Monday, 28 December 2009

Studs On The 22 ~ 2009 Awards

So we have almost reached the end of 2009.  This has been an action packed year for the game of rugby union, with plenty of scandal, drama, politics and posing and that's before we even turn our attention to what actually happened on the pitch.  2009 will be best forgotten for many reasons, but there have also been some fabulous moments which have helped to reignite the passion in our excellent game.  These awards will celebrate the good and commiserate the bad in the hope that 2010 will herald plenty of the former and not so much of the latter.

The first award is the Well Played Sir Moment to Remember Award.  This award exists to honour a pivotal moment in a game which helped to change the course of a match in a positive way or someone who really achieved something great in 2009.  The contenders are:

Phil Vickery: For coming out in the third Lions test and slaying the Beast who destroyed him in their previous encounter.
Dan Carter:  For passing Andrew Mehrton's record as top New Zealand points scorer of all time in the England vs New Zealand game at Twickenham this November.
Morne Steyn: For his match winning performance off the bench in the second Lions test to help the Boks win the match and the series.

And the winner is Morne Steyn, a man who also notched up 31 points in the Springboks' Tri-Nations 31-19 win against New Zealand on 31 August, a feat which broke Andrew Mehrton's record for most points by an individual in a Tri-Nations match.  Not a bad result for a man winning his fifth cap on his second start for the Boks.

Steyn was one of the stars of the year

The next award is the Oopsy Daisy Moment to Forget Award.  As the name suggests, this award is given in recognition of a defining moment which the perpetrator would really rather forget.  The runners and riders are:

Ronan O'Gara:  Who can forget that mistimed tackle at the end of the second Lions test this summer, a tackle which gifted South Africa the chance to win the match, which Morne Steyn duly took.
Matt Giteau:  Nominated for his last gasp penalty miss in the 9-8 loss to Scotland in this year's Autumn Internationals.
Tom Williams:  Comedy fake blood capsule anyone?
David Rose:  For his involvement in the ridiculous mix up that was the Sale vs Wasps match postponement.

Some strong contenders, but there can only be one winner, and that is Ronan O'Gara for that tackle:

Please just kick it into touch next time Ronan

Next up is the Boo Hiss Villain of the Year Award which is pretty self explanatory.  The contenders are:

Matt Stevens:  For falling off the wagon and stuffing stuff up his nose.
Michael Lipman, Alex Crockett and Andrew Higgins: For bringing the game into disrepute and dragging Bath further into the mire following their resignations for refusing to take a drug test on three separate occasions.
Dean Richards: For his involvement in the infamous 'Bloodgate' scandal.
Schalk Burger, Julien Dupuy, Shane Jennings, David Attoub (allegedly): For their love of giving 'facials' to other players.

And the winner is: Dean Richards.
OK so you might think it's unfair that one man was singled out to take the fall for the coaching staff, medical team and committee of a rugby club, but the buck had to stop somewhere, and "Bloodgate" was the scandal of the year despite all the Class A shenanigans that were going on at Bath.

Villain of the Year

To lighten the mood and celebrate some achievements let's move on to the Slap on the Back Hero of the Year Award.  There are two candidates for this award, both of whom are equally deserving:

Ian McGeechan:  For his wonderful masterminding of the most memorable and cohesive Lions tour since the pride of 1997. Ian McGeechan (along with his team) showed that the Lions philosophy and everything it stands for still has a place in the professional game. 
Declan Kidney:  The quiet man of rugby who coached the Ireland team to a Grand Slam win in the Six Nations and an unbeaten run in 2009; a year in which they also beat the World and current Tri-Nations champions, South Africa.

It was close, but for everything he achieved this summer (despite coming away from South Africa with a series loss), the winner is Ian McGeechan.

This clip gets me every time.

