Opinion: Newshub roundtable - Who should take home silverware at 2022 Halberg Awards?

  • 23/02/2022

OPINION: The 59th edition of the Halberg Awards - NZ sports' premier prizegiving - will be held at Auckland on Wednesday night, which means it's about time for some of the members of the Newshub sports team to make their selections for the big prizes.

Sportswoman of the Year

Finalists: Dame Lisa Carrington (canoe racing), Courtney Duncan (motocross), Emma Twigg (rowing), Sarah Hirini (sevens), Lydia Ko (golf)

Andrew Gourdie, Newshub sports reporter/presenter - Dame Lisa Carrington

I don't see any other Dames on this list. Carrington was great before last year's Olympic Games, but three gold medals in Tokyo catapulted her above all others as New Zealand's greatest ever olympic athlete. Her achievements in 2021 were enough to make her the Sportswoman of the Year - and indeed the Supreme Halberg Award winner - in this, or any other year. 

James Regan, Newshub sports reporter - Dame Lisa Carrington

The GOAT. Our best ever.  A tough, unrelenting, never say die competitor who made the Olympic games look like a training session at times. Her success should be admired for years to come, and her attitude to her craft should be studied by aspiring athletes too. This award ( once again) is simply a formality, as it should be. 

Alex Powell, Newshub digital sports reporter - Dame Lisa Carrington

As a rule, you should automatically be given the Halberg in the same year you become New Zealand's most decorated Olympian.

At the Tokyo Olympics, Carrington won her third, fourth and fifth gold medals, to go with her one bronze from Rio 2016. No other New Zealander has won more medals than the GOAT in the boat, and chances are we won't see her record broken for some time to come - especially if Dame Lisa decides to go again in Paris 2024.

Lisa Carrington after one of her three golds in Tokyo.
Lisa Carrington after one of her three golds in Tokyo. Photo credit: Photosport

Alex Chapman, Newshub sports reporter - Dame Lisa Carrington

GOAT in a boat, enough said. Courtney Duncan making it three titles was epic, as were her whanau having some bubbles when talking to media the next day. Emma Twigg finally getting the monkey off the back was awesome, as did Sarah Hirini, while Lydia Ko started to reascend. 

But it has to be Carrington.

Grant Chapman, Newshub digital sports editor - Dame Lisa Carrington

Great to see motocross star Courtney Duncan in this company, but tough to deny uber-Olympian Carrington, who was rudely denied that decade award, then merely became our most successful gold medallist at Tokyo, which is probably the best measure of sustained excellence you could hope for.

Sportsman of the Year 

Finalists: Hamish Bond (rowing), Scott Dixon (motorsport), Kane Williamson (cricket), Paul Coll (squash)

AG: Paul Coll

It's a great shame the Halberg Academy overlooked the standout nominee for New Zealand sportsman of the year - jockey James McDonald - but here we are! 

Of the list of finalists assembled, Paul Coll is the standout. A strong year capped by beating the reigning world champion to become the first Kiwi male to win the British Open Squash Title. Extra points because he's from Greymouth. 

JR: Kane Williamson

No great team can thrive without a great leader, and Kane Williamson has been that for the Blackcaps for years now. The captain in every form of the game, Williamson is typically humble but a  fierce competitor, who drives his team to success. He had another great year personally in 2021, but even if is was on par with all his other years. 

He is simply that good. 

AP: Hamish Bond

The final bow on what's otherwise been among New Zealand's greatest sporting careers.

Bond's presence was the final piece in the jigsaw that pushed New Zealand to our first men's eight title since 1972, capping a career that already saw him dominate the men's pair with Eric Murray.

Kane Williamson celebrates with the WTC mace.
Kane Williamson celebrates with the WTC mace. Photo credit: Photosport

AC: Paul Coll

It’s hard to take this category seriously, when arguably the two main contenders aren't even being considered. Shane van Gisbergen won the Supercars title in dominant fashion, as well as Jacks Ridge and the NZ Grand Prix, while jockey James McDonald once again showed his class, winning multiple group ones, and a minor race called the Melbourne Cup. 

Of the four finalists, I’m going with Paul Coll, after he became the first NZ male to win the British Open. I know it’s not an easy job, but judges need to look at themselves. Rant over, next.

