Hosea Gear had also been called into the squad, as in­juries mounted.

It was ironic that the All Blacks’ tri­umph at the World Cup should make Welling­to­ni­ans feel so good about rugby. Ear­lier in the year, there’d been gnash­ing of teeth as the Hur­ri­canes squad – un­der­per­form­ing as usual – dis­in­te­grated be­fore our eyes.

New Hur­ri­canes coach Mark Ham­mett told Nonu and cap­tain Hore they were no longer re­quired. This caused mas­sive dis­rup­tion, to the point that Weepu and Gear signed else­where soon af­ter.

The Hur­ri­canes lineup looks no­tice­ably short of fire­power.

To round off an undis­tin­guished sea­son for Welling­ton, the Lions fin­ished only sixth of seven teams in their ITM Cup sec­tion.

The Fire­birds fin­ished ei­ther last or sec­ond-last in all three cricket com­pe­ti­tions – first-class, one-day and Twenty20. This re­sulted in the sack­ing of coach An­thony Stu­art. Also de­part­ing was pop­u­lar Cricket Welling­ton chief ex­ec­u­tive Gavin Larsen.

Un­der a new coach, Jamie Sid­dons, the in­jury-blighted Welling­ton team has strug­gled to make an im­pact in the 2011- 12 com­pe­ti­tions.

The Welling­ton women, the Blaze, did much bet­ter, jostling with Can­ter­bury for top hon­ours.

There wasn’t much for Welling­ton to smile about on the net­ball scene. The Pulse im­proved marginally in the trans-tas­man com­pe­ti­tion. In a rather low-key national net­ball cham­pi­onship, Welling­ton fin­ished fourth.

Even the Welling­ton Phoenix foot­ball team failed to pro­vide quite the spark of pre­vi­ous years. They fin­ished sixth in the Aus­tralian league, slip­ping from third in 2010. Their start to the 2011- 12 has hardly been pro­pi­tious.

The Phoenix did pro­vide off-field fire­works, though, when foun­da­tion owner Terry Serepisos ran into fi­nan­cial prob­lems and had to re­lin­quish his hold on the club. He was re­placed by a group of Welling­ton busi­ness­men.

Welling­ton pro­duced re­sults in other sports.

The provin­cial men’s hockey team fin­ished fourth and the women sev­enth in the national league.

The Welling­ton men did well in squash. Martin Knight won the national se­nior ti­tle and Evan Wil­liams was voted most im­proved

mixed New Zealand male player. In ad­di­tion, Welling­ton won the national se­nior teams event.

Welling­ton rower Peter Tay­lor wasn’t quite able to se­cure an­other world ti­tle. He and Storm Uru fin­ished sec­ond in the men’s light­weight dou­ble sculls at the world champs in Bled, Slove­nia, which is still a per­for­mance not to be sneezed at

Back­stroke swim­mer Gareth Kean made the fi­nal of the 100 me­tres in the world cham­pi­onships in Shang­hai and picked up two medals, in­clud­ing a gold, at the world univer­sity games.

Olympic sil­ver medal­list Nick Wil­lis re­bounded from in­jury to reach the fi­nal of the 1500m in the world track and field cham­pi­onships in Daegu.

Pero Cameron’s Welling­ton Saints re­tained their national bas­ket­ball league ti­tle, beat­ing Hawke’s Bay 106-97.

Per­haps the bright­est news on the Welling­ton sports scene was the open­ing of the ASB in­door cen­tre in Ron­go­tai in Au­gust. The cen­tre has proved a huge suc­cess and there has not been the traf­fic chaos pre­dicted by the naysay­ers.

Photo: RE­BECCA THOM­SON

Rugby joy: Even heavy rain didn’t de­ter Welling­to­ni­ans from turn­ing out for the All Blacks’ vic­tory pa­rade on Oc­to­ber 26. More than 100,000 peo­ple wel­comed the Webb El­lis Cup win­ners.

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