McCullum might hold a winning edge

The 2014 Halberg Awards shapes as a four-horse race.

Lydia Ko, Valerie Adams, Brendon McCullum and Richie McCaw are world-class performers - all sat near

the top of their sport over the past 12 months - so the battle to find a winner from that quartet will test the judging panel's resolve and insight.

Ko's debut season on the professional golf tour was sensational. She never missed a cut, won three tournaments - a startling achievement given Kiwi men have won only 11 times in total on the US PGA tour - and prevailed after a thrilling playoff in the LPGA Tour Championship.

Adams is clearly the best female shot putter on the planet. Unbeaten in all competition, she was voted the world female athlete of the year.

McCullum led the Black Caps from the front, setting new benchmarks for New Zealand batsmanship along the way. He scored two test double centuries, narrowly missed a third at Hagley Oval on Boxing Day, then broke Martin Crowe's long-standing record with 302 at the Basin Reserve in March.

He became the first Kiwi to score 1000 test runs in a calendar year with a test average of 72.75, having amassed innings of 224, 1, 8, 302, 7, 17, 4, 3, 31, 25, 18, 39, 43, 45, 202 and 195.

McCullum's bold leadership has set up test series wins over India and the West Indies and a drawn series against Pakistan.

The other Mac in charge of our other sporting flagship team also produced a staggering landmark during 2014.

McCaw became the first player from any nation to captain his country in 100 tests and guided the All Blacks through another superb season, leaving his legion of fans amazed by his resilience and longevity.

His men in black made a welcome habit of finishing stronger than their rivals, no doubt influenced by McCaw's total commitment, again picking up all the silverware on offer.

Adams and McCaw will likely suffer as a result of the incredibly high standards they have set over recent times.

Adams was unable to break her own world record, yet was voted within her sport as the best performer worldwide.

Her best chance of again catching the judges' eye may come after Rio 2016.

It's the same scenario for McCaw.

If he leads the All Blacks to their first away Rugby World Cup win in Britain next year, he will be hard to overlook.

So that leaves Ko and McCullum. Comparing their respective merits is like judging the worth of apples and onions. Cricket is a team sport, golf individual.

Golf is a bigger sport globally, cricket traditionally more important to Kiwis.

Both sports compile world rankings. McCullum is 14th in the world's test batting rankings, fourth in the T20 format. Ko,17, is the third-ranked female golfer on the planet.

McCullum set a new milestone for a player in his sport, Ko has been doing just that since 2012.

That makes for a lot of headscratching, but a point of difference may be found in what is seen as the pinnacle of their sport. In cricket, the test match format is still regarded as the highest point of achievement.

Although McCullum has scored runs across the various shortened versions of the game, it is in the test arena where he has done his best work.

In golf, the great players are judged on their efforts in the majors. Ko's inability to claim any of the five major titles on offer in 2014, despite her lofty ranking, may prove the defining statistic.

I would opt for McCullum, narrowly, from Ko with the Kiwis claiming the team of the year award for their rare back-to-back victories over the Kangaroos.

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