GC: Kane Williamson

Tough to weigh up the credentials of team players like Williamson and Hamish Bond, against Scott Dixon's two-year-old success and Coll's not-quite-a-world-championship victory.

Feel like Bond & Murray got a decade award that coulda/shoulda gone somewhere else last time, but Williamson's leadership and batting prowess were instrumental in elevating NZ cricket to a place it has never been.

Team of the Year

Finalists: Blackcaps (cricket), Team New Zealand (sailing), Men's rowing eight, Women's rowing pair Kerri Gowler and Grace Prendergast

AG: Blackcaps

2021 was the year the Blackcaps became, for now, New Zealand's favourite sporting team. As a sporting nation, I'm not sure Kiwis have ever been prouder of one team's achievement than when the Blackcaps beat India to claim the Inaugural World Test Championship. 

This was the definition of David beating Goliath, and as Simon Doull put it so perfectly after Ross Taylor struck the winning runs, this victory was living proof that sometimes nice guys do finish first. 

JR: Blackcaps

The culmination of two years of work, not only was their win in the World Test Championship victory spectacular in its own right, but it came amid challenging circumstances.

Playing against India, COVID-19 fatigue surely taking its toll, yet they rose above to deliver a moment for NZ sports lore. 

When you look at the Blackcaps squad, there is not a single chink in the armour, with so many talented players unable to force their way in. The mark of any great side. 

AP: Men's rowing eight

A first gold medal in rowing's blue ribbon event for 50 years will almost certainly condemn our World Test Champions and T20 World Cup runners up into second place - a real dagger to the heart of every fellow Kiwi cricket tragic.

But don't let that detract from what was achieved by the crew of Hamish Bond, Thomas Mackintosh, Tom Murray, Michael Brake, Daniel Williamson, Phillip Wilson, Shaun Kirkham, Matt Macdonald and cox Sam Bosworth.

The men's eight completed a Hollywood-esque path to gold, qualifying via a last-chance regatta, and only reaching the Olympic final via a repechage. They deserve every accolade to come their way this year.

NZ men's eight on their way to gold.
NZ men's eight on their way to gold. Photo credit: Getty

AC: Blackcaps

I’m biased with this, but it’s the Blackcaps. What the other teams did is sensational, but the Blackcaps scaled a mountain which no NZ men’s cricket team has done before – winning a world title, capturing the hearts of the nation, then backing that up by making the final of the T20 World Cup. 

Any moment worthy of gracing my phone's home screen gets my vote.

GC: Blackcaps

Incredibly competitive category, but the NZ cricketers get there by a nose, because they can justifiably claim to be the best we've ever had in their sport. You could argue the others all come from programmes that have rich histories of success. 

Para-athlete of the year

Finalists: Dame Sophie Pascoe (swimming), Lisa Adams (athletics), Holly Robinson (athletics), Anna Grimaldi (athletics), Tupou Neuifi (swimming)

AG: Dame Sophie Pascoe

Only Paralympic gold medalists make up the finalists this year but only Sophie Pascoe came away from Tokyo with two gold, a silver, a bronze, and a Damehood. 

Pascoe's consistent success over more than a decade has made her our greatest para-athlete ever. But in sharing her vulnerability during these Games - speaking openly about the challenges of the COVID-19 lockdown that nearly ended her Olympic career, breaking down in tears following her first ever bronze medal, and speaking of the proud legacy she leaves behind - Kiwis saw a side of Pascoe never seen before. We watched in real time, as it dawned on her that the challenges faced and overcome during this campaign had revealed a greater sense of purpose. 

A great champion who has inspired so many deserves this honour one more time. 

JR: Dame Sophie Pascoe

We all hoped she would, and Dame Sophie certainly delivered again. Her achievements in the pool aside, simply getting to Tokyo was a huge achievement, overcoming the mental struggles she spoke so openly about.

Once Pascoe was there, it would have taken a very brave (perhaps even silly) person to bet against her. She’s a shining example of Kiwi resilience and hard work.

AP: Dame Sophie Pascoe

Already New Zealand's most decorated Paralympian before Tokyo, Dame Sophie Pascoe only extended her record even further with another two golds, one silver and a bronze.

