Topic: Rugby

Māori talent recognised at NZ Rugby Awards

  • Auckland

It's been another incredible year for New Zealand rugby and they celebrated in style at the Viaduct Events Centre last night.

Four Māori also lifted trophies at the New Zealand rugby awards for referee of the year, age grade player of the year, as well as the women’s and Māori players of the year.

The rugby awards started with glitz & glamour on the red carpet.

Players switching their footy boots for a suit and tie all in celebration of their success this year.

Inside the jovial mood continued as Glen Jackson received his award for Best Referee of the Year after another stellar year officiating internationals, Super 15 & ITM Cup games. He is a third time recipient of this award.

The competition was strong for the New Zealand Age Grade category with Ngāi Tahu's Damian McKenzie up against Mitchell Karpik and Sio Tomkinson.

However, it was Damian's contribution to the U20 All Blacks and Waikato that had him claim the award.

"It was a great experience, the calibre of the under 20s rugby is getting better and better each year so it was awesome," says McKenzie.

Despite a challenging hop up the stairs aided by her two brothers, Rawinia Everitt claimed her award as New Zealand Women's player of the year after playing an integral part in the Black Ferns success' this year.

"Massive honour, the Black Ferns carry a huge history and I wouldn't be able to get the award without my fellow team mates," says Everitt.

Māori and All Black legend Buck Shelford awarded the Tom French Māori player of the Year.

Shelford says, "Māori rugby is unique it is special and have produced some great moments and characters that have made New Zealand rugby and its teams what it is today."

With three worthy contenders, Charlie Ngatai, Liam Messam and Aaron Smith who are all proud of their culture and heritage it was the nuggety halfback that was awarded the trophy.

Smith of Ngāti Kahungunu says, "This is huge for my family and I'm sure they're proud and I'm pretty proud to win a very special award"

The number one halfback in the country said he made some key changes this season which served him well in the black jersey.

"Coming into 2014 I sort of simplified things and got in really good nick to give myself a chance to perform and kept my focuses short term and I think that helped a lot," says Smith.

Aaron was also in the running for the Kelvin Tremain Player of the Year Award but that prestigious award was given to the IRB Player of the Year, Brodie Retallick.

The men in black also won the other two top awards for best team of the year and coach of the year.