Sniff back those tears and let's move on swiftly to the Team of the Year Award.
The contenders are:
Ireland:  Grand Slam winners and unbeaten in 2009.
Leinster:  Heineken Cup winners
South Africa:  Tri Nations Champions
England's Women:  For an excellent year in which they beat the Black Ferns and are hotting up nicely for next year's World Cup.
The British and Irish Lions:  For restoring Pride.

It was close, but the Team of the Year is Ireland for their unbeaten run.  South Africa had a great year but they were beaten by Leicester and Saracens and then by Ireland in the Autumn Internationals.  With Leinster winning the Heineken Cup it was a great year for Irish rugby.

More of the same for 2010?

2009 saw some classic comedy in the form of some rather strange quotes from people who should really know better.  These are honoured in the "He said what?" Quote of the Year Award.
The contenders are:

Peter de Villiers: Who defended Schalk Burger's scandalous eye-gouge of Luke Fitzgerald by saying:  "Why don't we all go to the nearest ballet shop, get some nice tutus and get some great dancing going on? No eye-gouging, no tackling, no nothing. Then enjoy."
Brian O'Driscoll:  Who turned into a wise old owl in a Six Nations press conference when he said: "Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit; wisdom is knowing not to put it into a fruit salad."
Mystic Warren Gatland:  Who turned into a new age hippy when discussing the All Blacks prior to the Wales vs New Zealand game in the Autumn Internationals, when he said:  "If you lose a few games, it doesn't matter who you are, you become a little bit infallible and that aura just goes away."
Rugby fan Stuart Tinner:  On winning £250,000 after successfully drop-kicking a ball against the cross bar in the half time interval of the Saracens vs South Africa game, Tinner said:  "This is the second best day of my life.  The best day was when I lost my virginity."  Bless him.

And the winner is Brian O'Driscoll, for his Eric Cantona-esque piece of tongue in cheek comedy genius:

Brian: getting all fruity

Still with me?

Now it's time to celebrate some talent to watch for 2010 with the Young Player of the Year Award.  These are players that have been catapulted into the spotlight in 2009 who promise to deliver great things both now and in the future.  The nominees are:
Ben Youngs: The quick thinking and attacking Leicester scrum half.
Courtney Lawes:  Northampton's new Martin Johnson in the making.
Ryan Lamb:  London Irish's fly-half and midfield maestro.
Will Genia:  The Wallabies and Queensland Reds star scrum-half.

And the winner is Will Genia, who burst on the international scene as if from nowhere in 2009 and received comparisons with legendary Wallabies scrum-half George Gregan.

One to watch

And finally on to the last gong of the year which is the Not So Young Player of the Year Award.  Again, there are a few contenders, most of which are the usual suspects:
Richie McCaw:  IRB Player of the Year
Brian O'Driscoll:  The man who should have been the IRB Player of the Year (in my humble opinion!)
Fourie Du Preez:  South Africa's excellent scrum-half, and another serious contender for player of the year.
Jonny Wilkinson:  Who reignited his career in Toulon and became the top points scorer in the Top 14.

And the winner is, somewhat unsurprisingly, Brian O'Driscoll, for leading the Irish team to their first Grand Slam in sixty-one years, being an instrumental cog in the Leinster team that lifted the Heineken Cup, and for forming half of the best centre partnership in the world (alongside Jamie Roberts) during the Lions tour this summer.  Well deserved Brian.

BOD is still God.

In conclusion, 2009 has been an action packed year.  Yes there was plenty of scandal, the IRB did their best to confuse matters with their experimental laws and new rules at the breakdown, and lots has been said about rugby for all the wrong reasons.  However there was also plenty to cheer about:  there have been some brilliant games which have defied the focus on ping-pong aerial rugby and showed real attacking flair; the 2009 pride of Lions put real passion back into the red jersey under Ian McGeechan, and there were a few more comedic moments to brighten the scandal-tinged year.

Let's hope 2010 gives us plenty of good rugby to talk about and not so much of the pitch side politics.

With that said, please let me wish you all a very Happy New Year, and I will be back with more rugby based musings in 2010.

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