12 Jan 2018

The annual Halberg gripe-fest returns

7:37 am on 12 January 2018

How can you compare a rugby player with a shot putter, or a racing car driver to a kayaker? Yes it's that time again, writes Jamie Wall.

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Photo: Photosport

Oh, is it the time of year to do this again? The Halberg Awards finalists nominations were announced on Thursday and once again, there was plenty to talk about.

This time around it was in the media box at the ASB Classic. To be fair, it was a good distraction on a hot afternoon while a couple of boring quarter final matches struggled through to their conclusions. So the half dozen of us all leaned back and weighed in on what we thought.

It wasn't so much a debate as about who should win, more of the apples and oranges way that the nominations are given out. How can you compare a rugby player with a shot putter, or a racing car driver to a kayaker?

Then, of course, there's the even more meta equation of how these awards being actually judged by the journalists that are slamming the way the nominations are made. And it's highly doubtful we were the only ones having that conversation either.

But, the awards still need to be handed out. It's a sad state of affairs that an award named after one of our greatest ever Olympians (not to mention para-athlete who succeeded in an able-bodied environment) has to go through this yearly cycle of scrutiny, but that's what happens when you lump everyone in together.

Tom Walsh seems to be the early favourite for sportsman of the year, and it doesn't hurt that he competes in a field event where people only hear about his successes.

The biggest gripe seems to be about Beauden Barrett. He wasn't even All Black of the year, let alone overall sportsman, but somehow here he is. However, it does speak volumes about his ability that just a slight drop off in form this season has seen him copping such criticism. Remember, this is the guy that saved the All Blacks against the Wallabies in the pulsating test in Dunedin, and combined with his brother Jordie at will for an outrageous amount of highlights during the Hurricanes season.

Out of all the moments that any of the nominees provided, it's highly likely that most NZ sporting fans' eyes would've been on those.

Brendon Hartley, like Scott Dixon before him, was given the highly ambiguous title of representing 'motorsport', as if he is somehow able to jump into any car or onto a motorbike. It would be far more appropriate to at least say he's a Formula 1 driver.

Speaking of appropriate, the tennis courts were the perfect place to discuss the fortunes of one sportsman who missed out. Michael Venus is probably pretty miffed that winning a French Open doubles title wasn't enough to get him a nomination, especially considering tennis has historically had about as much of a presence in the awards as a cut price food option here at Stanley Street.

Of course, despite all the debate, the irony is that the team of the year is the easiest to pick.

The Black Ferns will get it, because how could they not: they've already been crowned World Rugby and NZ Rugby's team of the year. Which is all well and good, but it's a bit meaningless given the much more important debate over whether to actually pay them properly is yet to be resolved.

While they'll get another night in the spotlight while the national sporting bodies pat themselves on the back, time will tell whether it's just an empty gesture.

But from now up until the awards get given out, we'll be arguing about the Halbergs. Again.

Then when they get awarded, we can argue about that too. Again.