Andrew Gourdie: Why we should care less about the Halberg Awards

OPINION: According to the Halberg Trust, its annual awards ceremony "is a celebration of what all New Zealanders love, which is to see our sportsmen, sportswomen and teams achieve excellence on the world stage".

The ceremony itself is a celebration, but the awards are a lightning rod for negative attacks on the people and performances they seek to honour.

As sports fans, we celebrate each and every one of our sporting success stories, as they unfold throughout the year. Just as the entire nation breathed a sigh of relief when Team New Zealand crossed the line to reclaim the Auld Mug in Bermuda, we proudly celebrated the Black Ferns' World Cup triumph, following an epic victory in their final against England.

But placed in the context of a Halberg Awards debate, we lose focus. For reasons I'm still grappling with, some feel the Halberg Awards should be a night that recognises the team or athletes that haven't quite been given the kudos we think they deserve.

That's really not what they're about at all.      

Team New Zealand won the supreme award.
Team New Zealand won the supreme award. Photo credit: Photosport

The end result is that instead of celebrating success, we criticise. Fans feel aggrieved for the team or person who has been wronged and proceed to pick holes in the performances of those who the judging academy deem more worthy of recognition.

This week, social media snarled at Team New Zealand's win. Theirs was a victory for "corporate sport".

It was a joke, some said. Others highlighted the fact skipper Glenn Ashby was Australian.

None of this was mentioned when the champagne corks were popping in Bermuda, but the tall poppies are cut down, when the Halberg Awards come around.

The Sportsman category was the same. Tom Walsh was fully deserving of his victory, no doubt.

But what about his fellow finalists? Michael Venus deserved to be there, but the reaction to his snub was to provide a case for why Ross Taylor had no business being named as a finalist.

Full articles were written detailing why Taylor hadn't had such a great year, after all. How dare this imposter receive a nomination, let alone be named as one of four finalists!

What are we doing here? Previously held pride in sporting achievement is chewed up and spat out in the Halberg debate.

Fans and critics become ungrateful to the point of being anti-achievement.

Andrew Gourdie: Why we should care less about the Halberg Awards

Maybe we should all care just a little bit less.

The Halberg Awards are far from perfect. The judging academy could be a little more independent.

The judging process could be a little more transparent. The judging criteria is deeply flawed, and continues to undermine New Zealand's pre-eminent event to honour and celebrate sporting excellence.

And while many great teams and many great athletes have been honoured with a Halberg Award - and indeed felt honoured to receive a Halberg Award - we should probably all remind ourselves of the fact this is not the reason they do what they do.

No athlete or team sets out at the start of the year thinking "if i achieve all of my goals this year, maybe i'll win a Halberg Award".

They do what they do because they strive for success and recognition on the international stage in their chosen sport. Surely a team of the year gong for the Black Ferns and a Women's Player of the Year award for Portia Woodman at the World Rugby Awards means more than a Halberg?

Surely standing on Court Philippe Chatrier at Roland Garros, holding the French Open doubles trophy means more to Michael Venus than a nomination for Sportsman of the Year?

I'm sure it does. If that's the case, then maybe we should stop feeling aggrieved on behalf of others, and stop using the Halberg Awards as a reason to attack the achievements of sportspeople who have given their all for Kiwi sporting success.

Andrew Gourdie is a sports reporter/presenter and host of Radio LIVE's Sunday Sport from 2pm.