Māori bracing for big night at NZ Rugby Awards

By Te Ao - Māori News

Māori look likely to have a big night at the 2021 New Zealand Rugby awards, with dozens of players from across the game including Sarah Hirini, Rieko Ioane, Ash Dixon, Grace Houpapa-Barrett and Aaron Smith, all listed as finalists for top honours.

Due to Covid-19 restrictions, this year’s awards will be presented in a made-for-TV special on Sky Sport at 8pm Wednesday, December 15, with awards presented to leading teams, players, coaches, administrators and referees.

"The ASB Rugby Awards are an opportunity to acknowledge all those involved in the game and the achievements of our players, referees and volunteers in 2021," NZR chief executive Mark Robinson said.

"Despite the challenges presented by Covid-19 we’ve seen incredible resilience, dedication and excellence in our game. We are looking forward to celebrating the contributions and excellence across our rugby community and recognising what’s been another exciting year for rugby’ Robinson said.

After an elongated international season, the coveted All Blacks player of the year awards shape up as close contests, with four outstanding nominees. Wing Will Jordan is up against loose forward Ardie Savea, fullback Jordie Barrett and centre/wing Rieko Ioane.

One of the world’s leading Sevens players and Black Ferns Sevens captain Sarah Hirini has been nominated for two awards. She will contest the Black Ferns Sevens player of the year award alongside Gayle Broughton and Tyla Nathan-Wong. Hirini is also up for the prestigious Tom French Memorial Māori player of the year, alongside Māori All Blacks captain Ash Dixon and All Blacks halfback Aaron Smith.

Black Ferns debutante Liana Mikaele-Tu’u has been nominated for Black Ferns player of the year alongside loose forwards Les Elder and Kennedy Simon. The Fiao’o Faamausili Medal nominees include Farah Palmer Cup (FPC) Waikato player Grace Houpapa-Barrett, Northland’s Krystal Murray and Wellington Pride player Joanah Ngan-Woo.

All Blacks Sevens co-captain Scott Curry has been nominated alongside fellow players Andrew Knewstubb and Ngarohi McGarvey-Black for the Richard Crawshaw Memorial All Blacks Sevens player of the year.

Sky Super Rugby player of the year includes a second nomination for Highlanders halfback Aaron Smith, alongside Blues loose forward Dalton Papalii and Crusaders first five-eighth Richie Mo'unga.

The stand-out performers from the Bunnings Warehouse NPC, as voted each week by Sky commentators, will be in the running for the Duane Monkley Medal. The finalists for that award are Lincoln McClutchie (Hawkes Bay), Stephen Perofeta (Taranaki) and Luke Romano (Canterbury).

Waikato’s Bunnings Warehouse NPC Premiership and FPC winning teams are both up for the Adidas National Team of the Year awards, alongside Super Rugby Aotearoa champions the Crusaders, and Bunnings Warehouse Heartland Championship winners South Canterbury.

All teams in black that took the field in 2021 will be in the running for Adidas New Zealand Team of the Year, and their respective coaches nominated for ASB New Zealand Coach of the Year.

The ASB national coach of the year nominees include Neil Barnes (Taranaki), Ross Filipo (Waikato NPC), James Semple (Waikato FPC) and Crusaders head coach Scott Robertson.

The New Zealand rugby referee of the year nominees are Tiana Ngawati (Bay of Plenty), Ben O’Keeffe (Auckland) and James Doleman (Otago).

The community award for the Charles Munro rugby volunteer of the year sees nominations for Paul Batters (Counties Manukau), Peter Chaplin (Canterbury) and Greg Heller (Otago).

The Sky Television fans tTry of the year is open for online public vote but punters need to get in quickly as voting closes at 5pm.

Three awards will be announced on the night – the NZRPA Kirk Award, the Steinlager Salver and the Kelvin R Tremain Memorial player of the year.

The full list of nominees are:                                                               

New Zealand Rugby Referee of the Year:

James Doleman (Otago)

Ben O'Keeffe (Auckland)

Tiana Ngawati (Bay of Plenty)    

Charles Monro Rugby Volunteer of the Year:

Paul Batters (Counties Manukau)

Peter Chaplin (Canterbury)

Greg Heller (Otago)       

New Zealand Rugby Age Grade Player of the Year:

Chay Fihaki (Canterbury)

Josh Lord (Taranaki)

Soane Vikena (Auckland)            

Bunnings Warehouse Heartland Championship Player of the Year:

Hone Haerewa (Ngāti Porou East Coast)

Willie Wright (South Canterbury)            

Stefan Destounis (Poverty Bay)                                                                         

Duane Monkley Medal:              

Lincoln McClutchie (Hawke's Bay)           

Stephen Perofeta (Taranaki)      

Luke Romano (Canterbury)        

Fiao'o Faamausili Medal:           

Grace Houpapa-Barrett (Waikato)          

Krystal Murray (Northland)        

Joanah Ngan-Woo (Wellington)

ASB National Coach of the Year:

Neil Barnes (Taranaki NPC)

Ross Filipo (Waikato NPC)

Scott Robertson (Crusaders)

James Semple (Waikato FPC)                                                

Sky Super Rugby Player of the Year:

Richie Mo'unga (Canterbury)

Dalton Papalii (Counties Manukau)

Aaron Smith (Manawatū)           

Tom French Memorial Māori Player of the Year:

Ash Dixon (Hawke's Bay)

Sarah Hirini (Manawatū)            

Aaron Smith (Manawatū)           

Richard Crawshaw Memorial All Blacks Sevens Player of the Year:

Scott Curry (Bay of Plenty)          

Andrew Knewstubb (Tasman)   

Ngarohi McGarvey-Black (Ngāti Porou East Coast)           

Black Ferns Sevens Player of the Year:

Gayle Broughton (Taranaki)       

Sarah Hirini (Manawatū)            

Tyla Nathan-Wong (Northland)

Black Ferns Player of the Year

Les Elder (Bay of Plenty)

Kennedy Simon (Waikato)          

Liana Mikaele-Tu'u (Auckland)

All Blacks Player of the Year:

Jordie Barrett (Taranaki)            

Rieko Ioane (Auckland)

Will Jordan (Tasman)    

Ardie Savea (Wellington)

adidas National Team of the Year:

Crusaders         

South Canterbury          

Waikato FPC     

Waikato NPC