All White night for football at Halbergs
Football reigned supreme at the Westpac Halberg Awards with judges and the New Zealand public agreed, 2010 was the year of the All Whites.
The round ball grabbed a hat-trick during last night's Auckland bash - with rugby overlooked in all but one category - as Ricki Herbert was crowned coach of the year, the All Whites team of the year and the historic World Cup troop also named winners of the supreme Halberg trophy.
When three-time Halberg recipient Rob Waddell and special guest, Corporal Willie Apiata VC, announced the All Whites as the big winners, members of the team were fittingly presented with the trophy by John Adshead and Steve Sumner, coach and captain of the 1982 All Whites who reached the World Cup finals in Spain.
The team also received a personal tribute message from Fifa President Sepp Blatter.
"All the awards, for the players, for the staff, are all great, great honours," All Whites goalkeeper Mark Paston told Fairfax Media.
"The World Cup feels like a long time ago, but watching those highlight reels never gets old.
"People kind of built tonight up as a contest between football and rugby, but the most important thing is that these awards prove we've taken the game of football a long, long way forward.
"In 2010, we captured people's imaginations across all sports, not just football and it makes everyone involved with New Zealand Football very proud."
Herbert dedicated his coaching award to wife Raewyn and children Kale and Sacha, before revealing a certain irony to his success.
"It's funny, the first person I called when I got the national job was Graham Henry. So there's been a few jokes between us about me getting the coaching award, not him," Herbert told Fairfax.
"I'm very proud of all the guys, we've put football back where it belongs. Here's to the next World Cup campaign."
A wonderful night for football then got even better as the publicly-voted gong for the nation's favourite sporting moment of 2010 went to Winston Reid's last-gasp equaliser against Slovakia - the header which earned New Zealand's first-ever World Cup point and marked the start of an incredible journey in South Africa.
The only category the All Whites didn't fulfil their nomination in was sportsman of the year, with All Blacks captain Richie McCaw getting the nod ahead of Ryan Nelsen.
By far the evening's most controversial decision, many will question how the All Whites could win team of the year, yet their inspirational captain could fall short of individual honours.
The All Whites, who joined 31 other nations at the 2010 World Cup finals following a 1-0 playoff win over Bahrain late in 2009, defied all doubters and made a mockery of their world ranking of 74th.
With draws against Slovakia, defending World Champions Italy and Paraguay, they returned from the tournament as the only unbeaten team - ranking ahead of four-time World Cup winners Italy and 1998 champions France.
Elsewhere last night, sportswoman of the year Valerie Adams stitched her name even deeper into New Zealand's sporting tapestry - though she had to be reminded how many times she's now won the award.
"It's five? Wow, I try to not keep count, it's a bit weird to keep track of your awards," Adams told Fairfax.
"It means so much though, so many Kiwi girls did so great in 2010, particularly at the Commonwealth Games. To win is very humbling."
Annihilating the field to win Commonwealth Games shot put gold, Adams is the reigning Olympic, World, and Commonwealth champion.
She beat fellow Commonwealth Games medallists Nikki Hamblin, Casey Williams, Alison Shanks and Joelle King to the title.
The All Blacks - emphatic Tri-Nations and Bledisloe champions who lost only one test in 2010 - had many believing the boys in black would dominate the evening, up for team of the year, the supreme award and with Graham Henry in the running for coach of the year.
But the announcement of McCaw as sportsman of the year, ahead of Nelsen, Kiwis captain Benji Marshall and young freeskier Jossi Wells, would be the only time rugby graced the stage.
New Zealand's top-ranked swimmer Gareth Kean capped a stellar 2010 with the Emerging Talent Award.
The 19-year-old shot into the limelight in July, winning 200m backstroke silver at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi - a result which also lifted him to eighth in the world.
Also last year, Kean won double gold at the Junior Pacific Championships in Hawaii and three bronze medals at the 2010 Mare Nostrum, a European swimming series.
The teenager receives $15,000 and financial planning advice from Westpac as part of the award.
2010 HALBERG AWARD WINNERS
2010 Halberg Supreme Award: All Whites (football)
Sportsman of the Year: Richie McCaw (rugby)
Sportswoman of the Year: Valerie Adams (athletics)
Sports Team of the Year: All Whites (football)
Coach of the Year: Ricki Herbert (football)