It was the Ruapehu Rugby & Sports Club’s night at the 2018 Wanganui Rugby Awards at The Barracks sports bar on Saturday evening.
For the third annual awards, which sees the best representative and club players chosen from the 2018 season, Ruapehu players were the main gong winners for Steelform Wanganui’s campaign in the Mitre 10 Heartland Championship, while also sweeping the major prizes from the Tasman Tanning Premier club season, during which McCarthy’s Ruapehu won back-to-back titles.
Heartland coach Jason Caskey, who was surprised himself to be honoured with a special acknowledgement as long serving coach while guiding Wanganui to the 2015-17 Meads Cup three-peat, gave the player of the year award to 1.94m forward Campbell Hart.
Hart, who took over the captaincy for injured clubmate Roman Tutauha for five of the first six games of the Heartland campaign, was a dominant performer who could always get over the advantage line, while doing work in both the tight five with the lineout as well as around the park at flanker.
But Tutauha was not forgotten as he received the team member of the year award for always travelling down from Ohakune and never missing a single training, despite having broken his arm in July on club finals day.
With a steel play inserted, Tutauha worked with both his young replacement hookers in Jack Yarrall and Dylan Gallien while handling any other jobs required until he was able to make his playing comeback in September.
Other Ruapehu team mates had success in the lower tier representative teams, with prop Te Uhi Hakaraia named player of the year for the Whanganui Maori, while Troy Brown was team man of the year for the Wanganui Toyota Development XV, as Marist’s Josaia Bogileka took the player award.
But it was in the club awards where Ruapehu really shined, as their little flanker Jamie Hughes was named the Premier Player of the Year for a second time.
At the start of 2018, Ruapehu were facing the reality of the retirement of several veterans, especially in the forward pack, but they still qualified on top of a very competitive points table and duly went on to claim the championship.
Hughes was a key factor in the continued success with his determination to secure the ball, hard tackling, and underated playmaking skills, which were on show during the big win over Black Bull Liquor Pirates in the Premier grand final.
Although he couldn’t attend the ceremony due to setting up his new farm outside the region, Ruapehu’s Daisy Alabaster was deservedly named coach of the year for lifting Ruapehu back to prominence and winning consecutive Premier titles for the first time since 2013.
Ruapehu’s Premier team also won the Gordon Thompson Memorial for best and fairest team, which is judged on referee points throughout the season.
It had been a tough few days for the Wanganui Marist club, due to the death of a family member of one of the players, but they were able to receive their due for a number of club prizes.
Retiring star Cameron Crowley was named Premier back of the year for the second time, with Jake Lockett winning the same for the Seniors, while the club also received the Incentive Award which is judged on a club’s disciplinary record, meeting attendence, registration numbers and work with juniors.
Marist also officially picked up the Weekes Cup, which they had secured earlier in the year for being the top overall club when the results of their Premier and leading Senior club teams were combined.
The leading Premier forward of the year prize went to Pirates standout prop Raymond Epati (Salu), who had another fantastic season and was in line to make the Wanganui team until he had to return home to Samoa in July at the expiration of his work visa, with club captain Lasa Ulukuta accepting his award.
Among the other award recipients, it was a good night for Kelso Hunterville’s George Gardner, who was followed up his Senior club forward of the year prize with the Senior player of the year award after having a big part in Hunterville winning the senior title for the first time since 2014.
Talented young Collegiate player Phoenix Kairimu, who was named player of the year for the Wanganui Under 18’s, also picked up the prestigious Allan E Jennings Achievement Award for outstanding school leaver.
The Pirates club’s hardworking treasurer, committee member and bar tender Bryce Cosford was deserved recipient of the volunteer of the year award.
The Award Winners Were
Allan E Jennings Achievement Award (Outstanding School Leaver): Phoenix Kairimu.
- Ag Challenge Wanganui U16 – Team Member of Year: Henry Kilmister; Player of Year: Logan Henry.
- Air Chathams Wanganui U18 – Team Member of Year: Ben Strang; Player of Year: Phoenix Kairimu.
- Wanganui U18 Women Player of Year: Te Amarangi Karaitiana.
- Wanganui U20 – Team Member of Year: Kohlt Coveny; Player of Year: Jason Myers.
- Whanganui Maori Player of the Year: Te Uhi Hakaraia.
- Wanganui Samoa Player of the Year: Afano Tuika.
- Wanganui Toyota Development XV – Team Member of Year: Troy Brown; Player of Year: Josaia Bogileka.
- Wanganui Men’s Sevens Player of the Year: Grayson Tihema.
- Steelform Wanganui Heartland – Team Member of the Year: Roman Tutauha; Player of the Year: Campbell Hart.
- Emerging Referee: Sean Ferguson.
- Referee of the Year: Aaron Conlon.
Club Rugby Awards
- Senior Club Forward: George Gardner (Hunterville); Senior Club Back: Jack Lockett (Marist Buffalos).
- Senior Club Player of Year: George Gardner (Hunterville).
- Premier Club Forward: Raymond Epati (Pirates); Premier Club Back: Cameron Crowley (Marist).
- Premier Club Player of the Year: Jamie Hughes (Ruapehu).
- Club Coach of the Year: Carey (Daisy) Alabaster (Ruapehu Premiers).
- Club Incentive Award: Marist.
- Weekes Cup (Overall Champion Club): Marist.
- Gordon Thompson Memorial (Best & Fairest): Ruapehu Premiers.
- Volunteer of the Year: Bryce Cosford (Pirates).