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Gongs and nongs

Oh, come on. There must be somebody who'll accept on behalf of rugby league.

Sportsman of the Year

The first man to win three consecutive single sculls world championships, Mahe Drysdale had a powerful and intimidating victory that stamped him as sport's highest achiever and a great hope for the Beijing Olympics.

Sportswoman of the Year

Valerie Vili became world shot-put champ with a throw that showed the All Blacks a thing or two about coping with pressure. She developed consistency this year, becoming one of only two putters globally to throw over the magic 20m mark three times or more, and is maturing into an athlete who could soon be one of the greats.

Team/Coach of the Year

Denied access to New Zealand's top 200-plus rugby players because of the World Cup, Gordon Tietjens moulded a team of comparative nobodies into world sevens champions. They are already well on the way to the next world championship, which would make it eight in nine years.

Dancing with the Cars Award

Doug Howlett, who boogied with the BMWs.

Best National Anthem of the Year

The men's coxless four were world champions at Munich - the sentimental home away from home for New Zealand rowing since the gobsmacking, tear-jerking win by the New Zealand eight at the Olympics there in 1972 - and the sound system failed during the medal ceremony. So Carl Meyer, James Dallinger, Eric Murray and Hamish Bond sang it themselves, with gusto and with smiles plastered all over their dials. Stirring stuff.

Meltdown Award

Difficult to know whether to give this to the NZRL's now-resigned chairman Andrew Chalmers; coach Gary Kemble, who couldn't connect with his players; or the players themselves. So we'll give it to all who took part in rugby league's horror slide this year: a ghastly season that began with a massacre by the Australians (and lurid allegations of group sex afterwards) and descended into a three-test whitewash by the Brits. Allegations of crippling debt and fat-cat spending capped off this annus horribilis. Anyone want to buy a used sport?

The Lazarus Award

Graham Henry. Who else? Our worst World Cup finish ever and the most dubious strategy ever, but he was re-appointed All Black coach, fulfilling the dreams of those pressing for his continued tenure on the basis that we have never re-appointed a losing coach - a masterpiece of illogicality. We haven't ever made Bonzo the Chimp All Black coach either; shall we try that?

The Irish Runner Award

The NZRU. To explain: an Irish runner is someone who runs out of the restaurant before the meal is served. The NZRU appointed the All Black coach and then held a review into what went wrong with the 2007 World Cup campaign. Go figure.

The Apex of Arrogance Award

The Swiss America's Cup syndicate Alinghi, which, with ACM, their administrative arm, behaved so arrogantly in Valencia that stories were rife. They deservedly retained the Cup in a thrilling match, but soured things by foisting new rules on the competition that openly advantaged themselves - so angering Oracle that they took Alinghi to court. Oracle's legal victory has created a power shift in the lead-up to the next regatta ... whenever that is.

The Huh? Award

Irene van Dyk. The Silver Ferns are storming towards an improbable comeback victory over Australia in the world championship final. One goal behind, they ship the ball to the game's most reliable and prolific goal shoot ever aaaaand ... she misses. Impetus gone. Huh?

The We Always Knew He Was Quality Award

Reviled by many in his non-achieving, Black Caps days, Craig McMillan played one of the finest innings by a Kiwi against Australia with his devastating, match-winning 117, making his century in a record 67 balls. He blasted the Caps to a 3-0 whitewash over a (rotated) Australia at Seddon Park, hauling in a huge 347. Later astonished us all by retiring, citing diabetes, only to pop up in India's rich ICL cricket. Way to retire, Macca.

Email: sports columnist@listener.co.nz