As we are about to enter the Halberg Award season, I thought it might be fun to look at the history of the event. What do the numbers tell us about New Zealand sport – if they tell us anything that is? For overseas readers the Halberg Award is the name given to the individual or team voted as New Zealand’s best sport’s person each year. There are five sub-categories, best Sport’s Man, best Sport’s Woman, best Team, best Para-athlete and best Coach.  

In 72 years, the main award has been made 69 times. Three years have been lost. 1961 and 1962 were missed for lack of interest. That omission robbed Peter Snell of one and possibly two additional awards. Also 2020 was missed because of COVID problems.

19 sports have been represented in the winning award. Without question that is a healthy sign of the diversity present in New Zealand sport. The leading sport by quite some way is athletics, whose members have won the supreme award on 17 (25%) occasions. Second place in the number of supreme awards is rowing. Members have won on 12 (17%) occasions. Third is rugby with 6 (8%) wins. Two sports, golf and cricket, follow with 5 wins each. Sailing has 4 wins. Swimming and motor sport have three wins each. Cycling, canoeing and netball have 2 wins each. The remaining 8 sports have one win each – tennis, boxing, squash, equestrian, triathlon, snow sport, basketball and football.  

I was surprised at the dominant performance of athletics. I guess that is a bit silly given the likes of Halberg, Snell, Walker, Faumuina, Walsh and Adams. The sport has had some pretty stelar names. That fact is reflected in their award’s performance. Their dominance may not have been expected but is entirely justified by performance.  

I also expected rugby to have more than 6 individual or team winners. That is probably only because of the history and national obsession for the sport. But to have less than one winner from rugby per decade does seem disappointing.  

What did not surprise me was the distorted weight of the supreme award in favour of men. Males have won the award on 50 occasions (73%) compared to women’s 19 (27%) wins. Something needs to be done about that. Fortunately, women like Valerie Adams and Lisa Carrington are beginning the drive for equality. New Zealand sport and New Zealand as a country will improve when this statistic shows more justice.

The highest number of supreme awards to the same individual or team is 3. 4 individuals or teams have won the award on 3 occasions – the All Blacks, the Rowing Eight, Villi (Adams) and Wadell. 6 individuals or teams have won the award twice – Bond/Murray, Hadlee, Mauger, Snell, Walker and Williams. The remaining 28 individual and team winners have won the award once.

Because this is a swimming biased blog, I guess we should mention the 3 winners from swimming. Phillipa Gould won the award in 1957, the same year she broke the world record for 200m and 220y backstroke. Gary Hurring won the award in 1978, the same year that he won the 200m backstroke at the Edmonton Commonwealth Games and won a silver medal at the World Swimming Championships. Years later I went to the Halberg Awards with Gary when they were held in Wellington. Danyon Loader won the award in 1996, the same year as he won the 200m and 400m freestyle at the Atlanta Olympic Games. The gap between swimming (3) and athletics (17) is far too big. Everyone involved in swimming needs to be on that case. It is my view that the years of centralised training have hurt this aspect of swimming. It is interesting to note, for example, that the three swimming winners were competing well before the days of swimming’s millennium madness. The experience of swimming is comparable to athletics where Halberg, Snell, Walker, Faumuina, Yvette and Roy Williams, Ryan, Taylor and Roe had nothing to do with government hand-outs or state supplied national coaches. Even the two most recent athletic winners Walsh and Adams negotiated their financial arrangements but held on to control of their coaching and competing independence. A Raelene Castle appointment is never going to tell those two how to put a shot. About 18 (26%) of winners have been involved in centralised training. The vast majority 51 (74%) have beaten the world the way Swimming New Zealand are structured now. Independent, local, competitive and proud. That sure is one important message of the Halberg Awards.

0 responses. Leave a Reply

  1. Swimwatch


    Be the first to leave a comment!

Comments are closed.