From podiums, to pay parity, paddle wars to poi, 2022 has been quite a year for our sportswomen. LockerRoom writer Sarah Cowley Ross lines up her 22 highlights. 

1. The exceptional Zoi Sadowski-Synnott secured NZ’s first Winter Olympics gold medal with a clutch back-to-back double cork 1080 trick in her last run in slopestyle. The pile-up of hugs by her fellow competitors after nailing her final trick was heartwarming, recognising the challenge of the trick and the Kiwi snowboard star for pulling it off. The 21-year-old from Wanaka went on to secure silver in the big air competition, too – making her the first Kiwi to win two medals at one Games. 

2. The first of the “Big Four” global women’s events in Aotearoa, the ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup was held in extraordinarily challenging circumstances across the country. All seven visiting nations went through MIQ on arrival (which seems foreign now) and the majority of the tournament was played with limited crowds in the traffic light settings (remember them?).

The triumphant Australian Cricket World Cup team. Photo: ICC Media

A sold-out Hagley Park final between Australia and England saw the Aussies (led by Alyssa Healy scoring a remarkable 170) take the title. The White Ferns promised a lot over the summer but were unable to deliver in some intense final over heartbreaks in their pool matches. A bronze at the Commonwealth Games T20 competition in August was a fitting redemption for the Kiwi side.

3. The New Zealand team turnaround of this century? The Black Ferns. Punished by England and France in the end-of-year tour of 2021 – and now world champions at home. Their fairytale journey had it all – a ‘professor’ came to the rescue, helped by some old All Black friends; some legends of the game missed selection; world record crowds; an aggressive attacking strategy; and the miracle hand of Joanah Ngan-Woo in the final line-out. Arise, mana wāhine, the Black Ferns.

With a sixth world title came a gargantuan shift in how New Zealand values women’s rugby. Now, increased investment must follow.

The Black Ferns went on to sweep the World Rugby Awards with co-captain Ruahei Demant winning World 15s player of the year; coach of the year went to Wayne Smith; and break-out player of the year to none other than the vivacious Ruby Tui (who turned 31 this week, and received a birthday cake from the Prime Minister). 

Black Ferns co-captain Ruahei Demant also won the Kelvin R Tremain NZ Player of the Year. 

4. The family festival nature of the Rugby World Cup. Guess what? People LOVE women’s sport and women’s rugby! I’ll let Tui say it for me, with her acceptance speech for the player of the match in the first pool game: “People said we shouldn’t, many said that we wouldn’t. But the ones that pissed me off the most were they said we couldn’t, but we did it. We sold out Eden Park.” And big ups to the 42,579 poi-twirling fans who filled the Garden of Eden for the World Cup final – a world record crowd for a women’s rugby match. 

5. Following up her silver medal at the Tokyo Olympics, Ellesse Andrews lit up the Lee Valley Velodrome at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games winning the sprint, keirin and combining with teammates Rebecca Petch and Olivia King to take the team sprint gold. After a hugely traumatic year for Cycling NZ, it was so good to see these smiling faces on the podium. 

A nod, too, to Bryony Botha – gold in the individual pursuit in a Games record and beating her Aussie rival by 8.6 seconds. Botha is now the national record holder in the gruelling 3000m individual pursuit, taking that record from Sarah Ulmer earlier in the year. Botha also went on to silver in the pursuit at the world championships in Paris.

6. Ngā Pou Hapai (flagbearer) of the New Zealand Team at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games, Joelle King finishes the PSA World Tour year ranked 4th – winning the Singapore Open and Manchester Open in 2022. After a disappointing singles campaign in Birmingham, she joined forces with her friend and doubles partner Amanda Landers-Murphy (who came out of retirement for the Games) to claim gold.

7. A breakthrough international year for sprinter Zoe Hobbs – semifinalist at the world athletics championships in Oregon in July, and then finalist at the Commonwealth Games in August. From 11.27s to 11.08s in 2022 might sound like a small improvement, but really, it’s massive.

Zoe Hobbs (No.6) reaches the semifinals of the 100m at the world champs in Oregon this year.

8. Those who wore the fern and are now opening a new chapter. Notable retirements in 2022 included Dame Valerie Adams after an illustrious shotput career (now captured in film), Black Sticks captain Stacey Michelsen, world champion netballer Katrina Rore, and rowing Olympic and world champion Grace Prendergast

Globally we said haere ra to tennis GOAT Serena Williams and sprint star Allyson Felix.

9. The milestone parity agreement from New Zealand Cricket will see the White Ferns and our domestic women’s players receiving the same match fees as the men across all formats and competitions. An equitable outcome to be celebrated.

