The most closely fought contest for New Zealand sport's premier prize went to one of the country's high-achieving codes in Wellington last night.

Hamilton rowers Caroline and Georgina Evers-Swindell walked off with the Halberg Award, carrying on a fine tradition for the sport dating back to the beginning of the last century.

The 23-year-old identical twins, students at Waikato University, also won the Team of the Year category for their silver medal at the world championships in Lucerne last August in the double sculls.

They were also finalists in the same category as part of the silver medal-winning quad, along with Sonia Waddell and Paula Twining.


The pair pipped Auckland's Cameron Brown, the Sportsman of the Year, and Wellington runner Melissa Moon, who won the Sportswoman of the Year category.

Brown came second in the world ironman championships at Kona, Hawaii. Moon, the only world champion in the field, won the world mountain running championship.

Rowing's record of success dates back to Bill Webb in the 1900s and includes Dick Arnst, the rowing eights of 1971, 1972 and 1982, Philippa Baker and Brenda Lawson (Baker alone in 1991, and with Lawson two years later) and, most significantly, Rob Waddell, who won the past three supreme awards, as world and Olympic single sculling champion.

The other major award - but one for which the winner is ineligible for the supreme award - went to Tab Baldwin as Coach of the Year for his work with basketball's world championship-bound Tall Blacks.

German combinations pipped the Evers-Swindells for gold in both events at Lucerne. They were 2.40s behind the German quad, and Kathrin Boron and Kerstin Boron took the double gold by 1.5s.

The women rowers picked up three silvers in Lucerne in a red-letter performance for the sport.

The Evers-Swindells are not the first set of twins to collect the title. All Blacks Gary and Alan Whetton were part of the inaugural World Cup-winning All Blacks of 1987.

Two of New Zealand's greatest performers, netballer Sandra Edge and cricketer Martin Crowe, were inducted into the Sports Hall of Fame last night.

Voting for the awards is done by an academy of sporting journalists and former sporting greats.

The category finalists and winners:

2001 Halberg Award:

Winners - Caroline and Georgina Evers-Swindell (women's double scull).

Finalists - Melissa Moon (athletics), Cameron Brown (ironman).

New Zealand Sportsman of the Year:

Winner - Cameron Brown (ironman).

Finalists - Grant Dalton (yachting), Steve Gurney (multisport), Craig Watson (triathlon).

New Zealand Sportswoman of the Year:

Winner - Melissa Moon (athletics).

Finalists - Marlene Castle (bowls), Leilani Joyce (squash), Irene Van Dyk (netball).

New Zealand Team of the Year:

Winner - Women's double scull rowing.

Finalists - New Zealand sevens rugby, Tall Blacks basketball, women's quad scull rowing.

New Zealand Coach of the Year:

Winner - Tab Baldwin (basketball).

Finalists - Gordon Tietjens (sevens rugby), John Davies (athletics), Richard Tonks (rowing).