Michael Burgess is a sports writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Michael Burgess: Halbergs an evening of few surprises

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Rugby all but swept the field, Lydia aced one more award and Kane was able to notch yet another honour.

It was an evening of few surprises last night at the Halberg Awards, which came as a relief after the strange events in 2015, when Eric Murray and Hamish Bond somehow trumped more worthy contenders.

The All Blacks picked up Team of the Year and the Supreme Halberg Award, with coach Steve Hansen completing a rugby trifecta. Kane Williamson was judged Sportsman of the Year and Lydia Ko edged a strong female field to scoop her third consecutive Sportswoman title. The outstanding Sophie Pascoe won her third Disabled Sportsperson of the Year title and Eliza McCartney took out the Emerging Talent award.

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=11591949

Posted by nzherald.co.nz on Thursday, February 18, 2016

Compared with last year, there will be less debates about the winners today. But there might still be a few. The All Blacks were the obvious - and popular - choice in a rugby mad nation, though whether their achievement was greater than Ko's is a moot point.

Yes, they became the first team to go back-to-back at Rugby World Cups, and yes, their victory was achieved in spectacular style, with some breath-taking rugby that wowed the whole country. After coming through a weak pool, the All Blacks demolished an awful French team, outlasted the ageing Springboks and overcame the Wallabies.

But Ko won a golf major, which in the past has been an automatic Halberg Award. The 18-year-old became only the third Kiwi and the youngest female to win a major, reached No 1 in the world and won four other LPGA tournaments in a sport much more global than rugby.

You also might feel for sailors Peter Burling and Blair Tuke. What else do they have to do to win Team of the Year? In 2015, they won every regatta they entered. They haven't been beaten since the London Olympics in 2012 - an inconceivable achievement in sailing. They'll have a good chance next year if they win gold in Rio, but might still struggle against the Halberg judges' obsession with rowing.

Williamson was the correct choice in the sportsman category. While Dan Carter produced some brilliant performances in the last fortnight of the World Cup, he had a mixed 2015, whereas the Black Caps captain-elect was peerless. It's also recognition for cricket's rising fortunes in recent years. Williamson is the ninth cricketer to claim the sportsman category, but only the second in 25 years. Before Brendon McCullum last year, there hadn't been a cricketer honoured since Martin Crowe in 1991, after Richard Hadlee collected four sportsman titles in the 1980s.

It's also hard to argue with the choice of Hansen, who got his strategies and tactics right in England while maintaining a refreshing honesty throughout the tournament, though Hamish Willcox (sailing), Gordon Walker (canoeing) and Mike Hesson (cricket) would have had strong cases in any other year.

- NZ Herald

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Michael Burgess is a sports writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Michael Burgess is the football and rugby league writer for the Herald on Sunday. He was named the 2013 New Zealand football writer of the year and was a finalist in the Sports Reporter of the year at the 2014 Canon Media Awards.

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