December 16, 2020
James Fisher-Harris and Krystal Rota have been named the 2020 New Zealand Rugby League Players of the Year for the first time in their careers, while Dylan Brown earned Young Kiwi Player of the Year for the second year running and Autumn-Rain Stephens Dally took home Kiwi Ferns Rookie of the Year.
In a season that saw no Kiwi Internationals due to the ongoing implications of Covid-19, the 2020 Kiwis High-Performance Awards were judged solely on NRL performance. The Kiwi Ferns Awards have been credited on international merit due to their clash against Fetu Samoa Invitational which was the only New Zealand Rugby League International for the year.
2020 Kiwis Player of the year, James Fisher-Harris (Kiwi #801), was named 2020 Dally M Prop of the year and earned recognition as one of the NRL’s best and most hardworking forwards. Passing the 100-game milestone for the Panthers, he led the competition in post-contact metres, was the top forward in terms of total run metres and played an integral role in the Panthers’ drive to their first grand final in 17 years.
Kiwis Head Coach Michael Maguire says, “James has performed consistently right throughout the year at such a high standard and to make it to the grand final is a real credit to him.”
“It’s been a pleasure to watch him develop into the player he is, one of his biggest strengths is consistency, you know what he’s going to deliver for his team and he’s a step above where he’s ever been and how he performs. He’s a quiet achiever but he’s all about action. James is a clear asset to any team he’s a part of and is well-deserving of this accolade.”
Captaining her country for the first time, the 10 Test veteran Krystal Rota and 2020 Kiwi Fern player of the year, led the Kiwi Ferns to their 28-8 win over Fetu Samoa Invitational in November. No stranger to the captaincy role, 2020 also saw her captain the Māori All-Stars as well as the Counties Manukau Stingrays, leading them to their 11th straight women’s title in the Sky Sport Women’s Premiership.
Kiwi Ferns Head Coach Ricky Henry says, “This was Krystal’s most influential year. I knew she had leadership capabilities from watching her in the Māori All-Stars and throughout her Counties campaigns but these qualities were definitely on display in Kiwi Ferns camp.”
“Captaining your country is whole other ball game, it’s the highest level of leadership and responsibility a player can have and she rose to the challenge. A worthy recipient and these qualities will only continue to grow.”
For the second year running, Kiwis Junior Player of the Year, Dylan Brown cemented his place in the NRL as one of its elite playmakers. Brown made 16 regular-season appearances for Paramatta, with nine line-breaks, 52 tackle-busts, 11 forced dropouts and five tries. At just 20 years of age, he was instrumental in the Eels’ run to the playoffs drawing praise from the highest levels of the game for his defence and multi-faceted attack.
Kiwis Head Coach Michael Maguire says, “A real quality Dylan has shown is his ability to improve every time he steps out on the field.”
“He’s grown as a player and he had a taste of the Kiwis at the Nines last year but I know a real driver for him is to earn a Kiwis Test jersey and he’s definitely heading in the right direction. Watching him push his team around the park, putting his body on the line, growing his leadership capabilities but at the same time building his own game has been pleasing to watch. He’s maturing as a player and showing his true character both on and off the field.”
2020 Kiwi Ferns Rookie of the Year, Autumn-Rain Stephens Dally, enjoyed a meteoric rise after switching to rugby league in 2020.
Named MVP of the inaugural NZRL National Women’s Championship after her stand-out performance at full-back for the Upper Central Stallions, she then made her international debut at five-eighth for the Kiwi Ferns against Fetu Samoa Invitational.
The 24-year-old’s skills were on display at Mt Smart Stadium, as she played a key hand in two tries before scoring two more of her own, including a blistering 50-metre effort.
Coach Ricky Henry said, “Autumn-Rain scored three tries in the first ever game I watched her play, she’s an outstanding talent that seems to have found her home with rugby league.”
“She’s willing to learn and grow, initially playing out of position but rising to the challenge. She wreaked havoc on the field, she’s explosive, fast and these skills will only mature. She’s definitely one for the future.”
