Rugby: Ben Smith nominated

Highlanders fullback Ben Smith has been named among some top-quality candidates for next month's New Zealand rugby awards.

Smith has had a stand-out year for both the Highlanders and the All Blacks this season, and his form has been rewarded with two nominations in the awards.

Smith (27) has been nominated in the Super 15 player of the year category, along with Crusaders lock Sam Whitelock and Chiefs co-captain Liam Messam.

Smith had an outstanding season in a disappointing year for the Highlanders.

He is also nominated for the big prize, the Kelvin R. Tremain Trophy, as the player of the year.

He faces Messam again, and Kieran Read, who must be the favourite in the category.

The trophy was won by Richie McCaw last year.

Otago's Kelly Brazier is nominated for the women's sevens player of the year and has also been nominated for the women's player of the year award.

Highlanders halfback Aaron Smith has been nominated for the Tom French Cup, the trophy for the leading Maori player of the year.

New Highlander Kurt Baker has been nominated as the sevens player of the year.

Disappointingly, no North Otago player has been nominated for the Heartland Championship player of the year.

Dunedin club fullback Liam Edwards has signed a contract to play in Hawkes Bay next year.

Edwards, who has been loaned out to South Canterbury over the past couple of seasons and has impressed in the Heartland Championship, will join Hawkes Bay and aim for a place in the ITM Cup squad.

Edwards (21), who attended Otago Boys' High School, has played premier club rugby for Dunedin for the past three years, and played for the Otago sevens side, but has not played for Otago in the ITM Cup.


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