A one-point World Cup 52-51 triumph that won coach Dame Noelene Taurua and her Silver Ferns a clutch of Halberg Awards in Auckland last Tuesday cost Australian Diamonds coach Lisa Alexander her job.
Aussies hate to lose and the talented Alexander has paid the price for it after who silver medal Diamonds finished runner-up to the Ferns at last year’s World Cup and to England at the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games where New Zealand failed to medal.
Since the latter, the charismatic Taurua became her country’s savior after many had believed she should have got the job long before.
She insisted on a high standard of fitness. And although success did not come immediately, she weeded the chaff from the wheat and produced a champion team that won hearts and their semi-final by just two points against England in Liverpool before snatching victory from Australia.
The euphoric reaction to that win, with players hugging and screaming in delight, also provided the Halberg Awards Sports Moment of the Year, the Team Award and the prized Supreme Award.
Not surprisingly, Taurua was also named Coach of the Year and picked up Sport New Zealand Leadership award.
World champion K1 200 and 500m canoe racer Lisa Carrington made it four in a row when she was named Sportswoman of the Year whereas Sophie Pascoe won the Para athlete/team category for the seventh time, having won four world titles in three different strokes.
Equally deserving was Sportsman of the Year Israel Adesanya, a world middleweight champion at mixed martial arts who possesses the late Muhammad Ali’s gift of the gab and elusive body movement.
A self-described “black Kiwi’’ having come to New Zealand from Nigeria as a nine-year-old, he has his own engaging brand of humor and urged his adopted countrymen to get rid of their tall poppy syndrome and be vocal in supporting their champion.
‘By lifting us you lift yourselves,” he said. “If I win, you win.”
Taurua and Ferns captain Laura Langman also made outstanding speeches. And it was fitting that All Black Sid Going was inducted into the New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame and that Yvonne Willering received the lifetime achievement award for services to netball.
Three days after winning the Emerging Talent award, 18-year-old alpine skier Alice Robinson won her second World Cup Giant Slalom of the season in Slovenia. Her combined time for both runs was 0.34s faster than world champion Petra Vlhová and 1.5s faster than the two women tied for third.
With the Crusaders clobbering the Blues 25-8 in Super Rugby at Eden Park after destroying the Blues lineout, it was good to see Richie Mo’unga and Jack Goodhue combine so effectively at five-eighths.
However, the bloke who really stole the show was strapping 20-year-old blindside flanker Cullen Grace who worked tirelessly and made several crunching tackles.
Other special wins were the Highlanders’ last-second 23-22 triumph against the Brumbies and the Stormers’ 33-30 success against the Lions.
With big winger Ben Lam grabbing two of the Hurricanes’ five tries, the team did well to reduce the Sharks to three in their 38-22 victory.
However, for sheer entertainment look no further than fullback Damian McKenzie’s brilliance in the Chiefs 43-17 result against the brave and lively Sunwolves.
Ivan Agnew is an award-winning sportswriter.