2020 High-Performance Winners:
Kiwis Player of the Year – James Fisher Harris
Kiwi Ferns Player of the Year – Krystal Rota
Kiwi Ferns Rookie of the Year – Autumn-Rain Stephens Dally
Kiwis Young Player of the Year – Dylan Brown
2020 NZRL Community Award Winners
Grassroots Club of the Year – Mangere East
Domestic Men’s Player of the Year – Francis Leger
Domestic Women’s Player of the Year – Harata Butler
Domestic Coach of the Year – Phil Gordon
U16s Player of the Year – Tre Fotu
U18s Player of the Year – Sam McIntyre
Match Official of the Year – Paki Parkinson
Pirtek Volunteer of the Year – Shayne Wassel
The 2020 NZRL Community Award recipients have tonight been announced with Mangere East Rugby League Club taking out NZRL Grassroots Club of the Year.
What was a truly testing year, Mangere East shone through as a servant for its community, going above and beyond to provide a safe space, while continuing to promote and grow the game of rugby league despite the year’s challenges.
Mangere Easts’ weekly ‘Life Soup Kitchen’ provided free hot meals throughout the year in a safe environment for families that were struggling to make ends meet. The club responded quickly to Auckland’s second lockdown by providing a free Covid-19 testing station in their car park, encouraging members within their community to get checked.
Gala days, school holiday programmes and free meals for local families, are only a fraction of the work Mangere East have been doing off the field to continually serve the needs of their people, epitomising NZRL’s More Than A Game.
The 2020 NZ 16s Player of the Year was awarded to Marists’ Tre Fotu. He was a standout against the NZ Māori 17s scoring a double and continually asking questions of the defence.
NZ 16s Head Coach, Phil Gordon says; “Tre is a young man who epitomised the meaning and value of wearing the Black and White jersey. He was a focused trainer, disciplined in his approach and committed to executing game plans and structures at the highest level.”
The NZ 18s Player of the Year for 2020 was awarded to Northcote Tiger and NZ 18s Clubs captain, Sam McIntyre. Sam captained the NZ 18s Club team in the inaugural Schools v Clubs match, scoring one try and leading his side to a 34-22 victory.
NZ 18s Head Coach, Tusa Lafaele says; “Sam has always displayed a high skill level, technique and ability as an athlete. Often what separates the talented from the successful, is the attitude and fortitude to work hard and be prepared to make sacrifices. Sam has always applied himself in this manner, striving for success and competing with true grit.”
Akarana veteran, Francis Leger, was awarded NZRL Domestic Men’s Player of the Year due to his outstanding season captaining Akarana to their fifth straight NZRL Premiership victory, as well as the NZ Residents.
Harata Butler took home NZRL Domestic Women’s Player of the Year after a successful season in Counties Manukau colours, earning her MVP of the Sky Sport Women’s Premiership as well as her international Kiwi Ferns debut.
NZRL Domestic Coach of the Year was awarded to Phil Gordon after he coached his undefeated Akarana side to an impressive fifth NZRL Premiership, as well the NZ Resident 16s to a convincing 42-6 victory over the NZ Māori Resident 17s.
NZRL Match Official of the Year was awarded to veteran Paki Parkinson after a successful season officiating the NZRL Premiership, NZ 16s and the NZ Residents v NZ Maori Residents.
Pirtek’s 2020 Volunteer of the Year was awarded to Takahiwai’s Shayne Wassel. Despite several disabilities including mild deafness, speech impediment and blindness in one eye, the single father of four never lets that get in the way of his ability to go above and beyond for his local club, whanau and community – Read more about Shayne’s story here.
NZRL would also like to give a special mention to runner up clubs for Grassroots Club of the Year, the Eastern Eagles and Timaru Outlaws.
Despite financial difficulties, the Eastern Eagles immediately switched focus to supporting its club members and the wider community through the COVID-19 pandemic. Seeking support from local businesses, the Eagles procured and co-ordinated the receipt and delivery of hundreds of food packs and other essentials items, reaching pockets of the community that were often missed.
The Timaru Outlaws, just four years old, had only one U7s team in 2018, as of 2020 they now have five junior teams playing under the senior side equating to around 100 registered U13 players. Based in a non-traditional rugby league area, with no club rooms, it’s the collective efforts of the community and their strong whanau values-driven approach that has seen this club flourish with momentum only continuing to rise.
