OPINION: After a brief delay caused by the most recent Auckland COVID-19 lockdown, the Halberg Awards are back at Spark Arena on Wednesday night.
Due to the pandemic's affect on global sport last year, the 2021 edition of the iconic awards will recognise the best of Kiwi sporting excellence over the last decade, with each of the categories' respective winners from the last 10 years in contention.
Of course, we had to ask some of our Newshub sport pundits to nominate their winners.
Team of the Decade
Nominees: 2010 All Whites (football), 2011 All Blacks (rugby), 2012 Men’s Pair - Hamish Bond and Eric Murray (rowing), 2013 All Blacks (rugby), 2014 Men’s Pair - Hamish Bond and Eric Murray (rowing), 2015 All Blacks (rugby), 2016 Men’s 49er - Peter Burling and Blair Tuke (yachting), 2017 Emirates Team New Zealand (yachting), 2018 Black Ferns Sevens (rugby), 2019 Silver Ferns (netball)
Andrew Gourdie, Newshub sports reporter/presenter - 2019 world champion Silver Ferns
From the depths of Commonwealth Games despair to world champions in the space of just 18 months. So many truly great teams in this category, but none of them shocked the world - and topped it - quite like the Silver Ferns.
Lucy Thomson, Newshub sports reporter/producer - Hamish Bond & Eric Murray
Bond and Murrary united in the men’s pair in 2009, where they began an unprecedented 69-race winning streak, which included two Olympic gold medals (2012 & 2016) and eight world titles.
They also claimed world-best times in two boat classes - the men's pair and men's coxed pair - which still stand today. They retired undefeated.
Alex Powell, Newshub sports reporter - Bond & Murray
For 69 consecutive races, Bond and Murray knew nothing but victory. On the world stage and on the Olympic stage, they had no equals.
The Halbergs generally tend to favour Olympic success above all else and the Kiwi pair were right up there with New Zealand's best of the best.
Michael O'Keeffe, Newshub sports reporter - 2010 All Whites
From qualification to the final, the All Whites' World Cup run was something else.
Against all odds, they went through pool play unbeaten and gained a point against the reigning world champions, finished above them in their group and virtually ensured they'd become the third defending champions in World Cup history to not make the knockout stages.
Ollie Ritchie, Newshub sports reporter - Bond & Murray
No-one dominated this sport more than these two. They literally never rowed a race they didn't win - the peak of NZ rowing's glory years.
Sportsman of the Decade
Nominees: 2010 Richie McCaw (rugby), 2011 Richie McCaw (rugby), 2012 Mahe Drysdale (rowing), 2013 Scott Dixon (motorsport), 2014 Brendon McCullum (cricket), 2015 Kane Williamson (cricket), 2016 Mahe Drysdale (rowing), 2017 Tom Walsh (athletics), 2018 Tom Walsh (athletics), 2019 Israel Adesanya (mixed martial arts)
AG: Richie McCaw
In our national sport, McCaw's individual performance and leadership across the latter stages of his career are without peer. He was an unstoppable player - he played with a broken foot during the 2011 World Cup - and his leadership was invaluable, as the All Blacks first broke a 24-year drought to lift the World Cup and went on to become the first team to defend it.
Our greatest All Black.
LT: Scott Dixon
Dixon is a six-time IndyCar champion, holding the distinction of being the winningest active IndyCar driver with 50 victories to his name.
He's currently ranked third on the all-time IndyCar win list – behind only Mario Andretti (52) and AJ Foyt (67). These plaudits speak for themselves.
AP: Brendon McCullum
For the first time in what feels like a lifetime, the Blackcaps aren’t the butt of the joke anymore.
McCullum completely revolutionised the way cricket - and especially white-ball cricket - is played and perceived in this country,
Not only did he change the way New Zealand played, but even England claimed their first World Cup, unashamedly drawing inspiration from the example McCullum set.
MOK: Mahe Drysdale
Probably the toughest to pick for me, but Mahe's 2016 Olympic singles sculls gold was an incredible race, won by the barest of margins.
Not always easy for individuals to stand out in team sports, but Richie had no trouble doing that.
Age was clearly just a number for McCaw and he almost got the better, the older he got. He wasn't even playing for the last four years of this decade.
Sportswoman of the Decade
Nominees: 2010 Dame Valerie Adams (athletics), 2011 Dame Valerie Adams (athletics), 2012 Dame Valerie Adams (athletics), 2013 Lydia Ko (golf), 2014 Lydia Ko (golf), 2015 Lydia Ko (golf), 2016 Lisa Carrington (canoe), 2017 Lisa Carrington (canoe), 2018 Lisa Carrington (canoe), 2019 Lisa Carrington (canoe)
AG: Dame Valerie Adams
In the toughest category of this unique Halberg Awards, the saga of the 2012 women's Olympic shot put event sets Dame Valerie apart.
