Wāhine lead the way for NZ at World Rugby awards

By James Perry

Following their Rugby World Cup success, the Black Ferns dominate the World Rugby awards finalists released this morning.

Co-captain Ruahei Demant (Te Whānau a Apanui, Whakatōhea, Ngāti Awa) and superstar winger Portia Woodman (Ngāpuhi) have been included in an extended shortlist of 5 finalists for Women's Player of the Year.

Woodman scored 7 tries during the RWC campaign, taking her all-time World Cup record to 20 won the award in 2017. The Black Ferns also won the Rugby World Cup that year. Demant, who took over the captaincy of the national side this year is up for her first award. She arguably carries the momentum into the awards having been awarded the Player of the Match in Saturdays grand final victory over England.

They are up against Sophie de Goede (Canada), Alex Matthews (England) and Laure Sansus (France).

Rookie winger, Ruby Tui and rising star lock Maiakawanakaulani Roos have been named finalists of the Women's Breakthrough Player of the Year after their respective efforts throughout 2022, including standout performances during the World Cup. 

Tui took 15s by storm in 2022, sacrificing chasing Commonwealth Games gold with the Sevens side to chase her 15s dream. She scored eight tries in nine tests ahead of the RWC 2021 final. Roos cemented her place in the starting side with a string of commanding performances. Roos is the youngest player on the list, born 15 days after England prop Maud Muir, who featured in all 13 of the Red Roses’ matches in 2022. 

Fiji's Vitalina Naikore rounds out the finalists.

Wayne Smith has been named a finalist for Coach of the Year, recognising his work to turn the fortunes of the Black Ferns around in 7 months to lead the defending champions to a 6th world title. He is up against England counterpart Simon Middleton and Ireland men's coach Andy Farrell, who masterminded the Irish sides historic first series win over the All Blacks in New Zealand and Fabien Galthie who guided France to a 6 Nations Grand Slam and a country-record unbeaten run.

Elsewhere, Sylvia Brunt's try against Wales at the World Cup, started by a line break by Demant is one of 5 candidates for Women's try of the year.

No All Blacks have been named in the Men's categories across the board. 

Meanwhile, Australian Sevens superstar Faith Nathan (Ngāti Whaawhaakia, Ngāti Mahuta, Te Aupōuri) is one of three Australians named in the Women's Sevens Player of the Year. Australian co-Captain Charlotte Caslick, who helped guide her side to win the World Series, Commonwealth Games and World Cup treble was named the Impact Player of the World Series and Maddison Levi, who scored a hat-trick in the Sevens World Cup final are the other two, while 2022 World Series top tryscorer, Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe of Ireland is the other.

The award winners will be announced at a glitzy ceremony in Monaco this weekend. Fans can vote for the Men's and Women's try of the year via World Rugby's social media channels until Thursday.