NZRL CEO, Greg Peters says, “These awards recognise exceptional work in our grassroots, domestic and community space both on and off the field. We congratulate each recipient on their outstanding achievement.
“Thank you to those in our rugby league communities who continue to go above and beyond for our game. In what was a challenging year for most, it’s the dedication of our people that keep rugby league thriving – thank you.”
To watch the NZRL Community Awards, please click here.
The NZRL High-Performance Awards will be broadcast tonight Sky Sport 4 at 7:30 pm.
Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and Honey Hireme reign supreme at the 2018 New Zealand Rugby League Annual Awards announced on Sky Sport’s Kiwi League Show tonight.
Waerea-Hargreaves (Kiwi #755) had one of his best seasons in the black and white jersey, accumulating over 130 run metres for all four end-of-season Test matches in England, and proved crucial in the Kiwis historic 26-24 win over Australia.
Michael Maguire says: “As a senior player within the Kiwis camp, Jared put a lot of time into discussing the growth of the Kiwi team. He has immense passion towards where he wants to see the black and white jersey and this is a real quality of his,”
“Off the back of his brilliant season in club land, he was in a good position to play his best footy for the Kiwis and that’s exactly what he did. His experience has been invaluable in mentoring younger players to step up into international rugby league,” Maguire says.
The powerhouse prop capped off his 2018 NRL season with his second NRL premiership win, a title he was able to share with Kiwis teammate Joseph Manu (finalist for Kiwis Rookie of the Year).
In one of the biggest years to date for women’s rugby league, Honey Hireme was hard to go past when it came to crowning the Kiwi Ferns Player of the Year, an award she won back in 2012. As co-captain of the Kiwi Ferns alongside veteran teammate Laura Mariu, she crossed the ditch to play for the St George Illawarra Dragons in the inaugural NRL Women’s Premiership, an experience she says has benefitted her game.
“The addition of this year’s NRL competition was great for the women’s game. The fact that we could all come together in Kiwi Ferns camp following four weeks of competing in the elite space, was hugely beneficial when it came to pulling on the black and white jersey against the Jillaroos,”
“The more we can play at the top level, the better our game gets. I’m grateful for receiving this award but would also like to recognise the efforts of the other finalists (Kimiora Nati and Aieshaleigh Smalley) and our Kiwi Ferns teammates, my family for their undying support, management and coaching staff,” she says.
The Kiwis Rookie of the Year award was picked up by Kiwi #810 Ken Maumalo, a player who earnt his Kiwis call-up in June at Mile High Stadium before going on to play in all five 2018 Kiwis Test matches, scoring four tries. His impressive season with the Warriors and Kiwis attracted high praises from coach Michael Maguire and rightfully so, given he amassed 15 tackle breaks and 801 run metres over the three Tests he played against England.
“Both Ken and Jared are two players that are hungry for the Kiwis jersey to reach new heights and that’s pleasing,”
“It has been really enjoyable coaching Ken, the more he plays, the more he grows so I look forward to seeing what he does next year,” Maguire says.
Joining Maumalo in playing her first Test at international level, Onjeurlina Leiataua has been rewarded for her break out season with the Warriors women’s team, and the stellar part she played in the Kiwi Ferns narrow loss against the Jillaroos at Mt Smart Stadium this year. These achievements saw her pick up Kiwi Ferns Rookie of the Year.
Promising youngster, Isaiah Papali’i wins Junior Player of the Year for the second consecutive year, having been awarded Warriors Rookie of the Year and receiving his Kiwis debut in England after leading the Junior Kiwis in their match-up against the Junior Kangaroos in October.
This year’s award winners showcase players and match officials performing at the pinnacle of rugby league, as well as community representatives and volunteers who prove to be the backbone of grassroots rugby league in New Zealand.
