Andrew Mulligan: The real reason behind the Halbergs

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2015 supreme Halberg Award winners Hamish Bond and Eric Murray. Photo / Nick Reed
2015 supreme Halberg Award winners Hamish Bond and Eric Murray. Photo / Nick Reed

Apples and oranges. That's what I just voted on for the Halberg Awards.

Comparing Kane Williamson's robotic batting year of 2015 against the dominant rowing pair of Hamish Bond and Eric Murray versus the cool head of Lydia Ko and the beautiful sum of the parts of an All Blacks machine. And don't forget Scott Dixon's timely run to another IndyCar title.

I've left people out. Their supporters will be disappointed. I tried not to show bias but that's why there are 28 members on the voting panel. Could all the judges meet like the old days and let dominant personalities argue and bicker about their choice? Will the more retiring types weather the storm? Should it be a public vote? That's more likely to skew the results due to motivated fans voting more than apathetic ones.

The Halbergs generate debate because in an attempt to highlight and celebrate winners, which is what we as a sports nation love to do, other overachievers end up losing.

But at least we're talking about the awards put on by the Halberg Disability Sport Foundation and the work it does.

Here's what it's for and, more importantly, who it's for - 11-year-old Connor Fa'asega from Dunedin. A kid who wants to sail at the Olympics, fight in the octagon of the UFC and ride to glory on the Tour de France.

The cerebral palsy he battles is a hurdle he strives to overcome every day but the new trike the foundation gave him recently is helping him. Connor just wants to be included and that's the aim of the foundation - to make sure kids like him are given every opportunity.

A perfect example of how a sports club is accommodating those unable to play in mainstream competitions is the Papatoetoe United Football Club's adapted programme. The programme was set up after a mother said her son was struggling to keep up with his peers in mainstream football.

Now there's a place where kids can come together, including some who rely on crutches or walking frames to get around, and work on their football skills and experience the thrill of participating.

The foundation isn't an organisation that gears its year around its televised gala dinner every February. It's certainly their most visible event, but it is constantly working, involving those with disabilities and providing funds and resources to facilitate activity, which is what Sir Murray Halberg intended all those years ago.

The foundation's events range from fundraising to encouraging participation. It's about removing or diminishing the barriers which prevent anyone from playing and enjoying sport and recreation.

- NZ Herald

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