Sunday, 14 December 2008

The finalists for the 2008 Halberg Awards will be named in early January. Short of Chris Martin being recalled for the second Windies test and scoring 500 not out, the leading contenders are already finalized.

The sportswoman’s award is the most clear-cut. The 2007 supreme Halberg winner Valerie Vili is shoo-in, courtesy of her shot put gold at Beijing.

In the team award, many of my fellow scribes are plumping for the Kiwis on the back of the magnificent World Rugby League Cup victory over the Aussies. While it remains one of the undoubted sporting highlights of the year, let’s be honest, it was a two horse race and a minor race at that. This was a World Cup title but not a victory on the world stage.

Others who might come into consideration are the men’s cycling pursuit team and Nathan Twaddle and George Bridgewater, both Olympic bronze medalists. The All Blacks and the Crusaders could possibly stake a claim but for my money the winners have to be 2001 supreme Halberg winners, Caroline and Georgina Evers-Swindell, who were pipped at the post in 2004 by another Athens golden girl, Sarah Ulmer.

Back-to-back Olympic gold medals places the twins in the rarified company of the likes of Peter Snell and Mark Todd.

The sportsman’s award to will be the most closely fought. Indy racing champion Scott Dixon is the bookmaker’s favourite but I don’t know about that. Tom Ashley won boardsailing gold at Beijing, yet in my mind his efforts play second-fiddle to Nick Willis winning a bronze in the blue-riband 1500 metres, a track event in which this country has a rich heritage.

Other names being bandied about include other Olympic medalists - the gutsy 2006 supreme Halberg winner Mahe Drysdale, cyclist Hayden Roulston and triathlete Bevan Docherty. Then there’s US Amateur golf champion, Danny Lee, but he’s probably blotted his copybook with some less than sportsman-like behaviour on and off the course.

What about Richie McCaw? He’s won everything this year as a captain and never played in a losing All Black team. We haven’t had an All Black supreme Halberg winner since Wilson Whineray in 1965 and only two previously in Ron Jarden (1951) and Don Clarke (1959).

My supreme Halberg winner for 2008? The Evers-Swindell twins. How can you beat two in a row?


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