Smith up for Super Rugby, Maori player of year honours at NZR awards

Aaron Smith
Aaron Smith
Highlanders captain Aaron Smith is up for two honours at the New Zealand Rugby Awards.

Smith, who has just returned from the All Blacks’ northern tour after joining the team halfway through, is a finalist in both the Super Rugby player of the year and Maori player of the year categories.

He could be a good shout in the Super Rugby race, in which he is matched against Blues loose forward Dalton Papalii and Crusaders first five Richie Mo’unga.

Smith will face stiff competition for the Tom French Memorial (Maori player of the year) at the December 15 awards.

He is joined by his former long-serving Highlanders team-mate, Ash Dixon, and inspirational Black Ferns Sevens captain Sarah Hirini.

Otago has two officials up for awards.

James Doleman is nominated for referee of the year alongside Tiana Ngawati (Bay of Plenty) and Ben O’Keeffe (Auckland), while tireless secondary schools rugby co-ordinator Greg Heller is a finalist for the Charles Munro award for volunteer of the year.

Try-scoring winger Will Jordan is arguably the favourite for All Blacks player of the year, where he is joined by fullback Jordie Barrett, utility back Rieko Ioane and loose forward Ardie Savea.

Debutant Liana Mikaele-Tu’u has been nominated for Black Ferns player of the year alongside loose forwards Les Elder and Kennedy Simon.

Hirini, Gayle Broughton and Tyla Nathan-Wong will con-
test the Black Ferns Sevens award, and Scott Curry, Andrew Knewstubb and Ngarohi McGarvey-Black will chase the Richard Crawshaw Memorial men’s sevens award.

In domestic rugby, Fiao’o Faamausili Medal finalists are Grace Houpapa-Barrett (Waikato), Krystal Murray (Northland) and Joanah Ngan-Woo (Wellington); Duane Monkley Medal finalists are Lincoln McClutchie (Hawke’s Bay), Stephen Perofeta (Taranaki) and Luke Romano (Canterbury); and Heartland Championship player of the year finalists are Hone Haerewa (Ngati Porou East Coast), Willie Wright (South Canterbury) and Stefan Destounis (Poverty Bay).

The Crusaders, South Canterbury and both Waikato teams (Farah Palmer Cup and NPC) are up for team of the year, and Scott Robertson (Crusaders), Neil Barnes (Taranaki), Ross Filipo (Waikato men) and James Semple (Waikato women) are up for coach of the year.

All national representative teams, and their coaches, are finalists for the New Zealand team and coach awards. The Black Ferns Sevens will likely triumph in both categories.

The NZRPA Kirk Award, the Steinlager Salver and the Kelvin R. Tremain Memorial player of the year will be announced on the night.

Due to Covid-19 restrictions on public gatherings, the awards will be a made-for-TV special, starting on Sky Sport at 8pm on December 15.

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