Demant, Black Ferns dominate NZ Rugby Awards

By James Perry

Black Ferns co-captain and World Cup winner Ruahei Demant has collected three top prizes at the 2022 ASB Rugby Awards, including the supreme Kelvin R Tremain Memorial Player of the Year.

As well as being recognised as New Zealand’s outstanding overall player in 2022, Demant (Tē Whānau ā Apanui/Te Whakatōhea/ Ngāti Awa) was also named as Black Ferns player of the year and Tom French Memorial Māori player of the year. Demant’s outstanding skills were seen as she led her team to the Rugby World Cup title in New Zealand, and her teammates were also recognised when the Black Ferns were awarded Adidas New Zealand team of the year.

On an evening where the Black Fern's performances this year took centre stage, midfielder Stacey Fluhler (Ngāi Tūhoe, Te Arawa) was awarded the fans try of the year as voted by fans for her stunning finish against England in the Rugby World Cup final. And it wasn’t just the Black Ferns players who were recognised, with head coach Wayne Smith named as New Zealand coach of the year, a nod to the huge impact he made after being appointed as director of coaching in April this year.

“It’s fitting that the Black Ferns were named as our New Zealand team of the year and that their co-captain Ruahei Demant has been deservedly recognised for her outstanding contribution to her team, to Māori rugby and to the game in Aotearoa," NZR CEO Mark Robinson said. 

"Ruahei and the Black Ferns team have epitomised the values of our game in 2022."

Māori awarded

The inaugural Sky Super Rugby Aupiki season kicked off with Covid restrictions forcing the competition to be played in a tournament format across two and half weeks. Chiefs Manawa hooker Luka Connor (Te Whānau a Apanui, Te Whakatōhea) won the Sky Super Rugby Aupiki player of the year.

Twenty-year-old Otago halfback and first-five, Maia Joseph (Ngāti Maniapoto, Ngāti Rārua, Rangitāne) won the Fiao'o Faamausili Medal for FPC Player of the Year.

Ngarohi McGarvey-Black (Ngāi Tūhoe), who welcomed his first child last month, won the Richard Crawshaw Memorial All Blacks Sevens Player of the Year.

Ngāti Porou East Coast halfback Sam Parkes received the Ian Kirkpatrick medal for outstanding contribution on behalf of professional players on and off the field.

Horowhenua-Kapiti's Ben O’Keeffe (Te Rarawa) is the 2022 New Zealand rugby referee of the year for the second year in a row. 

For the second year in a row, All Blacks loose forward Ardie Savea was named All Blacks player of the year. 

Following an outstanding season, the Wellington Lions were named the National men’s team of the year after breaking Hawke’s Bay’s 14-match Ranfurly Shield reign, then proceeding to take out the Bunnings Warehouse NPC title.

Canterbury dominates

Canterbury is the National women’s team of the year after winning the Farah Palmer Cup (FPC).

The Canterbury region featured heavily at the awards, with Crusaders fullback Will Jordan named as Super Rugby Pacific player of the year and head coach Scott Robertson winning national men's coach of the year, after guiding the Crusaders to the DHL Super Rugby Pacific title.

Canterbury head coach Blair Baxter has been awarded the national women's coach of the year. 

In the men’s competition, North Harbour first-five eighth Bryn Gatland won the Duane Monkley medal as the NPC’s best player. Up-and-coming loose forward Peter Lakai has won the New Zealand rugby age grade player of the year.

Cathy Charles, a former Otago Rugby player, coach, and volunteer, was recognised with the Charles Monro Rugby Volunteer of the Year award for her 20-year contribution to the game.

Former All Blacks doctor Dr Deb Robinson was awarded the Steinlager Salver for outstanding contribution to rugby, having dedicated decades to rugby, as the team doctor for Canterbury and the Crusaders, the Black Fern Sevens, the All Blacks and the Black Ferns. Most recently, Dr Robinson joined the World Rugby Council as New Zealand Rugby’s first female representative.