The finalists for the Halberg Awards have been revealed, with a number of Bay of Plenty sporting stars taking spots.
The Halberg Foundation announced 27 finalists for six categories at the 56th ISPS Handa Halberg Awards – New Zealand's pre-eminent event to celebrate and honour sporting achievements from 2018.
Of those finalists, 17 in the Para Athlete/Team, Sportsman, Sportswoman and Team categories will all be eligible for the supreme Halberg Award – the country's highest accolade for sporting excellence.
Whakatāne's Lisa Carrington, the 2017 winner and 2016 supreme Halberg Award winner, is a finalist again for the High Performance Sport New Zealand Sportswoman of the Year award after claiming a gold and three silver medals at the Canoe Sprint World Championships.
Carrington is joined by squash player Joelle King, who won the Hong Kong Open plus two gold and a bronze medal at the Commonwealth Games; Jonelle Price, who became the first New Zealand woman to win the Badminton Horse Trials followed by the Luhmuhlen event. Snowboarder Zoi Sadowski-Synnott also makes the shortlist for claiming bronze at the Olympic Winter Games.
The 2017 winner Tom Walsh is up again for the ISPS Handa Sportsman of the Year after a golden year in which he won the World Indoor Championship, Commonwealth Games and Diamond League events.
Also making the finalists list is freeskier Nico Porteous for his bronze medal at the Olympic Winter Games and Mount Maunganui's Australian Supercars Champion Scott McLaughlin.
The Mount Maunganui-based All Blacks Sevens and Black Ferns Sevens teams, who won their respective Sevens Rugby World Cups and gold medals at the Commonwealth Games, go up against each other, as well as the NZ Football Under 17 Women (football), NZ Women's Kayaking Team (canoe racing), Vantage Black Sticks Women (hockey) teams, for the ISPS Handa Team of the Year award.
Black Ferns Seven coach Allan Bunting and All Black Sevens coach Clark Laidlaw, who led their teams to World Cup and Commonwealth Games gold, and former tauranga man, Joe Schmidt, who coached the Ireland rugby team, have made the finalists for the Buddle Findlay Coach of the Year award.
The Halberg Awards judges reviewed a record 93 nominations to find the finalists list, recognising achievements in 2018 up to November 30. The winners will be announced at the 56th ISPS Handa Halberg Awards held on February 21.
Other awards presented during the ceremony include New Zealand's Favourite Sporting Moment (public vote category), Sport New Zealand Leadership, Lifetime Achievement and inductees into the Sports Hall of Fame.
Halberg Foundation chief executive Shelley McMeeken said "a record number of nominations provided the judges a challenging job to review and create the shortlist with a year that provided so many outstanding achievements".
The annual awards is the major fundraiser for the Halberg Foundation, the charity set up by Olympic athletics champion Sir Murray Halberg (ONZ), which aims to enhance the lives of physically disabled young New Zealanders by enabling them to participate in sport and recreation.
The 56th ISPS Handa Halberg Awards finalists:
High Performance Sport New Zealand Sportswoman of the Year (Eligible for the supreme Halberg Award):
Joelle King (squash), Jonelle Price (equestrian), Lisa Carrington (canoe racing), Zoi Sadowski-Synnott (snowboarding).
ISPS Handa Sportsman of the Year (Eligible for the supreme Halberg Award):
Nico Porteous (freeskiing), Scott Dixon (motorsport), Scott McLaughlin (motorsport), Tom Walsh (athletics).
ISPS Handa Para Athlete/Team of the Year (Eligible for the supreme Halberg Award):
Adam Hall (Para alpine skiing), Corey Peters (Para alpine skiing), Scott Martlew (Para canoe racing), Sophie Pascoe (Para swimming).
ISPS Handa Team of the Year (Eligible for the supreme Halberg Award):
All Blacks Sevens (rugby union), Black Ferns Sevens (rugby union), NZ Football Under 17 Women (football), NZ Women's Kayaking Team (canoe racing), Vantage Black Sticks Women (hockey).
Buddle Findlay Coach of the Year:
Allan Bunting (rugby union), Clark Laidlaw (rugby union), Gordon Walker (canoe racing), Joe Schmidt (rugby union), Leon Birnie (football).
Sky Sport Emerging Talent:
Amelia Kerr (cricket), Anna Leat (football), Josh Armit (yachting), Lewis Clareburt (swimming), Maddison-Lee Wesche (athletics).