New Zealand Rugby League wishes to congratulate the award winners from all 13 categories below:
Pirtek Female Volunteer – Karen Gibbons Karen Gibbons (Akarana, Auckland)
Pirtek Male Volunteer – Lawrence Erihe (Mid Central, Manawatu)
Grassroots Club of the Year – South Pacific Raiders (Southern, Otago)
Domestic Coach of the Year – Keith Hanley (Akarana, Auckland)
Match Official of the Year – Paki Parkinson (Upper Central, Bay of Plenty)
NZ 16s Player of the Year – Sione Moala (Counties Manukau, Auckland)
NZ 18s Player of the Year – Tyler Slade (NZ Warriors)
Domestic Premier Player of the Year – Francis Leger (Akarana, Auckland)
Kiwi Fern Rookie of the Year – Onjeurlina Leiataua (NZ Warriors)
Kiwis Rookie of the Year – Ken Maumalo (NZ Warriors)
Kiwis Fern Player of the Year – Honey Hireme (St George Illawarra Dragons)
Kiwis Player of the Year – Jared Waerea-Hargreaves (Sydney Roosters)
NZ Kiwis skipper Dallin Watene-Zelezniak (Kiwi #794) is up against NRL Premiership winning forward, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves (Kiwi #755) and Kiwi #771 Kevin Proctor for the 2018 Kiwis Player of the Year Award.
Finalists have been selected in all 13 NZRL Awards categories, including Kiwi Ferns Player of the Year which will be hotly contested by Kiwi Ferns co-captain Honey Hireme, NRL Grand-Final Player of the Match Kimiora Nati and powerhouse prop Aieshaleigh Smalley.
Kiwis debutants Joseph Manu, Ken Maumalo and Dally M Rookie of the Year, Jamayne Isaako will face-off for the Kiwis Rookie of the Year award – all three having had outstanding seasons with their respective clubs and thriving in their Kiwis career debut seasons.
Roger Tuivasa-Sheck took home the top Kiwis award last year but the 2018 Dally M Award winner was out of contention for this year’s Kiwis end of season campaign in New Zealand and England due to injury.
Last year’s Junior Player of the Year, Isaiah Papali’i won the award as a 19-year-old and is still eligible this year following a stellar season with the Warriors and as captain of the Junior Kiwis. He faces challenges from the South Sydney Rabbitohs and Taranaki-born Mawene Hiroti, as well as Warriors youngster Joseph Vuna.
The Pirtek Volunteer of the Year awards also shine light on the incredible efforts of grassroots volunteers from around the country. These finalists have contributed to their clubs and communities in ways that are invaluable to the game of rugby league in New Zealand.
Award winners will be announced on 12 December on a special edition of Sky Sport’s Kiwi League Show at 7.30pm and NZRL’s website & social media channels.
Below is the full list of NZRL Awards finalists:
Kiwis Player of the Year 2018
Kiwi Ferns Player of the Year 2018
Kiwis Rookie of the Year 2018
Kiwi Ferns Rookie of the Year 2018
Junior Player of the Year 2018
Pirtek Female Volunteer of the Year 2018
Debbie Neylon-Kennedy (Southern, Canterbury)
Michelle Harding (Southern, Canterbury)
Hana Kakoi (Southern, Canterbury)
Denise Proctor (Northland, Nga Tama Toa)
Junie Shelford (Northland, Takahiwai)
Sariah Matautia (Counties Manukau, Auckland)
Agnes Koti (Counties Manukau, Auckland)
Karen Gibbons (Akarana, Auckland)
Rose Nahu (Upper Central, Bay of Plenty)
Ally Tamihere (Mid Central, Gisborne Tairawhiti)
Pirtek Male Volunteer of the Year 2018
David Field (Southern, Canterbury)
Tony Grenfell (Southern, Canterbury)
Chris Perriam (Southern, Southland)
Peter Kerridge (Southern, West Coast)
Josh Cleaver (Mid Central, Taranaki)
Lawrence Erihe (Mid Central, Manawatu)
Frank Proctor (Northland, Nga Tama Toa)
Nick Waihi (Northland, Marist Brothers)
Tim Tapaki (Counties Manukau, Auckland)
Stephen Purcell (Counties Manukau, Auckland)
Carl Gribble (Akarana, Auckland)
Grassroots Club of the Year 2018
Wairau Taniwha (Southern, Tasman)
Lonestar Cowboys (Southern, Southland)
South Pacific Raiders (Southern, Otago)
Rolleston Warriors (Southern, Canterbury)
Takahiwai Warriors (Northland)
Otahuhu Rugby League Club (Counties Manukau, Auckland)
Manurewa Rugby League Football & Sports Club Inc (Counties Manukau, Auckland)
Domestic Coach of the Year 2018
Rusty Matua (Counties Manukau, Auckland)
Tusa Lafaele (Counties Manukau, Auckland)
Keith Hanley (Akarana, Auckland)
Match Official of the Year 2018
Gary Smallridge (Southern, Canterbury)
Owen Harvey (Southern, Canterbury)
Chris McMillan (Counties Manukau, Auckland)
Paki Parkinson (Upper Central, Bay of Plenty)
NZ 16s Player of the Year 2018
Sione Moala (Counties Manukau, Auckland)
Quinnlan Tupou (Counties Manukau, Auckland)
Lani Graham-Taufa (Akarana, Auckland)
NZ 18s Player of the Year 2018
Kayal Iro (NZ Warriors)
Tyler Slade (NZ Warriors)
Mahuta Ngataki-Matthews (Upper Central, Waikato)
NZRL Premier Player of the Year 2018
Drew Radich (Counties Manukau, Auckland)
James Baxendale (Southern, Canterbury)
Francis Leger (Akarana, Auckland)
Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (Kiwi #779) and Apii Nicholls-Pualau took home the Kiwis Player of the Year and Women’s Player of the Year awards respectively at the New Zealand Rugby League Annual Awards last Friday night.