And while Pascoe herself concedes we may have already seen her best, that doesn't take away from the fact no other Kiwi Paralympian gets near her in 2021.

Should take home the Halberg by the length of the straight.

Dame Sophie Pascoe shows off one of her two gold in Tokyo.
Dame Sophie Pascoe shows off one of her two gold in Tokyo. Photo credit: Photosport

AC: Dame Sophie Pascoe

How cool is it that we have so many incredible athletes to choose from?! Once again though, it goes to Dame Sophie Pascoe, purely for the amount of medals she won in Tokyo. And, in the same year she became a Dame, it's hard to go past her.

GC: Lisa Adams

Dame Sophie Pascoe is another that can feel aggrieved at that decade award decision, but Adams was simply dominant at the Tokyo Paralympics, gathering shot put world records along the way. Move over Dame Val!

Coach of the Year

Finalists: Allan Bunting and Cory Sweeney (sevens), Gary Stead (cricket), Gordon Walker (canoe racing), Tony O'Connor (rowing).

AG: Gary Stead

While the platform for the Blackcaps' recent success has been laid in the last five-to-10 years, Stead has managed to oversee the rise of a team which can now rightly be considered of the heavyweights of world cricket. While New Zealand's relative strength in one-day international cricket has been consistent over a number years, 2021 saw the Blackcaps become a genuine force across all three forms of the game, reaching the final of the T20 World Cup just months after winning the inaugural World Test Championship. 

That's something that can only be achieved through world-class coaching and player management, and Stead deserves recognition for this. 

JR: Allan Bunting and Cory Sweeney

Allan Bunting was there for the heartbreak in Rio in 2016, and to rebuild the side and make them stronger is a great achievement. His partnership with Cory Sweeney has brought true success for the women’s sevens side. 

Not only are they the benchmark on the field, but their amazing culture and team environment was on display to the world throughout the Olympics - and what a show they put on.

AP: Allan Bunting and Cory Sweeney

In between the 2016 and 2021 Olympic cycles, the Black Ferns Sevens were by far and away the most dominant of Kiwi sporting sides.

But World Series titles, Commonwealth Games gold and a Rugby World Cup Sevens victory weren't going to satisfy the heartbreak of Rio 2016, when New Zealand fell at the final hurdle to Australia.

And given another chance to bring home the sport's biggest prize, the Black Ferns Sevens needed no second invitation.

A semi-final scare against Fiji aside, the Sevens sisters cruised to Olympic gold, righting the wrong of Rio, and earning a moment of glory more than five years in the making, and it was Bunting and Sweeney helping drive that success.

AC: Tony O'Connor

This is as tough as team of the year and is the one I’ve spent the most time thinking about. Far out man, how do you split these fantastic mentors?! Ugh. 

This is me chronicling my thoughts. Gut says Tony O’Connor, purely because of the remarkable turnaround of the men’s eight crew, and the fact I didn’t give them the team award. Any of these deserve it though. I’m not even sure I’m happy with my decision.

Blackcaps coach Gary Stead.
Blackcaps coach Gary Stead. Photo credit: Photosport

GC: Tony O'Connor

Twelve months out from Tokyo, the men's rowing eight were about as far away from a gold medal as they could be, failing to even qualify a spot through the world championships and doing so at their last possible opportunity.

You wonder if the departure of sculling supremo Mahe Drysdale was a case of addition by subtraction, but whatever hard conversations were had in O'Connor's programme, they worked a treat.

Emerging Talent

Connor Bell (athletics), Cool Wakushima (snowboarding), Erika Fairweather (swimming), Grace Nweke (netball), Marko Stamenic (football)

AG: Erika Fairweather

What Erika Fairweather did in Tokyo was astounding. At just 17 years old and competing in her first ever Olympic event, she smashed FOUR SECONDS off of her personal best, and wiped more than a second off a 10-year-old national record to qualify for the final of one of the hotly contested events of the Olympic Games. 

That is the definition of rising to the occasion and suggests this girl really is something special. 

JR: Grace Nweke

For a couple of years now, the netball fraternity have kept one eye on Grace Nweke, knowing what a special talent the now 20-year-old is. Her goals helped drive the Northern Mystics to their maiden ANZ Premiership title, with over 850 of them through the season. 

