Halberg Awards: The cases for Lydia Ko, the All Blacks and Burling and Tuke

Lydia Ko poses with the New Zealand Women's Open trophy. Photo / Getty Images
Lydia Ko poses with the New Zealand Women's Open trophy. Photo / Getty Images

It's always a contentious debate but three Herald sports writers make their picks to win the supreme Halberg Award tomorrow night.

Wynne Gray: Lydia Ko

Lydia Ko should win the top Halberg award. And if they were awarding silver and bronze medals for outstanding performances in 2015, Kane Williamson and the All Blacks should be called to the podium.

However, this nation's obsession with rugby and the All Blacks' success at the World Cup convinces me they will take out the major honour at this year's gala dinner.

But Ko became the top-ranked world women's golfer, the youngest to win a major and triumphed in five tournaments from 24 starts on the LPGA tour where she was acclaimed player of the year.

She tied the LPGA record for consecutive rounds under par, had 17 top-10 finishes, rose to No1 in February and regained that rank by the end of the year when she became the youngest, by three years, to have won 10 events on a major tour.



It's an impressive list of global success on a range of courses against an expanding list of high-class competitors.

Every time Ko goes to work, she is up against the rest of the world. She can't rely on others to bail her out during days of inquisition into her mental strength and range of skills.

Those deeds should sneak Ko ahead of Williamson, who scored five test tons and became the No 1-ranked test cricket batsman. It is a remarkable honour for the young right-hander who broke the New Zealand record for most runs in a calendar year.

Kris Shannon: Peter Burling, Blair Tuke

Peter Burling and Blair Tuke. Photo / Supplied
Peter Burling and Blair Tuke. Photo / Supplied

The most dominant entity in New Zealand sport last year was a two-man team, unbeaten on the water in eons, having blown away every challenger to add yet another world championship crown.

But enough about Hamish Bond and Eric Murray, it's time to talk about the sheer brilliance of sailors Peter Burling and Blair Tuke.

While the rowers' form was as unmatched, as always, a restricted campaign ahead of the Olympics counted against the two-time winners of the supreme Halberg prize. Burling and Tuke, on the other hand, must have almost become apathetic about their success in 2015, such was the repetition of their winning.

The 49er crew's superiority was exemplified by a flawless year - 22 regattas entered, 22 victories, a streak that included a third world championship.

Considering the sport of sailing can be so heavily impacted by capricious conditions, allowing room for no error is quite remarkable. To wit, no other Olympic sailing crew has ever progressed through a year without suffering defeat.

And considering the Kiwis saw off no fewer than 60 competing crews to claim their world title, it was hardly a case of being a big fish in a small pond.

At 25 and 26, respectively, Burling and Tuke should be superstars in New Zealand. They certainly are in their sport, being named as ISAF world sailors of the year.

But with sailing proving problematic to televise and regattas held in all sorts of timezones, the pair's supremacy has been overlooked. That should change tomorrow and Burling and Tuke should take the supreme award.

Patrick McKendry: All Blacks

Richie McCaw holds aloft the Webb Ellis Trophy. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Richie McCaw holds aloft the Webb Ellis Trophy. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Take yourself back to last October and early November when the All Blacks played their three contrasting sudden-death World Cup matches, which ultimately resulted in coach Steve Hansen's men retaining the William Webb Ellis trophy - the first time a nation has defended it.

All three were significant hurdles for the All Blacks to clear; France for the emotional baggage of World Cups past, South Africa for being the second best team in the world and playing with the bloody-mindedness typical of that nation; and Australia, our near neighbours with the ultimate party poopers in David Pocock and Michael Hooper.

Throw in the swansongs by so many All Blacks veterans, and in particular Dan Carter and Richie McCaw who played such important roles in getting their team across the line despite the pressure of expectation back home.

It all adds up to a significant sporting achievement - in my opinion the biggest for New Zealand in 2015.

And that's not even taking into account how the All Blacks played in the UK. Yes, there was a fair bit of defensive stuff in the semifinal against the Boks at a wet Twickenham, but during the remainder of the tournament the All Blacks played a brand of rugby that was the envy of the world, a style which would have won them new admirers everywhere.

To be able to create history by playing that sort of rugby was a credit to them and their coaches and they deserve every accolade going.

- NZ Herald

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