The dynamic full-back ended the 2017 World Cup with the equal most tries scored (3), the most carries (72) and the most metres carried (626) for the Kiwis. Head Coach David Kidwell says such achievements were no small feat considering Tuivasa-Sheck had recently returned from a serious knee injury.
“In some cases, it takes a fair amount of time for a player to get back to fine form following such a serious injury, but Roger did everything right and ultimately showed great leadership at the back.
“He’s a quality young-man who was a pleasure to coach and I congratulate him for his impressive performances throughout the NRL season and at the 2017 Rugby League World Cup,” Kidwell said.
While top honours in the men’s category went to Tuivasa-Sheck, Women’s Player of the Year was picked up by his female fullback counterpart, Apii Nicholls-Pualau.
After an outstanding season with the seven time National title winning Counties Manukau Stingrays, Nicholls-Pualau was selected to fill the void of previous Kiwi Ferns captain and fullback, Sarina Fiso, who won 2016 Women’s Player of the Year. Being named Back of the Tournament at the National Women’s Tournament was yet another feather in her cap.
Apii took ownership of the number one jersey stamping her mark as the starting Kiwi Ferns fullback for the entirety of the 2017 Rugby League World Cup. She also topped the leader board for kick return metres at the World Cup racking up a massive 279 metres, but Nicholls-Pualau was quick to downplay her accomplishments.
“I’m honoured to even be considered alongside players such as Teuila Fotu-Moala and Krystal Rota, let alone to win this award.
“There are a lot of people I have to thank for their on-going support including my incredible family – without them there is no way I could have dedicated as much time as I did to the sport I love,” she said.
Kiwis Rookie of the Year was won by Nelson Asofa-Solomona (Kiwi #804) who was also a finalist in the top category after bursting onto the international rugby league scene in 2017.
His physicality turned heads at the Rugby League World Cup causing defensive issues for his opposition and World Cup rankings showed he was only second to Roger Tuivasa-Sheck when it came to most carries (56) and metres carried (489).
You can watch the livestream from the Annual Awards function here.
Click here to view the photo gallery from the Awards function.
Winners of all 12 NZRL Awards categories can be found below:
Pirtek Female Volunteer – Chantez Connor (Otaika Eagles/Northland)
Pirtek Male Volunteer – Jack Newson (Hornby Panthers/Southern)
Grassroots Club –Taniwharau (Upper Central)
Domestic Coach – Morgan Kutia (Waikato)
Referee – Chris McMillan (Auckland)
Domestic Player 16s – Christian Tuipulotu (Akarana)
Domestic Player 18s – Tyler Slade (NZ Warriors)
Domestic Player Premier – Aaron Jolley (Waikato/Hamilton City Tigers)
Junior Player – Isaiah Papali’I (NZ Warriors)
Kiwis Rookie – Nelson Asofa-Solomona (Melbourne Storm)
Women’s Player – Apii Nicholls-Pualau (Manurewa Marlins/Counties Manukau)
Kiwis Player – Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (NZ Warriors)