Halberg Awards: Black Ferns, Winter Olympians, Comm Games athletes dominate finalists for 60th presentation

Black Ferns coach Wayne Smith, snowboarder Zoi Sadowski-Synnott & cyclist Aaron Gate
Black Ferns coach Wayne Smith, snowboarder Zoi Sadowski-Synnott & cyclist Aaron Gate. Photo credit: Photosport

Black Ferns, Winter Olympians and Commonwealth Games stars lead the charge for the 60th Halberg Awards next month.

Thirty finalists have been named from the 76 nominations for the annual awards ceremony, scheduled for February 15.

The NZ women captured the nation's imagination with their Rugby World Cup victory at Auckland's Eden Park and unsurprisingly head the list of candidates for Team of the Year. Captain Ruahei Demant will contend for Sportswoman of the Year, while Wayne Smith is among the favourites for Coach of the Year.

Snowboarder Zoi Sadowski-Synnott and freeskier Nico Porteous made history with New Zealand's first Winter Olympics gold medals at Beijing, and are rewarded with recognition in the Sportswoman and Sportsman categories, along respective coaches Sean Thompson and Tommy Pyatt in that category.

The NZ Commonwealth Games produced a record gold-medal haul at Birmingham, spearheaded by cyclist Aaron Gate, whose four victories was the most by a Kiwi at one Games.

Sprint cyclist Ellesse Andrews equalled the previous record with three golds, while track endurance coach Craig Palmer is also a contender.

Dame Sophie Pascoe became our most successful Commonwealth Games ever with five golds across three appearances and heads the Para Athlete of the Year category, which she has won seven times before.

Squash gold medallists Paul Coll, Joelle King and Amanda Landers-Murphy also feature, along with reigning Supreme Award winner Dame Lisa Carrington. 

Sportsman of the Year

Paul Coll (squash), Aaron Gate (cycling), Nico Porteous (freeskiing), Dylan Schmidt (trampoline), Shane van Gisbergen (motorsport)

Sportswoman of the Year

Ellesse Andrews (cycling), Dame Lisa Carrington (kayak), Ruahei Demant (rugby), Lydia Ko (golf), Zoi Sadowski-Synnott (snowboarding) 

Team of the Year

Black Ferns (rugby), Joelle King & Amanda Landers-Murphy (squash), Joelle King & Paul Coll (squash), Kerri Williams & Grace Prendergast (rowing), NZ Eventing Team (equestrian)

Coach of the Year

Craig Palmer (cycling), Tommy Pyatt (freeskiing), Wayne Smith (rugby), Sean Thompson (snowboarding), Gordon Walker (kayak) 

Para Athlete/Para Team of the Year

Adam Hall (Para skiing), Cameron Leslie (Para swimming), Nicole Murray (Para cycling), Dame Sophie Pascoe (Para swimming), Corey Peters (Para skiing)

Emerging Talent

Cameron Gray (swimming), Gustav Legnavsky (freeski halfpipe), Jenna Hastings (cycling), Joshua Willmer (swimming), Tara Vaughan (kayak) 

This year's ceremony will be particularly poignant, with the death of awards patron and former Olympic 5000m champion Sir Murray Halberg last month.