Richie McCaw seemed genuinely thrilled. Kane Williamson was genuinely surprised. And Steve Hansen was as genuine as ever.
The 53rd Halberg Awards unfolded with some predictable results last night, but that didn't detract from the emotion.
The All Blacks took out the team of the year - beating Peter Burling and Blair Tuke, Hamish Bond and Eric Murray and the Black Caps - and then won the Halberg Supreme Award. Williamson was crowned sportsman of the year, Hansen picked up the coaching gong for the second time and Lydia Ko won her third consecutive sportswoman award.
McCaw has won numerous honours in an incredible career but was obviously touched by the accolade, which was presented by Willie Apiata and Valerie Adams.
"It doesn't get any better than that in New Zealand sport," said McCaw. "[But] a night like tonight is not about making one win better than the other. The calibre of the men and women in the room tonight was pretty awesome. Just to be able to celebrate that, but also to take a moment to reflect, which as sportsmen we don't do that that well, the success that you have had, all of the hard work has paid off."
It marked the third time the All Blacks have won the supreme award, after their wins in 1987 and 2011, also following World Cup success. Rob Waddell and Valerie Adams are the only others to achieve a hat trick of Supreme awards.
Williamson ended 2015 ranked as the world's No1 batsman, after a calendar year where he scored five test centuries in a haul of more than 1100 test runs. His stellar year also boasted a Test average of 90.15 from 16 innings and a career best score of 242 not out.
Kane Williamson joins us after taking out the Sportsman of the Year award at the Halbergs.See all the winners at http://www.nzherald.co.nz/sport/news/article.cfm?c_id=4&objectid=11591949Posted by nzherald.co.nz on Thursday, February 18, 2016
"I was definitely surprised, shocked," said.the modest Williamson. "To get this award, looking at the nominees in the category, guys who have achieved so much. I don't know how they choose one but I am truly humbled to win this award. I've never been before so even to be invited to the awards is a pretty special thing."
Hansen spent most of the night either on stage, or facing the media.
"I'm very lucky to be well supported by my family, some great staff and some extraordinary players," said Hansen after receiving the coach of the year again, after winning it in 2012.
Hansen has masterminded an extraordinary run with the All Blacks - which culminated with the win at Twickenham last year - but said the most important focus now was to "put a full stop on what has been achieved".
"We have got five great All Blacks who have just finished so people will see us a a bit vulnerable," said Hansen. "But it's a great challenge to show people that we are not and that challenge will be the one that ignites us this year."
Ko - who is competing in Adelaide - expressed her gratitude via video link, as did Sophie Pascoe, who took the Disabled sportsperson award for the fourth time, after winning six medals (including three golds) at the IPC Swimming World Championships.
Ko was the favourite in a strong female category, after finishing the year ranked the world's number one female golfer, winning five LPGA titles and became the youngest ever winner of a women's major.
Richie McCaw and Keven Mealamu represent the All Blacks who have taken out Team of the Year at the Halbergs.See all the winners at http://www.nzherald.co.nz/sport/news/article.cfm?c_id=4&objectid=11591884Posted by nzherald.co.nz on Thursday, February 18, 2016
Grant Elliott's unforgettable six to win the Black Caps a spot in the Cricket World Cup final was voted the sporting moment of the year while Elliott's retiring captain Brendon McCullum won the Sport New Zealand Leadership award.
Pole vaulter Eliza McCartney, who broke a world junior record in December, won the emerging talent award, ahead of track cyclist Campbell Stewart, basketball player Tai Wynyard and trampolinist Dylan Schmidt.
Lance O'Sullivan (horse racing), Sir Don Rowlands (rowing), Lesley Rumball (netball) and Mark Sorenson (softball) were all inducted into the New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame and Ashley Taylor was recognised with the Lifetime Achievement Award for services to athletics.
Earlier in the evening a veritable Who's Who's of New Zealand sport had gathered at the Vector Arena. The sporting and other celebrities began to arrive from 6pm, negotiating their way past a huge media pack. McCaw had probably completed 20 interviews before the ceremony started and his coach Hansen was another popular target. Legends of yesteryear - like Sir Colin Meads and fellow knight Bob Charles mixed with heroes of today like Williamson and Beauden Barrett.
The Awards ceremony began with a pre-recorded monologue from Sam Neil, with the Hollywood star delivering a riveting voice over in his own inimitable way, featuring a moving tribute to Jonah Lomu.
1976 Olympic gold medallist John Walker and 1981 Halberg Award winner Alison Roe were among the presenters, as well as former Kiwi Tawera Nikau and golfer Phil Taturangi.
The winners are...
Halberg Award: All Blacks (rugby)
Team of the Year: All Blacks (rugby)
Sportsman of the Year: Kane Williamson (cricket)
Sportswoman of the Year: Lydia Ko (golf)
Disabled Sportsperson of the Year: Sophie Pascoe (para-swimming)
Emerging Talent: Eliza McCartney (athletics)
Coach of the Year: Steve Hansen (rugby)
Sport New Zealand Leadership Award: Brendon McCullum
New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame induction: Lance O'Sullivan (horse racing), Sir Don Rowlands (rowing), Lesley Rumball (netball) and Mark Sorenson (softball)
Lifetime Achievement Award: Ashley Taylor (athletics)