Sports correspondent & historian
Kiwi sporting journalists are strange creatures around the time of the festive season and the advent of the new year, handing out imaginary awards, for achievements and poor performances with gay abandon.
Sideline Sid has decided to review the Bay of Plenty regional sporting scene and hand out a few of his own imaginary gongs for the local 2019 sporting year.
It is hard to go past the Bay of Plenty Steamers, as his team of the year, winning the Mitre 10 Cup Championship with an outstanding record. Just two stains of defeat appeared on their season record card, with the two losses against the Mitre 10 Cup Premiership teams of Auckland (19-7) and Wellington (16-15).
While there were many highlights, it is hard to go past the Steamers first-up encounter as their game of the season. Playing at home at the Tauranga Domain, the blue and gold brigade steamrolled Otago who were then the Ranfurly Shield holders, with a brilliant display of attacking rugby to post a 50-7 victory.
Honorable mentions go the 40-14 win over arch-rivals Waikato and the 64-3 semi-final drubbing of Manawatu, to make the title decider against Hawkes Bay. Head coach Clayton McMillan, who became a Bay of Plenty legend on the paddock, has instilled his hard-work ethics and passion for the blue and gold strip into his troops in spades.
Test cricket arrived in the Western Bay of Plenty with a bang, with the Black Caps victory against England in the first test at the Bay Oval, grabbing Sid's nod as the game and venue of the 2019 Bay of Plenty sporting year.
The inaugural test match at the Bay Oval, completed a journey from a Blake Park wasteland to the ICC latest test cricket venue, in a shade over a decade and a half.
The test went the scheduled five days and produced more twists and turns than the back road to Rotorua. It was testament to the ability of Bay Oval turf manager Jared Carter, to produce a wicket that produced a myriad of runs and also gave the bowlers something to work with.
To see local cricket heroes Kane Williamson and Trent Boult in home-town test action, was something to be treasured well into the future. In Sideline Sid's eyes, his player of the year was Black Cap skipper Kane Williamson.
Whether leading his team at home at the Bay Oval or taking his side to within a whisker of winning the Cricket World Cup, the former Pillans Point School, Otumoetai Intermediate and Tauranga Boys' College pupil, was always humble in victory and magnanimous in defeat.
Sid's choice of best local sports women of the year, is Western Bay of Plenty boxer Ariane Nicholson, who put together the best winning record of the Boxing New Zealand competition year. Ariane fights out of the Tauranga Boxing Club gym, where she is trained by boxing coach maestro Chris Walker, who has produced a notable number of senior national champions.
The Tauranga pugilist went unbeaten in 12 visits to the ring during the 2019 boxing year, including an Arafura (Darwin) Games gold medal and a Trans-Tasman Super Eight title in Adelaide, in her list of victories.
Ariane wrote her name into the Boxing New Zealand Nationals record book, winning the women's welterweight title at the national championships in Hastings, after cruising to victory with a unanimous victory in the title decider.
The most innovative sporting event, has to be the water polo at the Tauranga waterfront, that followed up last February’s inaugural tournament, with the second edition that attracted plenty of attention last weekend.
Bay of Plenty has been well served by their athletes in the past twelve months and we look forward with anticipation to further rich rewards in 2020.