Newshub Roundtable: Picking the 2019 Halberg Award winners

OPINION: They're the Oscars of New Zealand sport - the night when the stars come out to shine.

And like their Hollywood movie equivalents, the Halberg Awards winners are always up for vigorous debate, depending on which sport you support and who you think got cruelly snubbed by the judges.

Regardless of your care-factor for America's Cup yachting, Team New Zealand were fairly clear winners last year, after snatching the 'Auld Mug' from the arch-enemy.

This time round, the contest is more open, with Winter Olympics and Commonwealth Games throwing out new names to challenge some established stars.

Our panel of Newshub experts considered the prospects and took a stab at who they think should win - not necessarily who would.

Sportsman of the Year

Michael O'Keeffe (Newshub sports reporter): Tom Walsh

Indoor and outdoor world shot put titles, Commonwealth gold, a new personal best and the furthest throw in 15 years...

His consistency and ability to perform at these big events is why I would like him to win. I’ve put my money on him.

Kristina Eddy (Newshub sports reporter): Tom Walsh

Tom Walsh in action at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games
Tom Walsh in action at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games. Photo credit: Photosport

Stephen Foote (Newshub online sports producer): Nico Porteous

His female cohort may have beaten him to the punch by less than an hour, but Porteous' bronze-medal effort was still a slice of Kiwi Winter Olympic history that deserves the highest recognition.

The Wanaka teen called his breath-taking second effort in the freeski halfpipe at Pyeongchang the "run of his life", but you get the sense there's plenty more heroics where that came from.

Grant Chapman (Newshub online sports editor): Scott Dixon

Indycar ace Dixon has won this award once, in 2013, after taking out his third championship. This year, he took out his fifth Indycar crown, so he's probably overdue for another statue of Sir Murray.

Dixon now stands as the third-most prolific driver in his class, behind all-time greats AJ Foyt and Mario Andretti, and the leading active Indycar winner with 43 victories.  

Scott Dixon celebrates victory on the Indycar circuit
Scott Dixon celebrates victory on the Indycar circuit. Photo credit: Reuters.

Henry Rounce (Newshub sport reporter): Scott McLaughlin

A year after losing the Supercars title in the final round, McLaughlin held his nerve to bounce back and win his first championship.

Along the way, he came third at Bathurst, as well as taking home the Jason Richards Memorial Trophy from Pukekohe... and let's not forget his iconic chicken nuggets trophy celebration.

He gets the gong just ahead of Dixon.

Sportswoman of the Year

KE: Jonelle Price

After years of being a consistent performer, Price cemented her name in the history books, winning two of the most prestigious equestrian eventing events in the world.

In May, the two-time Olympian rode to the biggest victory of her career at the Badminton Horse Trials, backing it up one-month later at the Luhmühlen Horse Trials. This is a Kiwi athlete at the top of her game right now and it’s even more impressive, given Price was returning from a year-long break from becoming a new mum.

This will be a difficult year to top.

HR: Jonelle Price

NZ equestrian rider Jonelle Price
NZ equestrian rider Jonelle Price. Photo credit: Photosport

MOK: Joelle King

King may be the least favoured out of these finalists, but the shift she put in during the Commonwealth Games was of epic proportions. She played every day on the Gold Coast, winning three medals.

She also became the first Kiwi in 15 years to win a PSA Platinum event and rose to a career-high ranking in 2018.

SF: Zoi Sadowski-Synnott

New Zealand's first Winter Olympics medallist in 26 years, snowboarding prodigy Sadwoski-Synnott should be a shoe-in to follow in the footsteps of predecessor Annalise Coberger by winning one of the evening's marquee awards.

The then-16-year-old captured the nation's attention with her gravity-defying feats at Pyeongchang and she's already well on her way to earning another nomination for 2020, with X-Games and world championship titles.

Zoi Sydowski-Synnott in action at the Winter Olympics
Zoi Sydowski-Synnott in action at the Winter Olympics. Photo credit: Photosport

GC: Lisa Carrington

Tough to beat an athlete who has just won her sixth straight K1 200 title by a massive 1.727s, continuing a dominance over the event that stretches back to 2011.

