The All Blacks and Black Caps feature strongly in the list of finalists for the 53rd Halberg Awards.
Fifteen different sports feature in the list of finalists released today, with cricket and rugby the most represented with three apiece. Sixteen of the 24 finalists are in contention for the supreme Halberg Award - the country's highest accolade for sporting excellence. The finalists in the Sportsman, Sportswoman, Disabled Sportsperson and Team of the Year categories are all eligible for the top award.
Supreme Halberg Award holders Hamish Bond and Eric Murray are in line to defend the top honour again. The men's pair is shortlisted for the Team of the Year against two other world title holders; the All Blacks and Men's 49er crew of Peter Burling and Blair Tuke. The Black Caps - New Zealand's first men's team to reach the Cricket World Cup final - round out the category.
The Sportswoman of the Year will again be closely contested with 2014 winner and world number one golfer Lydia Ko shortlisted alongside road cycling world champion Linda Villumsen, swimmer Lauren Boyle who won two silver medals at the FINA World Championships and double world champion canoeist Lisa Carrington.
World Rugby Player of the Year Daniel Carter is a finalist for the Sportsman of the Year along with golfer Danny Lee, who won the Greenbrier Classic on the US PGA Tour and was selected for the Presidents Cup Team. IndyCar Series winner Scott Dixon and Black Cap Kane Williamson who was named the world number one test batsman in December also make the shortlist.
Para-Swimmers Nikita Howarth and Sophie Pascoe are up for the Disabled Sportsperson of the Year award for their achievements at the IPC Swimming World Championships where Howarth won double gold, and Pascoe claimed three golds, a silver and two bronze medals. Para-Shooter Michael Johnson who set a world record and won five world cup gold medals is a contender along with Para-Skiier Corey Peters who won two golds and a silver at the IPC Alpine Skiing World Championships.
Four promising athletes have been selected for the Emerging Talent award including pole vaulter Eliza McCartney, who broke a world junior record in December and double junior world champion track cyclist Campbell Stewart. Tall Black and New Zealand Breakers development player Tai Wynyard and Dylan Schmidt who finished tenth at the Trampoline World Championships are also shortlisted.
The Coach of the Year finalists features a group that guided New Zealand athletes and teams to multiple successes in 2015 including All Blacks coach Steve Hansen and Lisa Carrington's coach Gordon Walker. Hamish Willcox who steered the Men's 49er team is a finalist along with Black Caps coach Mike Hesson.
The finalists were selected by the Halberg Awards judges of former athletes, coaches and sports journalists who reviewed 63 nominations submitted for the six categories.
The winners will be presented at the 53rd Halberg Awards in Auckland next month. Ten awards are presented on the night with other categories including the Radio Sport Sporting Moment (public vote category), Sport New Zealand Leadership Award, Lifetime Achievement Award as well as inductees into the Sports Hall of Fame.
"The finalists all achieved outstanding success on the world stage in 2015 and we look forward to celebrating and honouring them at the awards ceremony next month," says Shelley McMeeken, Chief Executive of the Halberg Disability Sport Foundation.
The full list of finalists for the 53rd Halberg Awards:
Sportsman of the Year:
Daniel Carter (Rugby), Danny Lee (Golf), Kane Williamson (Cricket), Scott Dixon (Motorsport).
Sportswoman of the Year:
Lauren Boyle (Swimming), Linda Villumsen (Cycling), Lisa Carrington (Canoeing), Lydia Ko (Golf).
Disabled Sportsperson of the Year:
Corey Peters (Para-Skiing), Michael Johnson (Para-Shooting), Nikita Howarth (Para-Swimming), Sophie Pascoe (Para-Swimming).
Team of the Year:
All Blacks (Rugby), Black Caps (Cricket), Men's Pair; Hamish Bond and Eric Murray (Rowing), Men's 49er Class; Peter Burling and Blair Tuke (Yachting).
SKY NEXT Emerging Talent
Campbell Stewart (Cycling), Dylan Schmidt (Trampoline), Eliza McCartney (Athletics), Tai Wynyard (Basketball).
Coach of the Year
Gordon Walker (Canoeing), Hamish Willcox (Yachting), Mike Hesson (Cricket), Steve Hansen (Rugby).
•The Halberg Awards will screen live on Sky Sport 1 on Thursday, February 18 February