I've always been a fan of the Halberg awards.
They've grown from the first one I attended, at a small community hall in Mt Roskill in 1966, won by Commonwealth Games decathlon champion Roy Williams, where the caterers toiled in a tiny kitchen behind a serving hatch, to the television extravaganza they are now.
This year it was great to see Dame Noeline Taurua and her netball heroes sweep the field, and bravo to Israel Adesanya for a speech that broke the mental shackles that usually see winners suggesting everyone but him or herself was responsible for the recipient's success.
But there have always been less worthy reasons to enjoy the Halbergs - such as the fact the voting is so often controversial.
Several years ago, watching a disgruntled winner storm out because the winner's coach hadn't also won an award, was one of those brilliant moments of rampant, thwarted ego where, to quote Oscar Wilde, you needed a heart of stone not to laugh.
Who could not be entertained by the reality of arguments over the voting being, by definition, ridiculous. A rowing pair against a netball team against a shot putter? Tell me you've got a formula to judge such diverse champions and I'll tell you you've lost your mind.
The reality is every person, or team, that is in a final at the Halbergs will have trained like a maniac, and had the talent and backbone to take on and match the best in the world. So every finalist would really be a deserving winner.
But most of all I love the Halbergs because over five decades the trust that runs the awards has poured millions of dollars into helping young New Zealanders with disabilities lead a happier, more active life.
To me, that puts into perspective any hurt feelings or disagreements over who wins or loses.
Sir Murray Halberg is a man who, like Sir Edmund Hillary, took an opportunity presented to him by his own courage and talent to serve a much bigger purpose.
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Halberg could have been revered as a former Olympic gold medal winner if he'd done nothing else with his life. By deciding to help kids who started life with hurdles to face his legacy is legendary, and so it should be.
"If I win, you win," said Adesanya in his acceptance speech. And as long as the awards succeed, so do children who need a hand to enjoy sport and life.
In 2018, working with a crew shooting at Sky television's headquarters in Mt Wellington for the series "The Story Of Rugby" I listened with great interest as the outgoing CEO, John Fellet, explained to interviewer Stephen O'Meagher that the one team sport on Sky that was actually gaining ground with young Kiwi viewers was basketball.
He believed a major reason the NBA was more popular with people under 30 than Super Rugby was that American basketball had larger than life figures, players with star power who actually went out of their way to reveal their personalities.
On the other hand, he mused, the majority of rugby players seemed reluctant to open up in public.
There are a host of issues facing rugby in New Zealand right now. There are obviously discontented rumblings in the provinces that may yet erupt into the public arena. Crowds at Super Rugby games now being played in summer are worryingly small. If you can only half fill a ground in a rugby hot bed like Hamilton when the Crusaders are in town to play the Chiefs something's seriously awry.
While more women are playing the game, with a rise of 14.6 per cent in player numbers reported last year, the numbers for men continue to decline, with a 1.8 per cent drop in 2019.
To save the game into the 21st century is going to need work on a host of fronts. I'm one who firmly believes making the game less competitive for kids before their teenage years is an excellent idea.
I also think offering heroes for the young can be a terrific boost. That comes from having the stars of a sport succeeding for a start. When Richard Hadlee and the national cricket side of the 1980s began beating Australia, the reaction here was that our clubs were swamped with juniors wanting to play cricket.
When you look at the brilliant play of the Black Ferns, in both sevens and 15-a-side, no wonder young women start to think of the game as something exciting to be involved in.
What must surely help too is that the stars of the women's team are so new to the spotlight they aren't too guarded in interviews. When the sevens tournament was in Hamilton the unalloyed joy of Stacey Fluhler when she was being interviewed was worth a thousand recruitment ads.
I can understand why All Blacks are, by comparison, more reserved.
Adesanya was right at the Halbergs when he talked about the tall poppy syndrome. It's still alive and well in New Zealand.
Look at the grumbling online and on talkback over Beauden Barrett having the temerity to not only take some time off as he's absolutely entitled to in his contract, but to also enjoy the fruits of his labour by going to the Grammy awards and posting photos online.
Social media is regarded as the Devil's playground by an older generation of sports fans, but if rugby wants to engage with schoolkids, that's where the stars of today need to be.
There are signs too of progress in players revealing more of themselves, actually acting like human beings, not machines in studded boots.
Traditionally an All Black would have stuck needles in eyes rather than post, as Ardie Savea did at the World Cup last year that "I've had moments where I've cried because I miss my girls who are at home and just wish I was with them."
And no, I'm not suggesting every All Black should be required to make public every vulnerable moment he has, but I do know that after making dinner speeches around the country for 40 years one question that almost always arises is, "What's (insert the name of an All Black here) REALLY like?"
Lifting the iron veil that usually seals in our best players won't suddenly fix everything that might ail the game. But right now, under pressure from societal changes, and rival sports, even small improvements in public perception are surely a help.