Halberg Awards: MMA's Eugene Bareman not expecting Coach of the Year nod

  • 10/02/2020

Mixed martial arts guru Eugene Bareman doesn't expect to be among the winners at the 2019 Halberg Awards on Thursday night.

Bareman will stand alongside four other talented coaches at New Zealand's annual celebration of sporting excellence. 

Local MMA enjoyed a breakout year, with Bareman's City Kickboxing gym now regarded as one of the best training grounds for combat-sports athletes in the world.

The Auckland facility houses two world champions - Sportsman of the Year finalist Israel Adesanya and Australian Alex Volkanovski - as well as world-ranked boxers, kickboxers and mixed martial artists. 

For Bareman, who built the gym from the ground up, winning the Halberg isn't on his personal bucket list, although he does understand the significance it would have to the sport in New Zealand.

"I've been doing my research, because I want to be informed, before I go to this event," Bareman told Newshub.

"It's a wonderful foundation that does great things, so that really pleases me and kind of encouraged me to be more of a part of it, to be honest.

"But as for winning? It doesn't mean too much to me personally is the truth, but it means a lot to my sport and from talking to a lot of my peers,  it does mean a lot to them."

History suggests Bareman is at long odds to beat out a talented field that includes Silver Ferns redeemer Noeline Taurua and canoe master Gordon Walker.

More mainstream sports have often won out in non-Olympic years and Bareman expects more of the same in 2020 - but he does hold out hope that the tide is changing.

"I don't expect to win it," Bareman said. "I looked up when [boxer] Joseph Parker got nominated and I couldn't believe he wasn't Sportsperson of the Year.

"Boxing is, over time, the most popular sport on the planet and he didn't win it.

"That says to me that the powers to be are not educated enough to understand the enormity of winning a prize like that [WBO heavyweight title], let alone what we have, as a team, achieved last year.

"It says to me that maybe there's a fraternity of people there that aren't ready to acknowledge things, that their minds are a bit closed.

"The simple fact is that we belong there amongst netball, canoeing, cricket."

Bareman had significant praise for one of his fellow finalists - the woman responsible for dramatically turning around New Zealand netball, Dame Noeline Taurua.

"She's a great coach with a history of winning at the elite level and this is why I think things like these awards ceremonies are weird, 

"You get a whole lot of people who have achieved so much and you have to pick one? 

"You want to pick all of them, but obviously you can't."

The finalists for coach of the year are Bareman, Taurua, Walker, swimming's Roly Chrichton and rowing's Gary Hay.

Join us for live updates of the 2020 Halberg Awards from 7pm Thursday