10. The inaugural season of the Tauihi Basketball League. A professional pathway at home for our female ballers. Bravo to the Tokomanawa Queens for taking the first title coached by former Tall Fern and Olympian, Tania Tupu

11. The announcement of Crystal Kaua and Victoria Grant as head coaches for the Chiefs Manawa and Wellington Poua in the Super Rugby Aupiki, set to be played over five weeks in 2023. Kaua and Grant are the first wāhine to be head coaches at a franchise level. 

It was also brilliant to see Whitney Hansen given the opportunity of assistant coach of the Black Ferns throughout the Rugby World Cup campaign. 

12. The 1200 delegates at the IWG World Conference on Women and Sport in New Zealand to advance women’s sport. An inspiring four days which closed with the powerful keynote speaker Arizona Leger giving her call to action. “What type of ancestor will you be?,” asked Leger, the RWC content creator and director on the Counties Manukau Rugby Board. 

Arizona Leger (centre) gave a powerful closing address at the IWG World Conference on Women and Sport. Photo: Suzanne McFadden

“The biggest move we can make is to resource the next generation, ask them how we can help, and then move out of the way as they unleash their potential.”

13. Kerri Williams (nee Gowler) and Grace Prendergast winning the women’s pair at the world rowing championships – going out in style after a long and successful partnership together. Their first world title of five was in 2014 in the coxless four.

After silver in the single scull at the world championships, Olympic champion Emma Twigg went on to win the world coastal rowing championships, which has been announced as an event at the 2026 Commonwealth Games. 

14. The power of representation in our female broadcasters: Honey Hireme-Smiler on the primary All Blacks commentary panel speaking with such mana – and becoming the first woman to commentate on an NRL game; Rikki Swannell continuing to dominate World Rugby commentary feeds; and the ongoing contribution of the likes of Kirstie Stanway at Sky Sport; and Sene Nauopu and the Spark Sport crew who led the Rugby World Cup coverage. 

There are many wāhine behind the camera involved in the production of the broadcasts and soundwaves and it matters in how sportswomen are represented in media coverage. 

15. The magical Grace Nweke and Peta Toeava combination going off in the first two tests of the Constellation Cup. Full send and more please, Dame Noels. Great to see the Silver Ferns get up for bronze in Birmingham, too. A big first half of the year with the Quad Series and the ANZ Premiership looms heading into the Ferns’ defence of the 2023 World Cup in South Africa.

From the Mystics to the Silver Ferns, Nweke and Toeava have an electric connection. Photo: Michael Bradley Photography

16. SailGP launched the Women’s Pathway in 2021, providing a pathway for women sailors. And in 2022, more Kiwi women – Jo Aleh, Liv Mackay and Erica Dawson – were on board New Zealand’s boat with improving results, including two event victories. Bring on the New Zealand leg of the series in Lyttleton in March 2023.

17. Paralympic cyclist Nicole Murray won two world titles (as well as a silver and bronze) in the Para cycling world champs in Paris, in the C5 scratch race and C5 omnium. 

18. A massive 87,192 fans filled Wembley Stadium for the UEFA Women’s Euro Final in July to see the England Lioness’s win 2-1 against Germany. A moment of the shifting of the dial not only in the football-mad host country, but an indication of what lies ahead when New Zealand and Australia co-host the FIFA Women’s World Cup next year.

19. Lyds to the KO! Lydia Ko is back to being the world’s number 1 female golfer – a position she last held in 2017. It’s hard to believe Ko is just 25, but she’s back to her best collecting her 19th LPGA win this year. 

Ko won three titles in 2022 – at the Gainbridge LPGA at Boca Rio, the BMW Ladies Championship and the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship to clinch the top spot. The last victory came with a handy US$2m cheque. 

20. Beach volleyballers Shauna Polley and Alice Zeimann winning the Asian beach volleyball championships in Thailand in September. The pair were beaten in the playoffs for bronze in Birmingham but bounced back with the Thailand victory – which is significant in their campaign to qualify for the Paris Olympics 2024 (with the competition venue beneath the Eiffel Tower).

21. The showdown of 2022 – world champion paddlers Dame Lisa Carrington and Aimee Fisher. Fisher won the national title leading into a three-race series trial for the K1500m spot for the world championships. Multiple Olympic champion, Dame Lisa is not one to be trifled with, took out the last two trial races and went on to win both the K1200m and K1500m titles in Canada in August – remarkably her 11th and 12th world championship titles. 

22. And finally to our loyal LockerRoom readers – ngā mihi ki a koutou. Thanks for joining us in 2022, reading the stories that would otherwise not see the light of day, and for celebrating with us the beauty of sport. 

Keep moving, keep reading and see y’all in 2023. 

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