Rowers dominate at Halberg Awards
It was the year of rowing. Kiwi oarsmen have completed a clean sweep of the 2012 Halberg Awards in Auckland last night - headed by Olympic champion men's pair Hamish Bond and Eric Murray.
Bond and Murray have been awarded supreme honours and also named New Zealand's sport team of the year.
Completing the demolition job on a night where rowers won every category they were in the running for, Olympic champion Mahe Drysdale was also named sportsman of the year and national team boss Dick Tonks coach of the year.
Olympic gold medal double scullers Nathan Cohen and Joseph Sullivan, who lost out to team mates Bond and Murray for the team honours, didn't go home empty-handed. Their highly dramatic London 2012 win, pulling out gold with a staggering push in the last 250m, was voted New Zealand's sporting moment of 2012.
"There was a lot of gold medallists out there. Like Eric said earlier, it's apples and oranges," Bond said.
"We're just honoured. We're very pleased."
Murray pointed to the work put in over the hard times that makes the accolades so pleasing.
"When rowing's going well it's really enjoyable. But it's the hard times when things aren't going that great, your back's up against the wall and the wind is blowing and the rain is pelting down - you've got to be out there.
"We've just got to get back into those times where it's not enjoyable to get into the speed we were at last year.
"We just want to continue winning."
Sullivan acknowledged what the highly successful night meant to New Zealand's rowing squad.
"It's pretty special for rowing that we're managing to take away so many things, it's a tribute to the training and ambition and pressure we put on ourselves," Sullivan said.
Collecting the fourth sportsman of the year award of his career, Drysdale has resumed the position he last held in 2009.
After claiming five world single sculls titles, in 2012 Drysdale finally claimed an elusive Olympic gold in London - and has already committed to another Olympic campaign in Rio.
All Blacks captain Richie McCaw and a pair of London 2012 bronze medallists in Andrew Nicholson (team eventing) and Simon van Velthooven (cycling) were finalists in Drysdale's category.
"It's always a great honour to be recognised like this and win these great awards," Drysdale said.
"Rowing's still what I want to do and I'm looking forward to getting back in the boat.
"It's been a very memorable year. That Olympic [gold] medal was always the thing missing out of my trophy cabinet. To come to a night like this and re-live that, as well as all the other moments during the year, is fantastic."
In typical unassuming fashion, Tonks did not collect his award personally - preferring instead to concentrate on coaching tomorrow morning.
Drysdale collected Tonks' award on his behalf and paid tribute to a "quiet man who comes alive on the water".
"He's played a huge part in my career. He's been my coach in six of the last eight years," Drysdale said.
"His ability to push you beyond where you really want to go, seems easy. You believe everything he says to you.
"He's been the mastermind of rowing's success. He'd be a huge loss to the programme if he was to leave.
"He doesn't really like accolades, he's a very quiet person. He'd just prefer to get on with his business, he'll be coaching in the morning."
Elsewhere, Valerie Adams claimed her seventh-straight sportswoman of the year title in one of the most hotly-contested categories of recent years.
London Olympic champion Adams was up against fellow gold medallist Lisa Carrington, teenage golf whizz Lydia Ko and Olympic silver medal BMX rider Sarah Walker, but once again took the honours - only this time after a rollercoaster year which saw serious administrative errors within the Kiwi Olympic team a drug scandal involving rival Nadzeya Ostapchuk.
"It was a very competitive field and congratulations to the other finalists. It would have been really tough for the judges," Adams said.
"It was a stressful year. I was as prepared and some things happened which were out of my control, but we got through it in the end."
Ko did land the first Halberg Award of the night however, claiming the emerging talent award.
The 15-year-old, and world number one women's amateur, claimed two professional tour wins last year in the Canadian and New South Wales Opens.
Ko, who was absent from the ceremony - competing in the Australian Open in Canberra - was given the nod ahead of Anton Cooper (mountain biking), Dylan Kennett (cycling) and Andrew McKenzie (yachting) after she didn't even make the final shortlist last year.
Paralympic swimmer Sophie Pascoe went back-to-back retaining her crown of disabled sportsperson of the year.
Pascoe won the inaugural award last year and after claiming six medals at last year's Paralympic Games - three gold, three silver - expectedly got the award again.
Other para-swimmer's Mary Fisher, Cameron Leslie and para-cyclist Phillipa Gray were finalists.
Bruce Kendall and Jeff Wilson were inducted into New Zealand sport's hall of fame, administrator Sir John Wells received a Sport New Zealand leadership award and Athletics New Zealand patron and lifetime member Arthur Eustace was given a given a lifetime achievement award.
2012 Halberg Awards:
Overall winner: Hamish Bond and Eric Murray (rowing)
Finalists: Mahe Drysdale (rowing), Valerie Adams (athletics), Sophie Pascoe (para-swimming).
Sportsman of the Year: Mahe Drysdale (rowing)
Finalists: Richie McCaw (rugby), Andrew Nicholson (equestrian), Simon van Velthooven (cycling).
Sportswoman of the Year: Valerie Adams (athletics)
Finalists: Lisa Carrington (canoeing), Lydia Ko (golf), Sarah Walker (BMX).
Disabled Sportsperson of the Year: Sophie Pascoe (para-swimming).
Finalists: Mary Fisher (para-swimming), Cameron Leslie (para-swimming), Phillipa Gray (para-cycling)
Team of the Year: Hamish Bond and Eric Murray (rowing).
Finalists: All Blacks (rugby), Pete Burling and Blair Tuke (yachting), Joseph Sullivan and Nathan Cohen (rowing), Jo Aleh and Polly Powrie (yachting).
Coach of the Year: Richard Tonks (rowing)
Finalists: Calvin Ferguson (rowing), Nathan Handley (sailing), Gordon Walker (canoeing).
Emerging Talent Award: Lydia Ko (golf)
Finalists: Anton Cooper (mountain biking), Dylan Kennett (cycling), Andrew McKenzie (yachting).