Yalden: Time for a change to the Halbergs

NIGEL YALDEN
Last updated 05:00 15/03/2014
Black Sox
PHIL WALTER/ Getty

HIGHLIGHT: Halberg for New Zealand's favourite sporting moment in 2013 went to the Black Sox.

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OPINION: It's time to reinvent the Halberg awards.

Under its current format, the annual gala event that honours the best in New Zealand sport as well as being the flagship fundraising venture for an outstanding organisation, the Halberg Disability Sports Foundation, has become far too divisive.

While it's good to have healthy debate, be it in written or verbal form, some of the carry-on before and after recent ceremonies has hurt us as a sporting nation.

And whether you like it or not, these types of awards do end up being a grand exercise in comparing apples with oranges.

By way of example, look at the four nominees for 2013 Sportswoman of the Year. How can we - the sporting public - expect judges to adjudicate on the relative merits and achievements of a shot putter, a golfer, a flat water canoer and a swimmer?

Yes, they all have some points of commonality but there are way too many variables for judges to be able to make anything that resembles a fact-based, unemotional decision on who is better than whom.

What I respectfully suggest is that the current category-based structure be replaced by a system that allows the athletes, teams and coaches to be judged wholly and solely on their own performances and not be subjected to unnecessary and unreasonable comparisons.

Sporting bodies would put forward nominees for recognition in a three-tier structure.

The first would recognise exceptional sporting achievements at the national level and, for the sake of this piece, we shall call it the Sir John Walker Award.

The second, the Sir Peter Snell Award, would recognise exceptional sporting achievements at an Oceania level which would include competitions like Super Rugby (yes I know South Africa is not in Oceania but work with me here), NRL, A-League, trans-Tasman netball league, Australian National Basketball League, V8 Supercars and the like.

By introducing this level, we provide an avenue for the New Zealand Breakers winning the ANBL or Chiefs winning Super Rugby to get their dues rather than being lumped into the ''sporting moment of the year'' by default.

The third and final award, the Sir Murray Halberg award, would remain the ultimate symbol of New Zealand sporting excellence, recognising those who have been exceptional on the world sporting stage.

And ''exceptional'' is the key word which would be reflected in the way each nominee will be judged.

By way of an example again, let's say Steven Adams is part of an Oklahoma City Thunder side that wins the NBA Championship.

Automatic ''Halberg'' ... right?

Wrong.

What if Adams averages a mere eight minutes of playing time, a fair portion of which is ''garbage time'', the period at the end of a game that has already been well and truly decided?

That's not exceptional.

Now, if big Steve averaged 25 minutes of quality playing time, pulled down 10 rebounds a game and played defence that reduced Roy Hibbert to a non-factor in the final series, in the context of that sport and the global reach of the competition, that would most definitely be exceptional.

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My one exception on the category front is the ''Sporting Moment of the Year'' because it is a great way of engaging the public, but stays on the proviso that all organisations with a ''moment'' in the final ballot would be banned from promoting or campaigning on their ''moment's'' behalf.

Now I realise that this proposal will have numerous holes picked in it by those whose first inclination is to criticise and yes, I know that it will not end the discussion/debate/arguments, call it what you will, as sport is too passionately embraced by our country for that to ever happen.

But I ask you, why do we have to have just one sportsman of the year or one sportswoman or team or coach?

Is it the fear of being labelled ''politically correct'' if we have more than one?

If we have five athletes of the same gender who have been setting the world alight, why pour water on four of them, even for just one night?

Is it politically incorrect to want to celebrate five people's global achievements as opposed to one?

The name of the event is the ''Halberg Awards'' not the ''Halberg competition'' and by changing to this format, the Halbergs become less of the corrosive latter and more of the empowering former.

- Waikato Times

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