Fame may trump performance at awards

CONTENDER? Based on performance world champion kayaker Lisa Carrington should  be in the running for a Halberg.
CONTENDER? Based on performance world champion kayaker Lisa Carrington should be in the running for a Halberg.

Our most famous, rather than our best performed, seem likely to win the 2013 Halberg gongs.

The Sportswoman category looks very competitive, with world champion shot putter Valerie Adams shooting for an incredible eighth straight title. To my mind, she and world champion kayaker Lisa Carrington should be vying for top honours.

However, teenaged golfer Lydia Ko is the media darling - there has been incessant talk radio and newspapers talk in recent days about how the award simply must be hers.

Ko is a brilliant talent and I love her attitude. She is surely a champion in the making.

But she won no major title in 2013 and is ranked No 4 in the world. Does that stack up against two world champions who went through 2013 unbeaten?

Apparently it does in the shallow media world, where fame trumps performance.

When the Halberg nominations were announced last week, several media pundits were horrified that basketballer Steve Adams' name was not on the Sportsman list.

Adams gained headlines for earning an NBA contract after being 12th best pick in the draft.

He is now beginning to make his way with the Oklahoma Thunder, but I can't think why he should be nominated for his performances in 2013, when his most newsworthy action was signing his contract.

Basketball New Zealand seemed to feel the same, preferring to focus its Halberg hopes on the Breakers, who won a third consecutive Australian NBL title.

Equestrian Jock Paget would normally have walked away with the Sportsman award, having scooped Badminton and Burghley, the two majors of the three-day eventing year.

But he lost his Burghley title when his horse, Clifton Promise, failed a drugs test and was disqualified.

All Black Kieran Read and racing driver Scott Dixon now loom as Sportsman favourites.

The drums are beating for the unbeaten All Blacks to win the team award, and they were indeed superb this year.

However, I hope the New Zealand men's softball team, which defied the odds to claim the world title, is genuinely considered.

The softballers were brilliant in turning round recent poor performances to reclaim the world crown.

Ludicrously - and again under the fame banner - there's a push for Team New Zealand to be recognised.

The America's Cup yachties certainly gained tremendous publicity, with sponsor Emirates flying the media around the world to ensure that was so, but their performance was bitterly disappointing.

To lose the final 9-8 after leading 8-1 was hardly the sort of effort to merit lauding in the end of year awards.

I've enjoyed All Black coach Steve Hansen this year. His team was great and Hansen himself seemed to delight in his dealings with the media - he is almost a caricature of himself these days with that gruff persona.

Hansen gained the most media attention. However, other coaches, who produced world champions, must come into the reckoning for the Coach award.

This year's Halberg Awards deliberations should provoke fascinating discussion. But sadly, the panel - now expanded to about 30 - doesn't meet any more. It deliberates in isolation, so robust and informative discussion is avoided.

A pity. There are issues that demand serious debate this year if the awards are to be meaningful.

The Timaru Herald