Halbergs Preview: Joe Schmidt, youthful Winter Olympics heroes and Young Football Ferns look to cause more upsets

The 56th annual Halberg Awards are taking place tonight to celebrate the best in New Zealand sport and the theme of upsets from an electric 2018 could continue.

New Zealand's top athletes will gather at Spark Arena in Auckland tonight for the event after the finalists for this year's awards were revealed last month.

Among them are a few old names with the likes of canoer Lisa Carrington and driver Scott Dixon both looking to win their third sportswoman and sportsman of the year awards, respectively.

But there's also some fresh faces, recognised for their brilliant performances and upsets in 2018 - and they could cause more shake-ups tonight.

Joe Schmidt is in the running for coach of the year after guiding Ireland's national rugby team to a Six Nations title, a Grand Slam and Ireland's first ever home win over the All Blacks.

There's also Winter Olympics heroes Nico Porteous and Zoi Sadowski-Synnott, who are finalists in the sportswoman and sportsman of the year awards respectively after their bronze medal performances in PyeongChang.

Team of the year also has some youthful athletes amongst the finalists with the Young Football Ferns nominated for their third-place finish at last year's Under-17 World Cup.

But they're up against stiff competition, with both the All Blacks Sevens and Black Ferns Sevens also amongst the finalists after their World Cup and Commonwealth Games wins.

Interestingly, the 15-player code has little representation across the categories besides Schmidt with tonight's awards being the first time since 2007 that neither an All Blacks player, coach, or the team as a whole making the finalists.

Tonight's awards kick off at 8pm and will be covered by 1 NEWS NOW with live updates.

56th Annual Halberg Awards full list of Finalists

Sportswoman of the Year

(Eligible for the supreme Halberg Award)

Joelle King (squash), Jonelle Price (equestrian), Lisa Carrington (canoe racing), Zoi Sadowski-Synnott (snowboarding).

Sportsman of the Year (Eligible for the supreme Halberg Award)

Nico Porteous (freeskiing), Scott Dixon (motorsport), Scott McLaughlin (motorsport), Tom Walsh (athletics)

Para Athlete/Team of the Year (Eligible for the supreme Halberg Award)

Adam Hall (Para alpine skiing), Corey Peters (Para alpine skiing), Scott Martlew (Para canoe racing), Sophie Pascoe (Para swimming).

Team of the Year (Eligible for the supreme Halberg Award)

All Blacks Sevens (rugby union), Black Ferns Sevens (rugby union), NZ Football Under 17 Women (football), NZ Women's Kayaking Team (canoe racing), Black Sticks Women (hockey).

Coach of the Year

Allan Bunting (rugby union), Clark Laidlaw (rugby union), Gordon Walker (canoe racing), Joe Schmidt (rugby union), Leon Birnie (football).

Emerging Talent

Amelia Kerr (cricket), Anna Leat (football), Josh Armit (yachting), Lewis Clareburt (swimming), Maddison-Lee Wesche (athletics).

New Zealand's Favourite Sporting Moment of the Year

1. Nico Porteous and Zoi Sadowski-Synnott medalling at the Olympic Winter Games within two hours of each other (Pyeongchang)

2. David Liti breaking a Commonwealth record and winning gold in the men's 105kg+ weightlifting division at the Commonwealth Games (Gold Coast)

3. Kelly Brazier scoring a long range solo try in extra time to secure gold for the Black Ferns Sevens against Australia at the Commonwealth Games (Gold Coast)

4. Black Sticks Women penalty shootout over Olympic champions England in semifinal at the Commonwealth Games (Gold Coast)

5. Amelia Kerr blasting a record breaking 232 not out against Ireland for the White Ferns, achieving the highest score in women's ODIs (Dublin)

6. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck receiving an impromptu haka after winning the Dally M Player of the Year (Sydney)

7. Auckland Rugby winning the Mitre 10 Cup Premiership final after a dramatic finish in extra time against Canterbury (Auckland)

8. Black Caps winning the first test against Pakistan by four runs (Abu Dhabi)

9. Anna Leat's successful penalty shootout against Japan, leading New Zealand into the semifinal of the Fifa Under-17 Women's World Cup (New Zealand vs Japan, Uruguay)

The 54th Halberg Awards
The Halberg Awards trophy Source: Photosport

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