By Dylan Cleaver
4:00 AM Saturday Jan 30, 2010
The primary conceit of the Halberg athlete of the decade is that the judges got it right each year. That is compounded by the fact the decade champion has to come from one of the winners.
The winner will be announced at the black-tie Halberg Awards in Auckland on Thursday. Strip away the rule that the winner has to come from the narrow pool of Supreme Halberg Award winners and you are left with six genuine contenders for sportsman of the decade - Richie McCaw, Sarah Ulmer, Daniel Carter, Daniel Vettori, Valerie Vili and the Evers-Swindell twins, Caroline and Georgina.
However, at least two, and most likely three, are not even in contention (Vettori and McCaw are both nominated this year so could make a rails run, but Carter has no chance).
All six would be fine champions. The problem with subjective arguments like these is that people feel compelled to denigrate the achievements of others to promote their own candidate.
It's a pointless track to go down, so instead let's just outline the reasons why McCaw should be a clear winner for sportsperson of the decade.
He has twice this decade been officially recognised as the best rugby player in the world, and even that seems stingy on reflection.
For most of the past decade he has been recognised as the undisputed best openside flanker in the game.
So effective is he that breakdown laws have been changed to reduce his influence. He is not just consistent, he is consistently brilliant.
He is the captain of New Zealand's most successful sports team and the only iconic sports "brand" this country possesses, and the difficulties of 2009 seemed to bring out a hitherto unseen Whineray-like streak.
He is, in short, a national treasure. He's a hero to untold thousands of kids and, as facile as the term might be, not a bad role model either.
But he won't win.
In all likelihood he won't even win the 2009 Supreme Award. The IRB recently named him player of the year but that won't hold much water with the majority of the 29-person Halberg panel.
If you look down that list of names, who are too many to mention but freely available to see on the Halberg Trust website, there's probably a third, at most, who would be willing to fight in rugby's corner.
It is our national sport - as it was always thus - our most successful sport, yet the last rugby player to win the big gong was Sir Wilson Whineray in 1965 (the All Blacks as a team won the Supreme Award in 1987, but then again they could hardly not). What gives?
So we're sorry Richie, your time will probably not come.
Let it be known at least, he's a champion.
2000: Rob Waddell
2001: Caroline and Georgina Evers-Swindell
2002: NZ men's basketball team
2003: Silver Ferns
2004: Sarah Ulmer
2005: Michael Campbell
2006: Mahe Drysdale
2007: Valerie Vili
2008: Valerie Vili
1900s: 1905 All Blacks
1910s: Anthony Wilding
1920s: George Nepia
1930s: Jack Lovelock
1940s: Bert Sutcliffe
1950s: Yvette Williams
1960s: Peter Snell
1970s: John Walker
1980s: Sir Richard Hadlee
1990s: Danyon Loader