The Thames Valley Rugby Union held its annual Prize Giving Awards Dinner for the Development and Heartland Teams last Friday night.
Both teams had improved performances this year with the Development Team taking centre stage as the union’s most successful team across all grades. Head Coach Peter O’Connor and his assistants, Colin Walker and Michael Bellamy are all from the Waihi Athletic Rugby Club while the Manager, Geoff Spargo and his assistant Stephen Wise hail from the Whangamata Rugby Club.
Together this group led the most successful Thames Valley Development team in many years. In all they played nine games, won seven and lost two, winning the Northern Regions Rugby Council Under 85kg competition for 2017. Their record includes wins over North Harbour, Auckland, Counties Manukau, King Country and Waikato twice. They were unbeaten in all four home games and won the Under 85kg competition with a week to spare. The leading points scorer was Stephen Wise from Whangamata and the highest try scorer was Jerome Hill from Waihi Athletic with 6 tries. Hill had a memorable year from start to finish, running in 20 tries in 18 club games followed by another 6 in the Development Team campaign. Fittingly he was presented with the Development Teams’ Most Ideal Player Award.
Dylan Robinson, also from the Development, was recognised for his selection into the New Zealand Heartland Under 19 team to compete at the National Tournament at Taupo back in September. He joined Jayden Tegg and Hurakia Firth, both from the Thames Valley Under 18 side in the National team.
The Heartland Team had an improved season and won plenty of admiration for the manner in which they played but a playoff spot eluded the team again this year. Head Coach Matthew Bartleet and his assistants, David Harrison and Joe Murray were left to reflect on what might have been in as a catalogue of missed opportunities cost the Thames Valley Senior team dearly. Nevertheless there were more than enough quality performances throughout the season for the video segments shown throughout the prize giving to remind the audience of how good some of the rugby was this year.
Notable new awards included the Try of the Year and the “Smashed ‘em Bro” of the Year which were won by Hayden Wisnewski and Alex Bradley respectively. This segment which was hosted by Thames Valley Ground Announcer and Commentary Man, Jake O’Flaherty proved to be very popular with the audience.
Of special note, was the attendance of Hayden Anderson, who became seriously ill in hospital following a broken leg suffered during the game against Buller. He has since recovered well and received a rousing ovation on the night.
Another highlight of the evening was the presentation of a cheque to the Goldfields School in Paeroa for funds raised by the Heartland Team during this year’s campaign. Principal, Gary Quarless accepted the donation on behalf of the school and thanked the team for their contribution. He invited the team to come back again next year and continue their involvement.
The full list of award winners is as follows:
2017 Thames Valley Development Team Award Winners
Highest Points Scorer: Stephen Wise
Most Tries: Jerome Hill
Most Improved Player: Matt McCahon
Most Consistent Player: Jarred Baker
Most Dedicated Player: Ray Christini
Most Ideal Player: Jerome Hill
2017 Thames Valley Heartland Team Award Winners
Most improved Player: Sitiveni Tupou
Rookie of the year: Sam McCahon
Iron Man: Sam McCahon and Brett Ranga
Most Dedicated Team Man: Shaun Hill
Player of the year: Brett Ranga
Popular Choice Awards: (nominations)
WINNER: Try of the year: Hayden Wisnewski (vs Buller)
WINNER: “Smashed ’em bro” of the Year: Alex Bradley (vs Mid Canterbury)
Players Choice Awards:
Players Loan Player of the Year: Alex Bradley
Players Player of the Year: Connor McVerry