Kiwis developed a deeper affection for Adams and felt as though they were with her on an astonishing journey that began with the disappointment of missing gold, before learning of the injustice of being beaten by a drugs cheat and to ultimately being awarded the gold medal.
Consistently world class, with a personality to match.
LT: Lisa Carrington
Carrington is a three-time Olympic medalist and has also won 10 world championship titles. Alongside those achievements, she has also played a huge role in raising the profile of canoe racing in New Zealand.
AP: Dame Valerie
Dominated her field for 10 years and has the trophy cabinet to prove it.
Olympic gold in 2012 to go alongside her 2008 medal and another silver in Rio.
Commonwealth Games golds in 2010 and 2014, plus another silver in 2018.
World championships golds in 2011 and 2013, indoor world championships in 2012 and 2014, and a World Cup win in 2010.
MOK: Lydia Ko
2015 was the year during which she became the No.1 golfer in the world for the first time and won five tournaments on tour including her first Major, becoming the youngest Major champion since the 1800s.
OR: Dame Valerie
Has dominated shot put for years, two-time Olympic champion and five-time world champion, her place among the very greats of world athletics is guaranteed.
Coach of the Decade
Nominees: 2010 Ricki Herbert (football), 2011 Sir Graham Henry (rugby), 2012 Richard (Dick) Tonks (rowing), 2013 Sir Steve Hansen (rugby), 2014 Anthony Peden (cycling), 2015 Sir Steve Hansen (rugby), 2016 Gordon Walker (canoe racing), 2017 Gordon Walker (canoe racing), 2018 Gordon Walker (canoe racing), 2019 Dame Noeline Taurua (netball)
AG: Dame Noeline Taurua
There are so many tremendous coaches among this group, but it could be argued some of them oversaw athletes whose skill level was the primary reason for success.
The Silver Ferns' failure at the 2018 Commonwealth Games is the perspective needed to illustrate the coaching miracle Taurua performed to mentally and physically transform the team into world champions in the space of little more than a year.
LT: Sir Steve Hansen
Professional sport is measured almost entirely on statistics and this is why I believe Hansen is the most deserving candidate for this award.
In 2013, Hansen's All Blacks became the first team in the professional era to complete a season unbeaten.
The four-time World Rugby Coach of the Year also oversaw 2016's record-breaking winning streak and has the best winning record of any All Black's coach.
And of course, the Rugby World Cup victories - firstly as an assistant to Sir Graham Henry in 2011, then as head coach in 2015.
AP: Sir Steve
Took the 2011 world champions and made them even better, not just in terms of results, but also in how they played.
Won the 2015 World Cup and ushered in the next generation of talent.
Despite drawing the 2017 Lions series and a bronze medal at the 2019 World Cup, Hansen’s achievements will have him remembered among the greatest All Blacks coaches.
MOK: Dame Noeline
What Dame Noeline did with the Silver Ferns was nothing short of remarkable. From the lowest of lows in 2018 to queens of the world a year later, Dame Noeline's feats in 2019 have reinvigorated the sport in New Zealand
OR: Ricki Herbert
No, they didn't win the World Cup, but that's not what the All Whites are measured against. Just getting to the 2010 FIFA World Cup was incredible, but this team couldn't be beaten.
To go through a World Cup unbeaten, especially with the defending champions in your pool, is nothing short of amazing.
NZ Football has yet to return to the heights they achieved under Herbert.
Para Athlete of the Decade
Nominees: 2011 Sophie Pascoe (Para swimming), 2012 Sophie Pascoe (Para swimming), 2013 Sophie Pascoe (Para swimming), 2014 Mary Fisher (Para swimming), 2015 Sophie Pascoe (Para swimming), 2016 Liam Malone (Para athletics), 2017 Sophie Pascoe (Para swimming), 2018 Adam Hall (Para alpine skiing), 2019 Sophie Pascoe (Para swimming)
AG: Sophie Pascoe
Complete and utter dominance is what sets her apart in this category. One of our greatest-ever athletes, she is a clear and obvious pick.
Pascoe has represented New Zealand at three Summer Paralympics, winning a total of nine gold medals and six silver medals to make her New Zealand's most successful Paralympian ever.
No contest. Nine Paralympic gold medals and six silvers thrown in for good measure.
New Zealand’s most successful Paralympian and you’d have to think there's still more to come.
If only you could award this to Sophie for her incredible consistency. I've chosen her 2012 award for her efforts at the Paralympic Games that year.
A record haul of medals for her and a world record to boot, it was the best performance at a Paralympics by an athlete in the decade.
Really hard to go past Sophie for this one, so much success on the world stage. Eleven Paralympic medals and she's still only 28 years old.
