Sunday, 9 May 2010

VOTE NOW! Guinness Premiership Player of the Season

The Guinness Premiership season has all but finished, and with only the title deciding playoff games to go it's time to see which players have made the biggest impact.

Leicester host Bath and Saracens travel to Northampton in the semi-finals after a thrilling final round.

And it's no coincidence that these teams feature some of the most outstanding players to grace the league this campaign.

But who is your player of the season?

Here is the cream of the crop.  Well, in my opinion anyway...

Schalk Brits (Saracens)
Everything the Sarries hooker touched turned to gold this season.  Pacey, powerful and with a step that would make Yannick Jauzion jealous: Brits has it all.  OK, so his line out throwing has been a little hit and miss, but when he starts running with ball in hand he rips defences apart.  This has been his first season in the Guinness Premiership and arguably Brits has made the biggest impact of any player.  With only three South Africa caps to his name it is unbelievable to think he won't add to this tally in next year's World Cup.  Second only behind full back Alex Goode in the number of metres he has made at Sarries, 28-year old Brits is also in the club's top three for carries and tackles. 

Brendan Venter, Saracens coach, said: "Brits is a special player, who does things that can't be coached. He's so talented with the ball in hand - but then you look at his stats and see how many tackles he makes. He has to go to the World Cup."

Olly Barkley (Bath)
Centre Barkley returned to Bath after a brief sojourn at rivals Gloucester, only to miss Bath's difficult first half of the season with a broken leg.  Steve Meehan's team were battling the fallout from the drug scandal that rocked the club, and at the half way point in the season they had plummeted to the foot of the table.  But the return of Barkley and fly-half Butch James inspired Bath to an amazing run of 11 wins from 12 to secure a semi-final spot.  In this time, 28-year old Barkley has been sublime.  His passing, breaks, kicking game and points from the boot has been at the heart of Bath's success.  Surely he must be very close to grabbing a ticket to Australia for England's summer tour?

Steve Meehan, Bath coach, said: "He would be a certainty for the tour if I was on England's selection committee.  I think the 12 months he had away from here has done him a hell of a lot of good. He feels that he has nothing to prove to anybody, and his rugby is showing that."

Phil Dowson (Northampton)
Flanker and Saints vice-captain Dowson is undoubtedly one of the first names Northampton coach Jim Mallinder writes on his team sheet.  The Franklins Gardens' favourite has been a force to be reckoned with this season.  A powerful player with an incredible work rate, Dowson does so much excellent work that often goes unnoticed.  Well, not when he is thundering over the try-line as he often has this season.  The 28-year old's leadership qualities along with his excellent rugby skills must be making Lewis Moody sweat for his England starting place.  Martin Johnson has to pick Dowson to go to Australia next month.

The ever modest Dowson said: "It's probably not suitable to target the England tour but rather make sure that I'm playing well and I'm sorting out the roles that I'm doing with the coaches,"

"If [Saxons coach] Stuart Lancaster or [England forwards coach] John Wells gave me a call I'd be keen as mustard to go along. At the moment I'm concentrating on getting the best out of myself for the Saints."

And that is why everyone at Franklins Gardens loves him.

Chris Ashton (Northampton)
Rugby league convert Chris Ashton has enjoyed unbelievable success this season.  The 23-year old wing from Wigan, Lancashire, has crossed the whitewash 16 times in the league and is the top try scorer.  Electric pace combined with the strength and power of a back-row forward has seen Ashton destroy defences and link up with Saints full-back Ben Foden to devastating effect.  A well deserved call up to England for the final Six Nations game against France saw Ashton kick "that chip" - a move which squandered a try scoring chance the talented winger would have snapped up without second thought for his club.  That one blemish aside, Ashton is the future of England speedsters, and a strong contender for player of the season.

Jim Mallinder, Northampton Saints coach said: "His try-scoring has been remarkable, but it’s his general play and understanding of where to turn up that has really improved.

“He understands the game and where the weak points of defences are.  He is a natural try-scorer”

Soane Tonga'uiha (Northampton)
Prop Tonga'uiha spent a few weeks of the season entangled in a Saints v Saracens tug of war after confusing contract negotiations.  However that was all agreed amicably, with Saints securing the 28-year old Tongan's services for next season.  The battle for his signature is understandable: "Tiny" has been a huge force in Northampton's front row and is the form loosehead in the league.  The sight of the massive forward steaming up the field has become a recurring sight - Tonga'uiha is tenth in the list of top carriers.  Not bad for a front row, who also picked up man of the match awards in the LV= Cup semi-final and final.

But what do the fans say about the man?

"He has just been unstoppable"

"Who can forget the break through & dash in the LV= final?"
"Has been outstanding this season, especially in the LV= Cup Final."
"An amazing player, a truly nice guy and a fans favourite."
"Man mountain demolishes almost everything in his path."
"His displays in the semi final and final were awesome."
"Fabulous performance after fabulous performance."

Hendre Fourie (Leeds Carnegie)
Last but by no means least is Leeds flanker Hendre Fourie.  Fourie has been the stand out player for relegation battlers Carnegie, and despite playing for a so-called "unfashionable" club, the 30-year old back row forward forced his way into the England squad for the Six Nations.  The Leeds number seven qualifies for England due to residency, and has been tipped to play for England by his coach, Neil Back.  Always snapping around the fringes of the breakdown, Fourie is a fierce tackler - topping the Opta stats for his club - as well as being a powerful ball carrier.  "Shrek" is a firm favourite of the Headingley Carnegie faithful and will always be the first name on the team sheet if he is fit.

Neil Back, Leeds head coach, said: "I believe Hendre will go with the full England squad to Australia,"

"He is now maximising his potential and on the back of that he is now, for me, the outstanding number seven in the Premiership.

"Because of that he has now played for the Saxons and been involved in full England training. I believe he will now go on the summer tour and go on from there with England."

So who is your Guinness Premiership player of the season?

Vote now in the poll, which you can find on the sidebar.  >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>


  1. What you didn't chisel Chunk into that list? Out of that lot Dowse!

  2. No Mally, I think it would have been taking favouritism a step too far to include Mr Truffle Shuffle as a contender!

    I think it should be Brits. Awesome player. Although Dowson is equally awesome and only 0.1mm behind Schalk. Why Dowson won't be on the plane to Australia next month I do not know!