In addition, Carrington, 29, took a silver medal in the K1 500, and helped her NZ teammates to second placings in the K2 500 and K4 500.

Next year, she may face a tough challenge from snowboarder Zoi Sadowski-Synnott, but this year, she's poised for her third consecutive Halberg.

Para-Athlete of the Year

GC: Adam Hall

Sophie Pascoe is a bona fide para-legend, but Adam Hall's Winter Olympic gold medal trumps her two Commonwealth Games victories.

Hall's success in the standing slalom earned him the Whang Youn Dai Achievement Award as the Paralympic athlete that "best exemplifies the spirit of the Games, and inspires and excites the world".

Pascoe has never won that.

SF: Adam Hall

MOK: Adam Hall

Adam Hall celebrates his Winter Olympics gold medal.
Adam Hall celebrates his Winter Olympics gold medal. Photo credit: Getty

KE: Adam Hall

HR: Adam Hall

Team of the Year

SF: NZ U17 Football Ferns

If we're talking achievement on a truly global stage, surely you can't go past the history-making exploits of the 'Young Ferns' in securing a third-place finish at the Women's U17 World Cup - the most successful NZ showing at a FIFA tournament ever.

Let's park this bizarre obsession with sevens - a carnival sport dumbed down for dress-up and day-drinking festivities - and recognise an achievement that has genuine world-class context.

HR: NZ U17 Football Ferns

Yes, it's an age group event, but who really cares, after the New Zealand team pulled off something unprecedented and totally unexpected.

Their third place at the World Cup battered away the storm clouds blanketing NZ Football and helped put a positive spin on a tumultuous year.

Led by the tactical nous of coach Leon Birnie, they were a true team - and one much greater than the sum of their parts.

It was fitting that their anthem was 'Glorious', because that's exactly what it was to watch.

The U17 Football Ferns celebrate victory at the World Cup
The U17 Football Ferns celebrate victory at the World Cup. Photo credit: Photosport

Held off the challenge from the Black Ferns Sevens.

KE: NZ U17 Football Ferns

MOK: Black Ferns Sevens

Despite being a strong advocate for NZ U17s inclusion around the office, I’m going against them here.

For me, the Black Ferns stood out, not only for what they achieved, but how they did it. They were utterly dominant and have set a new benchmark in the sport.

GC: Black Ferns Sevens

The U17 footballers may be the sentimental favourites here, but you can't deny the Black Ferns Sevens, after the incredible year they put together in 2018. They all-but swept the IRB World Sevens series, captured the World Cup and took the Commonwealth Games gold in dramatic fashion, heading off Olympic champions Australia along the way.

They were named NZ Rugby Team of the Year and they've done more than enough to earn a Halberg in the same category.

Coach of the Year

SF: Leon Birnie

The coach of my team of the year has to get the nod.

The 36-year-old worked wonders with the U17 women, as they stunned the host nation at the World Cup in Uruguay, before shocking the football world with their dramatic quarter-final win over powerhouses Japan.

GC: Clark Laidlaw

Wouldn't it be a great story if Joe Schmidt were to take this honour for guiding Ireland to victory over the mighty All Blacks? That's a choice dripping with irony - except the Irish still only rank second behind the reigning two-time World Cup winners.

NZ sevens coach Clark Laidlaw
NZ sevens coach Clark Laidlaw. Photo credit: Getty

But during his brief tenure with the All Blacks Sevens, Clark Laidlaw was taken a team that bombed big-time at the Rio Olympics, and led it to Commonwealth Games gold and a World Cup crown.

He's turned this programme around to become contenders once again. Bring Schmidt back next year, if he can raise a World Cup.

HR: Clark Laidlaw

KE: Allan Bunting

Bunting has lead the Black Ferns Sevens through what would have to possibly be the most growth the women’s sevens game has seen. The award looks at one calendar year and Bunting’s tenure reached new heights over that time, with the side achieving absolute dominance on the world circuit.

Commonwealth Games gold medallists, World Cup champions and three victories on the world series, Bunting deserves a lot of credit for his side’s consistency, as well as his efforts to ensure sustainability in the game by developing new players.