The definition of dominance.
Emerging Talent Athlete of the Decade
Nominees: 2010 Gareth Kean (swimming), 2011 Jacko Gill (athletics), 2012 Lydia Ko (golf), 2013 Gabrielle Fa’amausili (swimming), 2014 Regan Gough (cycling), 2015 Eliza McCartney (athletics), 2016 Campbell Stewart (cycling), 2017 Ellesse Andrews (cycling), 2018 Maddison-Lee Wesche (athletics), 2019 Alice Robinson (ski racing)
AG: Lydia Ko
Despite her recent struggles, Lydia Ko is perhaps the only athlete to go on and achieve a sustained period of global dominance.
The fact she became the youngest player ever to hold the world No.1 ranking reinforces what a prodigious talent she was at such a young age.
In 2012, Ko became the youngest-ever winner of an LPGA Tour event, when she won the Canadian Golf Open at just 15.
Ko went on to back up her victory a year later, defending her title as an amateur and cementing her spot as one of the best emerging talents our country has seen.
Considering how young Lydia Ko still is in a sport where you can afford to peak later on, expect the Kiwi to recover from the form slump she's currently experiencing.
With 20 career wins, including two majors, at just 23, expect Ko to eventually push towards the record of becoming female golf’s most decorated player.
The youngest person to ever win on the LPGA Tour and did so two years before she turned pro.
Ko's form after 2012 justified the award, but what she achieved as a 14 and 15-year-old in 2012 swings this award in her favour.
OR: Alice Robinson
A world champion - and it's not often we can say that about a Kiwi in snow sports.
Robinson is still only 19 years old, but is now firming as a real medal prospect at the Winter Olympics next year.
Incredible to watch and you get the feeling her best is yet to come.
Favourite Sporting Moment of the Decade
Nominees: 2010 All Whites (football), 2011 All Blacks (rugby), 2012 Nathan Cohen and Joseph Sullivan (rowing), 2013 Black Sox (softball), 2014 Brendon McCullum (cricket), 2015 Grant Elliott (cricket), 2016 Eliza McCartney (athletics), 2017 Mitchell Hunt (rugby), 2018 Anna Leat (football), 2019 Silver Ferns (netball)
AG: Brendon McCullum's 300
As a young cricket fan growing up, it always bothered me that no Kiwi cricketer had ever scored a triple century. More than anything else, this singular achievement was something of a glass ceiling for New Zealand being recognised as a premier cricketing nation.
When McCullum reached the mark against India at the Basin Reserve, it felt like a special moment, not only for him, but for NZ cricket and generations of fans.
Of all the outstanding moments listed here, this one will stick with me forever.
LT: Grant Elliott
Without doubt, my favourite moment of the decade was Elliott's match-winning six in the 2015 Cricket World Cup semi-final.
Elliott was able to hit the winning runs off one of South Africa's best fast-bowlers in front of a home crowd and under immense pressure.
The significance of that moment meant New Zealand qualified for the World Cup final - a moment that will forever be ingrained in our sporting history.
AP: McCullum's 300
For so long, NZ's best test score seemed it would be Martin Crowe's 299. It was the monkey on our backs as a cricketing nation - the only major side not to have anyone in the 300 club.
That is, until McCullum.
That one innings shifted how New Zealand viewed itself as a cricketing power and heralded the way for arguably the greatest Blackcaps side in history.
World Cup final defeats in 2015 and 2019 come close, but test cricket should always be the pinnacle and McCullum’s triple is top of the pile
I mean, it just has to be, right?
Has there ever been in a moment in Blackcaps history like it?
Never made a World Cup final... Dale Steyn in the attack... a packed Eden Park and Elliot delivers one into the south stand. Magic.
Thinking about it still gives me goosebumps
Honourable mention to Mitchell Hunt, because a droppy from halfway with time up on the clock to win deserves a mention. Remind me what team that was for again?
Supreme Decade Champion
Nominees: 2010 All Whites (football), 2011 All Blacks (rugby), 2012 Men’s Pair - Hamish Bond & Eric Murray (rowing), 2013 Lydia Ko (golf), 2014 Men’s Pair - Hamish Bond & Eric Murray (rowing), 2015 All Blacks (rugby), 2016 Lisa Carrington (canoe), 2017 Emirates Team New Zealand (yachting), 2018 Tom Walsh (athletics), 2019 Silver Ferns (netball)
AG: 2019 Silver Ferns - From coaching through to team performance, this was a modern sporting miracle.
LT: Hamish Bond and Eric Murray
AP: Bond and Murray
MOK: 2010 All Whites
OR: Bond and Murray
Join us from 8pm Wednesday for live updates of the Halberg Awards Decade Champions