Richie's McCaw-some but Mahe's the man

MARK REASON
Last updated 11:02 26/12/2012

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OPINION: Iain Carter, the golf correspondent of BBC Radio, came up with the nickname "Misnomer" a few years ago. He was babbling and incoherent at the time but apparently it was reference to the inappropriateness of this columnist's surname. So in the spirit of the "Iceman" - please forgive Carter, he does come from Leicester and has been known to shout Cyclopian drivel at Welford Road - here are the 2012 Misnomers.

Sportsman of the Year - Mahe Drysdale

The Misnomers recognise not just achievement, but the spirit of the achievement. Richie McCaw was in the running for continuing to defy the laws of humanity, for always speaking with remarkable humility and for signing every bit of paper thrust his way. But after careless deliberation, the Misnomer goes to Mahe Drysdale. The rower overcame numerous personal setbacks to win gold in London. He adjusted his training to adapt to the limitations of his mortal decline. In other words, the 34-year-old Drysdale scores a point for the oldies. And he also had to beat a formidable opponent in Ondrej Synak of the Czech Republic. Above all, Drysdale achieved his victory with dignity and sportsmanship and was held aloft by the athletes he had beaten. The man made New Zealand proud.

Sportswoman of the Year - Lydia Ko

Many people will favour Valerie Adams after another magnificent season and she is certainly a great. Perhaps her natural effervescence leads Adams to say a word too many on occasion but that is a very small reservation. Usually athletes have little to say and much of it is dull, so for the most part we celebrate Adams' verbal rampages. Lydia Ko is never going to match Adams for loquacity but she is a good 'un. In 2012, Ko won the NSW Open to become the youngest winner of a professional golf event. She became the first New Zealander to win the US Women's Amateur. Then she became the youngest winner on the LPGA Tour, beating a stellar field down the stretch at the Canadian Open. Ko should win the Halbergs by five shots, such is the scale of her achievements. But I fear that the two-lettered Ko will lose out to the bigger names.

Coach of the Year - Dave Rennie

This was the hardest category to judge. How could you decide between Dave Rennie and Dick Tonks? In the end Tonks lost out because much of the great coaching work he has done was put in over previous years. Drysdale, Bond and Murray were already at the top of rowing before this year. They kept up the great, no, make that phenomenal, work of their coach in winning Olympic gold. Rennie was all about 2012. It baffles me - utterly - how Hansen won the Steinlager Rugby Award ahead of Rennie. Hansen had a very good year, but the opposition was very poor and he had a largely established team of world champions. The All Blacks were also way below par against England at Twickenham, Australia in Brisbane and South Africa, Argentina and Ireland in New Zealand. That's quite a lot of sub-par performances. In one year Rennie built a culture and a coaching structure that took the Chiefs from 10th - and bottom of the New Zealand standings - to Super 15 champions. An unbelievable achievement. And still people voted for Hansen. Hello?

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Team of the Year - The Chiefs

It was good to shut up all those motor mouths who thought, if that is the right verb, that the failings of the Blues had racial origins. The Chiefs were a great big melting pot, with two captains and coaches and players and team leaders from all backgrounds. Eric Murray and Hamish Bond were a great "team", if two people constitute a team. But the sight of all the Chiefs' players and staff performing the haka in front of the stand was the defining team moment of the year.

Captain of the Year - Richie McCaw

Another close one. Conrad Smith's intelligence and empathy were major factors in transforming the Hurricanes from rabble to contenders. He would be a fine All Blacks captain next year, although Kieran Read seems to be the choice, presumably on the basis that refs tend to be lenient on captains and back-five forwards tend to be major law- breakers. But despite Smith's excellence the Misnomer goes to Old Man River. Richie McCaw's need to set the standards of world champions has kept the All Blacks at the top of the game. It would be easy to think "we did it" and wallow in the glory. Maybe a couple of All Blacks slipped into that malaise and who among us could really blame them. But McCaw kept driving his team towards new goals. He is a remarkable man.

Moment of the Year - Bevan Small and Michael Mason

Yes, it's that catch. Tarun Nethula bowls, Brad Wilson smacks the ball back over his head and Bevan Small seems to think he is on the 10-metre platform at the London Olympics. Small leaps and twists backwards over the boundary rope, catches the ball and backhands it back into the field of the play where Michael Mason dives to complete the catch. Stag-gering.

Chump of the Year - Mike Hesson

New Zealand's cricket coach undermined his captain before a test series and then tried to spin his way out of it. Rumour has it that both National and Labour have approached Hesson to stand at the next election.

Cheat of the Year - Lance Armstrong

In recognition of all his past achievements in this area, Lance Armstrong holds off an incredibly strong challenge. Not only is Armstrong a serial doper, he intimidated his team-mates into a code of silence and vindictively sued any media member who dared to suggest he wasn't Pope Pius XIII.

Miss of the Year - Lorenzo Insigne

How do you miss an open goal from one metre?

Biggest Sporting Fall - Felix Baumgartner

Even Armstrong didn't plummet that far.

PS: All winners qualify for cake and fine wine at my expense when our paths might one day cross.

Mark Reason is a sportswriter formerly with the Times of London and Daily Telegraph in the UK. He now lives in Wairarapa.

- Taranaki Daily News

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