The end of year rugby awards have been rolled out by the Guardian and I thought I would add my two pence worth too with a very strong New Zealand bias (of course).
Guardian: Shane Williams (Wales). Harsh on Richie McCaw and Dan Carter but Williams deserves recognition for proving conclusively that height and weight are not the sole measure of a rugby player's worth.
ruggerblogger: Absolutely Richie McCaw.
Guardian: Robbie Deans (Australia). Warren Gatland, Graham Henry and London Irish's Toby Booth were all in the frame but the post-World Cup improvement of the Wallabies has been a credit to Dean's tactical acumen.
ruggerblogger: Warren Gatland for reviving Wales after their simpering exit from the World Cup in 2007.
Best young player
Guardian: Luke Fitzgerald (Ireland). Even in a losing Leinster side at Castres on Friday night he showed class, skill, composure and fortitude. I'd ink him into my British and Irish Lions squad now.
ruggerblogger: Welsh fullback Lee Byrne. That guy looks slippery and dangerous.
Best match atmosphere
Guardian: Guinness Premiership final, Wasps v Leicester, Twickenham. A world-record crowd for a club match and a significant milestone in the history of the professional game in Britain.
ruggerblogger: Well of course, it was the New Plymouth test match for the All Blacks V Samoa. Although the crowds at Croke and Munster for the All Blacks grand slam were even better.
Quote of the year
Guardian: "My England man put rampant rabbits to shame" — Angel Barbie gives the lowdown on England's ill-fated "Pony Club" visit in Auckland.
ruggerblogger: “I second my fellow Kiwis who advise that most of New Zealand regard the NZRFU as a conga line of bumbling **: a motley collection of provincial oxen, who glower at the world from a thicket of cauliflower ears, protruding foreheads, homespun jumpers, and dark mutterings about bloody PC gone mad, the rest a pack of failed businessmen, opportunists, and strategically shaved chimpanzees, conspiring to reduce the All Blacks to a 'Brand', and sold like a Big Mac Happy Meal.” – BBC message board - bjammin187
The Oliver Postgate memorial award for biggest clanger
Guardian: The manner of Brian Ashton's removal as England head coach did the Rugby Football Union absolutely no credit.
ruggerblogger: The Auckland Four and their mishaps.
Guardian: Step forward Al Baxter, the much-maligned Wallaby prop. He deserved his sweet moment of revenge against England at Twickenham.
ruggerblogger: Richie McCaw. Ok, ok, he's not unsung. But captaining an All Black team to a 19 - 0 win over South Africa in South Africa, completing another grand slam tour in the UK and Ireland where all the Northern teams remained tryless, a hard fought Bledisloe win, Captain of the winning Crusaders in the Super 14, leaderhip and influence, not to mention picking yourself up after the humiliation of 2007. What more did he have to do to get IRB player of the year?
Ugliest aspect of modern rugby
Guardian: Tediously protracted bouts of aerial ping-pong between two mediocre kickers.
ruggerblogger: The greedy British and French clubs. Too much money and not enough skill, still.
Best overseas signing
Guardian: Still early days but Quins' purchase of Nick Evans looks a better bet than, say, Newcastle's investment in Carl Hayman.
ruggerblogger: I always said we’d miss Nick Evans. Carl Hayman just needs to come back home.
Guardian: Phil Christophers (Castres). Feels a long time ago since he played for England, doesn't it?
Forgotten man: Andrew Sheridan. He was once the great white hope. What happened to him this year?
Guardian: Nigel Owens (Wales). By his own admission it can be tough being a referee, let alone an openly gay one. Deserves respect for his honesty and, more often than not, his officiating as well.
ruggerblogger: Jonathan Kaplan (South Africa). Let’s the game flow and doesn’t get too whistle happy.
Media man of the year
Guardian: Alastair Hignell, who hung up his microphone in May. An inspiration to his many friends and still toasted — often repeatedly — around the hotel bars of the world.
ruggerblogger: Why does it have to be a man?
And one of my own:
Biggest mystery: Why - if the All Blacks are the biggest money spinners when it comes to rugby - does the NZRFU not have any money?
Check out Total Flanker for his best of 2009 awards