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The Halberg Awards: An Inspiring and Educational Photo Essay

The venerable Halberg Awards are the last vestige of the amateur sporting era, but that’s precisely their anti-modern appeal. This year’s mixed olde worlde charm with cutting edge pop songs. Here’s Duncan Greive’s extremely high quality photo essay covering the night’s highlights. //

Valerie Hearts Benny

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After a half hour of red carpet, Benny Tipene opened proceedings with a winsome bluesy song, which seemed a slightly mournful way to commence a night of celebration. Most of the crowd were busy hitting the sponsor’s product, but one woman sat, transfixed by the song and the singer. Valerie Adams was based in Switzerland throughout 2013, and thus likely missed our glorious debut season of X Factor. Val’s face, awestruck and half in love, brought us back to those halcyon days.

Mary Fisher Was Born For the Big Stage

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Mary Fisher won Disabled Sportsperson of the year, and gave the sweetest, most engaging speech of the night. Sport, more than most areas of human endeavour, really revels in cliché. “When the whistle blows/ all bets are off… On paper we had no show. But games are not played on paper,” said Ivan Vicelich in a video thing about the Auckland City team. We were also told that “Black isn’t a colour – it’s a condition we’ll take to our grave,” which is faintly silly. The more pro the athlete, the more leaden their prose, for the most part. Which is why Fisher’s speech, revelling in the mundanities of her athletic life and thanking the “general public in pools who don’t mind that I occasionally crash into them” (she’s partially sighted), was so refreshing.

Smooth Jazz is Back

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The highlight of the night, for me at least, was the live intro/outro music that ushered presenters on and off stage. It consisted entirely of Herb Alpert-style muzak covers of semi-recent pop songs like ‘Shake it Off’ and ‘American Boy’ (the latter was, mystifyingly, trotted out three times). These cool guys really went in hard, every time. Music has been extremely problematic at Halbergs gone by, with high school talent quest bands or ancient ’80s icons on the comeback taking the spot. But between B-Tips, these jazzy dudes and the nuclear strength 2014 pop instrumentals (‘Chandelier’, ‘Blank Space’, Nick Jonas’ ‘Jealous’!!!) which accompanied the montages, it was near perfect tonight.

No One Loves the All Blacks

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It was not a good night for the All Blacks. They took home precisely nothing, despite another ridiculously strong year. The reaction of our locks basically sums up how they must feel at these awards – they provide the star power and get sponsors all hot and bothered, but only rarely take home any silverware. It is difficult comparing rowing with rugby, but the former – a largely unwatched amateur sport we only care about at the Olympics – dominates year in, year out in a way that can feel like an intentional snub to the professional sportspeople who watch disconsolately from the near-stage tables. The Kiwis too got completely overlooked, despite playing the most electrifying single game of last year in the Tri-Nations final. The only oval baller on stage all night was Stacy “Thanks Instant Finance!” Jones, who was a very young inductee into the Hall of Fame. Probably fair – he was a goddamn genius – but I know I’m not alone in thinking that he’s undone at least 50% of his good work by spokesmodeling for those scumbags.

Bond and Murray Are Gaming the System

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Hamish Bond and Eric Murray took home a second Supreme Award, well-deserved given that the last time they were beaten Helen Clark was Prime Minister. They’ve added a coxed pair to their coxless dominance, and, as this excellent photograph illustrates, found a very small cox. Which is half the battle, right? It makes me vaguely uneasy – these guys definitely don’t need a cox. They’re pretty good at not bashing their oars together already. It just seems like having a mascot on your boat or something.

Is That Dr Phil?! At the Halbergs?! 

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Dr Phil in the house! Nah actually it’s Val’s coach Jean-Pierre Egger. But he looks a bit like Dr Phil don’t you reckon? No? Oh ok.

Where Else Do You Get Winners Like This?

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Dawn Jones won the Lifetime Achievement award for her umpiring and administration in netball. It was presented late in the piece and made your heart swell, seeing a character like her up on stage. The Halbergs still have a bit of the era that birthed them – this was the 52nd installment – hanging around, with equal time and space given to athletes and people we mightn’t otherwise see on our screens.

Contrast that with the Music Awards. They’re undeniably the slickest and most fun event of this type we produce, but they have an obvious hierarchy to the night’s order. The last iteration crammed classical and dance music into the ad breaks, which struck me as pretty lame.

This years Halbergs were the best they’ve been – the highlights crisp and punchy, the event well paced, pre-show interviews energetic, and the production values far advanced over what we’ve seen before. In the past you had bank managers droning on, hosts missing cues and an air of indulgent amateurism. This year they turned pro, while retaining their distinct character, and were much the better for it.

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