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The Otago loose forward was presented the trophy at a ceremony at the Green Island Rugby Football Club on Monday.
Nel was a standout for the Grizzlies. He carried the ball into contact probably more than anyone else at the club and almost always got across the gain line.
He was also strong over the ball, securing countless turnovers. The South African-born player was instrumental in the team reaching the playoffs for the first time since 2002.
The 26-year-old, however, was unavailable for the 10-8 semifinal loss to Taieri due to an injury and was sorely missed.
Nel was named club player of the week in round eight and collected 17 points throughout the winter - five more points than nearest rival Southern outside back Mackenzie Haugh.
Haugh got across the line more than anyone else, though. The pint-sized fullback-cum-winger dotted down 15 times.
His brother, University and Otago fullback Taylor Haugh, scored 13 tries. Not a bad contribution from the Haugh family.
Kaikorai first five-eighth Ben Miller (157 points) was the leading scorer through the round-robin phase. But University pivot Mike Williams overhauled his tally during the tense final against Taieri and finished with a season total of 167 points.
The Otago Daily Times premier player of the year award has been running since 1996. Previous winners include All Black Jackson Hemopo, former All Black Paul Miller and Otago coach Ben Herring.
The Otago Rugby Football Union made its own award this season. Alhambra-Union hooker Alex Frood won the Ben Smith Medal for his industrious season. He was easily the best player for the Broncos in what was a disappointing season at the North Ground.