Rowing shows its depth at Halberg Awards

SIMON PLUMB
Last updated 05:00 15/02/2013
DANIEL GALVIN/Fairfax NZ

The big winners at this year's Halberg Awards celebrate.

Eric Murray and Hamish Bond
IAIN McGREGOR/Fairfax NZ Zoom
The 2012 Halberg Supreme Award winners, Eric Murray and Hamish Bond
Hamish Bond and Eric Murray
MICHAEL BRADLEY/Fairfax NZ Zoom
Hamish Bond and Eric Murray won the Supreme Helberg award and the team of the year.

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Rowing has matched the most successful performance of any sport in Halberg history.

Winning four of the traditional top five awards in Auckland last night, only rugby's World Cup-winning All Blacks class of 2011 has ever been so dominant in a single year.

All five of the categories rowing featured in ended up with a success story - thanks to delivering five of New Zealand's 13 medals at the London 2012 Olympics, the nation's most success Games since Seoul 1988.

Untouchable men's pair, Hamish Bond and Eric Murray, headed the accolades taking out both the supreme award and team of the year. Cruising to the 2012 Olympic title, Bond and Murray have been unbeatable in the four years since striking their partnership.

But it was rowing's depth that underpinned last night's ceremony.

After five world titles, Mahe Drysdale's realisation of Olympic gold in London made him a clear winner in the sportsman of the year category ahead of Olympic bronze medallists Andrew Nicholson (team eventing) and Simon van Velthooven (cycling), and also All Blacks captain Richie McCaw, whose side lost only one game in 2012.

It's the fourth sportsman of the year gong in his career so far, and like Bond and Murray, Drysdale has already committed to another Olympic campaign in Rio 2016.

Coach of the year honours went, deservedly, to national rowing supremo Richard Tonks.

Drysdale described Tonks as a "mastermind" last night and in typically reserved style Tonks stayed away from the evening, preferring instead, Drysdale said, to deal with training sessions this morning.

Plonking a cherry on top of an already highly decorated cake, the stirring comeback of double scullers Nathan Cohen and Jospeh Sullivan for Olympic gold was the right choice for New Zealand's sporting moment of the year.

Sullivan acknowledged the evening's awards as important to a close band of squad members based at Lake Karapiro.

"It's pretty special for rowing that we're managing to take away so many things, it's a tribute to the training, ambition and pressure we put on ourselves," Sullivan said.

Bond, who for once spoke more than his vociferous crewmate, accepted the pair's honours with grace and gratitude.

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