Souths rookie Adam Reynolds leads our list of the year's best newcomers, and with good reason
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Adam Reynolds (South Sydney)
In 2012, rookie Adam Reynolds was given the task of filling the halfback spot at South Sydney, one vacated by Chris Sandow when he moved to Parramatta after the 2011 season. The decision to throw Reynolds into the deep end was a gamble by coach Michael Maguire, but it was one that paid off for the Rabbitohs. The 22-year-old was one of their most consistent contributors of the season (playing every game), and his performances were a major reason the Bunnies reached a preliminary final. His match-ending hamstring injury in the grand final qualifier against Canterbury was a game-changing moment. South Sydney were leading 8-4 when the injury occurred, and without his direction the Bulldogs took charge, winning 32-8. Reynolds was named Dally M Rookie of the Year.
Pistorius had long campaigned to be granted entry to the Olympics and his persistence paid off at London 2012, where he was allowed to compete as the Games' first-ever double amputee. The South African dubbed the 'Blade Runner' didn't disappoint. He achieved a season-best time on his way to the men's 400m semi-finals, in which he finished eighth with a time of 46.54 seconds. There was drama in the heats of the 4x400m relay – a Kenyan competitor tripped Ofentse Mogawane from Pistorius's South African team, and Mogawane, who tumbled over, was unable to finish his leg. As a result South Africa couldn't finish the race and Pistorius, who was due to take the baton from Mogawane, seemed destined to be cruelly robbed of a chance to represent his nation in an Olympic final. But the team secured their passage following an IAAF appeal, which provided Pistorius with another chance to shine. He anchored the race for South Africa, producing a time of 45.9 seconds in his leg as his team came second last.
Toby Greene (GWS)
Greene, at just 18 years of age, had a stellar rookie season at AFL level with newcomers Greater Western Sydney. Drafted with pick 11 in the 2011 national draft, Greene made his debut in the round one Sydney derby and was rarely out of the side for the rest of the year. The talented midfielder averaged 28.4 disposals in 19 games for the Giants, including a season-high of 38 touches against the Kangaroos. Greene earned a Rising Star nomination for a 31-disposal game against the Swans in round 14, and was considered unlucky not to win the award. His form outshone many of his more experienced teammates on occasion, leaving some to wonder if the boy from Wesley College will be GWS's first bonafide superstar.
Ko has taken the world of women's golf by storm at the tender age of 15. When the New Zealand amateur took out the New South Wales Open in January, she wrote her name into the record books as the youngest winner of a women's pro title. She attracted global attention in August by winning the Canadian Open (unfortunately due to her amateur status, she didn't take home the US$300,000 purse) and US Amateur Championship only two weeks apart. Capping off her glowing 2012 achievements, she finished in a tie for 17th at the British Open, and came in equal 39th at the US Open. On that form, it can only be a matter of when, not if, she turns pro and wins her first major.
Kyrie Irving (Cleveland Cavaliers)
Melbourne-born Irving is flying the flag for Australia in the NBA at only 20 years of age. The Cleveland Cavaliers took Irving as the number one selection in the 2011 NBA draft, and he made a sudden impression in his debut season of 2011/12. He scored 20-plus points in 10 of his first 23 games, including 32 points in a loss to the Nets (21 in the last quarter). Irving played in the 2012 Rising Stars Challenge match, and was named MVP after pouring in 34 points on his peers. His selection as the winner of the 2012 NBA Rookie of the Year appeared to be a no-brainer - only 120 first-place votes were available, and Irving received 117 of them. He was also chosen in the NBA All-Rookie First Team.
Next up: Verbals (part 2)
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