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The annual awards were initially scheduled for August but the global pandemic interrupted the programme and the event was held at the Allied Press Channel 39 studio yesterday.
A couple of midfielders were the big winners. Experienced Pirates and Otago Spirit player Kilisitina Moata’ane was named women’s player of the year and Green Island and Otago second five Ray Nu’u named men’s player of the year.
A big smile spread across the face of Moata’ane when the hard-running 23-year-old reflected on what was a thrilling women’s club final.
She scored a try to help her side edge University 29-26 in an epic game.
But it was her team-mate, Victoria Subritsky-Nafatali, who stole the glory in the final moments of that game. She ripped the ball free from her opponent and crashed over from 5m out.
The 23-year-old was on duty for Otago and missed the club final. It is still a source of annoyance.
‘‘I was pretty gutted, to be honest,’’ he said. ‘‘We had a mean year with a good group of young boys. There was actually a couple of us [that missed out].’’
Dylan Nel and James Arscott had featured heavily during the campaign but missed the final as well due to provincial duty.
It was another award winner who dominated during the final. Taieri first five Cameron Millar, who was named emerging player of the year, drilled six penalties to help seal a tense 21-17 win.
‘‘[We] did real well for a young team. We scored all the tries we just didn’t get the kicks over,’’ N u’u said.
He spent three years with the Stags but is enjoying his first stint for Otago. His experience at Green Island and the relaxed lifestyle he enjoys in Dunedin was a big factor in his decision to switch allegiance.
University and Spirit loose forward Grace Carroll was named women’s breakout player of the year for her efforts.
She is an industrious player who is never far from the ball and prides herself on her fitness.
In other awards, Kaikorai collected the Ainge Shield awarded to the best overall club.
Jono Bredin was named referee of the year.
University first five Sam Clarke’s haul of 139 points was the most in premier grade, and Green Island winger Michael Manson scored 15 tries, seven more than his nearest rival.