Naturally, she captured the attention of Dame Noeline Taurua and is sure to thrive even more under her guidance.

AP: Marko Staminec

How good to see our young footballing talent recognised? While New Zealand does boast a number of players making their way in some of Europe's top leagues, Marko Staminec is by far the most exciting.

In 2020, Staminec signed for Danish side Copenhagen off the back of an impressive showing at the Under-19 Football World Cup in Brazil. Currently out on loan from his parent club, it won't be long before Staminec seals a move away from Denmark as he advances up the footballing ladder.

But while Staminec is still finding his feet at club level, he  has already shown he has the 

goods to be a fixture of the All Whites' midfield for a long time.

Erika Fairweather was a revelation in Tokyo.
Erika Fairweather was a revelation in Tokyo. Photo credit: Getty

AC: Erika Fairweather

These youngsters are going to be so much fun to watch over the next few years, but purely for her "wow, that was fast" reaction in Tokyo, Erika Fairweather gets the nod.

GC: Erika Fairweather

At 17, the youngest swimmer on the NZ Olympic team absolutely shocked the world by making the 400m freestyle final, breaking a national record held by Commonwealth Games gold medallist Lauren Boyle in the process. 

A former world junior champion over 200 metres, can't wait to see how she performs at Birmingham this year.

Best sporting moment:

Zoi Sadowski-Synnott and Nico Porteous win gold on the same day at world champs (snow sports), Team NZ drama in race eight of the America's Cup final (sailing), Blackcaps' Ross Taylor hits winning runs to secure World Test Cricket Championship for New Zealand (cricket), Rowing men's eight win gold at Tokyo Olympics (rowing), Black Ferns Sevens win gold at Tokyo Olympics (rugby), Emma Twigg wins gold in the Olympic single sculls on her fourth attempt (rowing), Triathlete Hayden Wilde claiming bronze at Tokyo Olympics (triathlon), Ruby Tui gives entertaining post-match interview after Black Ferns Sevens win (rugby), Trampolinist Dylan Schmidt wins bronze to claim New Zealand’s first ever Olympics gymnastics medal, (gymnastics), Lisa Carrington wins K1 500m to become NZ's most successful Olympian (canoe racing)

AG: Blackcaps' Ross Taylor hits winning runs to secure World Test Cricket Championship for New Zealand

Nobody deserved this particular moment more than Ross Taylor. The fact it was him in the middle for such an historic achievement sets this moment apart.

JR: Rowing men's eight win gold at Tokyo Olympics 

By far the most exciting, edge of your seat moment at the Olympics personally. In such a high profile event to have the NZ team come from nowhere and take the race like that was really special. 

Emma Twigg on her way to gold in Tokyo.
Emma Twigg on her way to gold in Tokyo. Photo credit: Photosport

AP: Emma Twigg wins gold in the Olympic single sculls on her fourth attempt

Fourth in London, fourth in Rio. Missing the Olympic podium twice was enough to make Emma Twigg want to walk away from rowing altogether. But Twigg ended her retirement, and dominated the women's single sculls from the world go in Tokyo.

Her gold medal victory was such a relief for the rowing community, that even Eric Murray - one of the most hard-faced competitors in Kiwi history - was brought to tears on live television.

As far as lessons in perseverance go, Twigg's is as good as any teacher could ask for.

AC: Blackcaps' Ross Taylor hits winning runs to secure World Test Cricket Championship for New Zealand

Any moment that can make me tear up like that is deserving of this award.

What this team achieved last year was incredible, and that final shot encapsulated it. Having the old guard of Williamson and Taylor at the crease for the winning runs was poetry (thanks India). 

Inject that into my veins every day.

GC: Emma Twigg wins gold in the Olympic single sculls on her fourth attempt

After so much Olympic heartbreak - including consecutive fourth placings at London and Rio - Twigg's rowing gold medal at Tokyo was a tale of vindication that had hardman Eric Murray in tears as he watched on. Most of New Zealand cried along with him.

Supreme Halberg winner?

AG: Dame Lisa Carrington

JR: Dame Lisa Carrington

AP: Dame LIsa Carrington

AC: Blackcaps

GC: Blackcaps

Join Newshub from 7pm, Wednesday for live updates of the 2022 Halberg Awards