MOK: Allan Bunting

Emerging Talent

SF: Amelia Kerr

As far as talents go, they don’t come much more prestigious than White Ferns all-rounder.

Not content with simply being New Zealand's princess of leg spin, Kerr showcased her remarkable talents with the bat last year, setting a new women's ODI world record with a mind-boggling 232no against Ireland.

Expect to see plenty more of the Wellington teen over the coming years.

Young football goalkeeper Anna Leat
Young football goalkeeper Anna Leat. Photo credit: Photosport

MOK: Anna Leat

Goalkeeper Leat was one of the stars in the NZ U17 footballers' famous run. She also had the task of scoring the final penalty against Japan, which she did with aplomb.

She’s a certainty for NZ's World Cup squad in France and is destined for bigger things, after a college career in the States.

HR: Anna Leat

GC: Maddison-Lee Wesche

Just as the superhuman powers of Dame Valerie Adams seem to be fading, another has risen to continue New Zealand's sudden and bizarre obsession with the shot put.

Wesche improved almost 1.5 metres last year to take out the world junior title and now has a chance to step into the sizeable void, should Dame Val hang up her throwing shoes after this next offspring.

There's a bunch of young talent in this category, so it's always a tough one to assess.

KE: Lewis Clareburt

Lewis has gone from collecting three golds and four silver medals at the Youth Commonwealth Games in 2017, to bronze at the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast last year - his first major international event.

At 19 years of age, Clareburt is rapidly shaping as Swimming New Zealand's next sensation, and his future in the sport is exciting for the sport and Kiwi fans.

Clareburt 'emerged' in 2018 and proved he can - and will - continue to compete with the elite.

Favourite Sporting Moment

SF: Roger Tuivasa-Sheck haka at Dally M Awards

Becoming the first Warriors player ever to win rugby league's greatest individual honour is worthy enough of this award.

But when you add the show-stealing impromptu haka from teammates Issac Luke and Jazz Tevaga, and Kiwis cohort Jordan Rapana that bought the fullback to tears, it becomes a moment that'll go down in the annals of NZ sporting folklore.

Issac Luke and Jazz Tevaga haka at the Dally M Awards
Issac Luke and Jazz Tevaga haka at the Dally M Awards. Photo credit: Twitter

KE: Porteous & Sadowski-Synnott at Winter Olympics

A moment for the history books, literally. For me, this awards night cannot leave out Nico Porteous and Zoi Sadowski-Synnott.

Two Winter Olympic medals in one day - I definitely won’t forget how invested I was watching the duo compete and, subsequently, their reactions to making history.

This moment has seen the sport grow in confidence and gain traction with more exposure in the country. These two teens reaching huge heights in their field are to thank for that.

HR: Porteous & Sadowski-Synnott at Winter Olympics

Easily one of the most memorable and stunning performances of the year. The two Kiwi teenagers produced their best when it counted, helping words like "corkscrew" and "stomping" enter regular newsroom vernacular.

It was captivating, exciting and most of all, uplifting. 

The sheer joy on the two mates’ faces was something to behold, and their humble demeanour showed off the best of New Zealand.

Don’t even try and argue that this doesn’t count because it happened over a longer period of time, than say, Kelly Brazier’s try. This award is about recognising an iconic sporting scene, not debating whether something counts as a moment or not. 

Shades out the Blackcaps’ win against Pakistan in the UAE.

GC: Kelly Brazier's Commonwealth Games try

Again, so many great moments in a year… but how can you beat a last-minute, extra-time, length-of-the-field try to steal a gold medal off the Olympic sevens champions?

That's a moment every athlete dreams of when they play touch rugby in the backyard as a kid - the feeling of complete and utter exhaustion, but also exhilaration at victory over your biggest rival.

Kelly Brazier scores at the Commonwealth Games
Kelly Brazier scores at the Commonwealth Games. Photo credit: Getty

MOK: Kelly Brazier's Commonwealth Games try

Supreme Winner

GC: Black Ferns Sevens

MOK: Black Ferns Sevens

HR: Jonelle Price

KE: Tom Walsh

SF: Nico Porteous


Join us at 8pm Thursday for live updates of the 2019 Halberg Awards.