The great sporting events of 2012
LAST year provided a plethora of sporting events with three world cups and finals appearances for both the Warriors and the Breakers, but what is on the sporting horizon in 2012?
1 - Olympics - 100m final, August 6
Always one of the top events at an Olympics and despite Usain Bolt's total dominance in the 100 metres since his record breaking performance in Beijing four years ago, there is plenty of drama on offer going into London after the Jamaican's disqualification at last year's World Championships in Daegu.
The final comes on day three of the athletics meet and at the midway point of the Olympics as Bolt attempts to become the first athlete since Carl Lewis in 1984 to win four gold medals after announcing he'll be entering the 400 metre relay in London along with the 100m, 200m and 100m relay. Another stumble in the 100 metres and Bolt's dream of matching Lewis will be over at the first event.
2 - All Blacks v Australia - August 18
The World Champions and the Tri Nations champions do battle in the opening match of the new Rugby Championship in their first meeting since last year's Rugby World Cup semifinal. It will be the first real tester for Steve Hansen's men after lifting the World Cup as they look to win in Sydney for the fourth time in five tests.
The Bledisloe Cup rivals head to Auckland a week later where the Wallabies face the Eden Park hoodoo yet again and attempt to break their drought which goes back to 1986 since a win over the All Blacks. The All Blacks first match in La Plata against Argentina on September 30 could also be a big challenge for the men in black as they enter unfamiliar territory.
Of course the Super Rugby season is just 42 days away for those who are getting rugby withdrawals.
3 - European Championships - England v France, June 12
I could have cheated and said the Euro 2012 final, hosted at Kiev's Olympic Stadium on July 2, as the game to watch but the opening Group D pool match between England and France could provide as much hype.
The old rivals face off after both having disappointing World Cup campaigns two years ago and will be eager to bounce back to provide their passionate fans something to cheer about. The pressure continues to mount on the English who haven't won a major trophy since 1966. The last time these two teams met in a European Championship group match was in 2004 when France scored two late goals to steal a 2-1 win.
The Spain-Italy clash the day before and any match in Group B (Netherlands, Germany, Portugal and Denmark) should also be marked on the calendar.
4 - Olympics - Rowing, Men's Pairs final - August 4
Mark August 4 as a possible golden day for New Zealand in London. Three-time World Champions Hamish Bond and Eric Murray will look to capture their first Olympic title when they are expected to race off against British rivals Pete Reed and Andrew Triggs-Hodge who will have home advantage on the Eton Dorney water.
One of New Zealand's best hope for gold on the water, Bond and Murray have 14-straight victories over the British duo who may be sick of trailing the Kiwis' wake with talk they will join the fours in London.
5 - Black Caps v South Africa first test, March 7
For the cricketing purists the home season doesn't really start, apologies to Zimbabwe, until March when the three test series against South Africa begins. By then it will be 86 days since the Black Caps second test win over Australia in Hobart and fans have to sit through three T20s and three ODIs before the 'real stuff'. It has been eight years since South Africa last toured New Zealand, Gary Kirsten's farewell tour, as the number three ranked test side look to continue their proud record on New Zealand soil, having lost just one of their 14 tests.
For Twenty20 fans there's the T20 World Cup final to look forward to on October 7.
6 - Ryder Cup, September 26-Oct 1
The Medinah Country Club in Illinois plays host as the best golfers from the USA and Europe do battle in this biennial event. Despite home advantage USA could well head into it as underdogs having lost six of the last eight Ryder Cups. The European team should also include the current top four ranked players in the world in Luke Donald, Lee Westwood, Rory McIlroy and Martin Kaymer but you can't count out an American team with the likes of Steve Stricker, Phil Mickelson and of course Tiger Woods.
7 - Warriors v Sea Eagles, March 4
A re-match of last year's NRL grand final kicks off the season for these two sides as Eden Park plays host to the Warriors' home opener for a second straight year. After an outstanding rookie season the keys to the Warriors backline will be firmly in the hands of Shaun Johnson who will get another crack against Daly Cherry-Evans in what should be the start of another promising year for the Warriors.
It will be another highly anticipated league season where there has been more interest in coaching movements than players changing teams with Bluey McClennan at the Warriors, Ivan Cleary at the Panthers, Des Hasler at the Bulldogs and Wayne Bennett at the Knights all taking up new roles. New South Wales will aim to end a six-year losing streak in the State of Origin while the Kiwis have a huge opportunity to win their first Anzac Test since 1998 when they play hosts in the annual one-off game.
8 - Mayweather vs Pacquiao, date pending
It now seems it will be 'when' and not 'if' the most highly anticipated boxing fight in the last decade will finally take place.
Floyd Mayweather called out Manny Pacquiao to fight on May 5 earlier this week on Twitter when his jail sentence for domestic violence was postponed. But Pacman wants to fight at a new arena in Las Vegas which won't be finished until Mayweather gets out of the clink. So it's all on hold for now but watch this space for what could be the most lucrative bout in boxing history.
9 - Super Bowl XLVI, February 6
'Super Bowl Sunday' falls on Waitangi Day giving New Zealand NFL fans a welcoming day off to enjoy the big game. Heading into this week's playoff round eight teams remain with the Green Bay Packers and New England Patriots favoured to clash in the first week of February but anything can happen in the next two weeks. For fans of the 30 teams that don't make it - there is always Madonna's halftime show to enjoy.
10 - PDC World Darts Championships - Dec-Jan
Yes darts! Due to the lack of home international cricket fixtures last month it wasn't hard to get sucked into Sky's coverage of darts' elite going head to head. The drama-filled event at London's Alexandra Palace turned many in our office into darts converts. England's Adrian Lewis will be going for a hattrick of titles at the next championship at the end of the year.
ANBL final series - Early April
A-League final - Mid April
Champions League final - May 20
Tour de France - from July 1
Super Rugby final - August 4