Monday, 22 December 2008

Best and worst of rugby in 2009

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).

Best player
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.

Best coach
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
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.

Unsung hero
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.

Forgotten man
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?

Best referee
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


Naly D said...

I think Gatland should get best cosh just for beating a very, very strong Australia.

I think your mystery question can be answered by the fact that the NZRU has to keep paying for their S14 and Air New Zealand Cup teams. And all the player contracts.

Naly D said...

Yes, best cosh.

Nursedude said...

Ferdy, a lot to chew on here, as always.

I agree about Nigel Owen. I think he calls a great game. To be "Out" in any professional sport takes more than a little courage. I am hoping to see if I can get my hands on his new book through here in the states.

Lee Byrne was really impressive for Wales, wasn't he?

It will be interesting to see how the financial crisis hitting so many places in the world ends up affecting the recruitment of Tri Nations players to English and French clubs. I still keep hoping that more euro players will do like Freddie Michalak of France, and try to play in the southern hemisphere, like he did for the Natal Sharks last year.(and was a key guy helping them to a Currie Cup win)

Nursedude said...

PS-Gatland and Deans both did amazing jobs rebuilding Wales and Australia after disappointing campaigns in the 2007 RWC.

Thomas Rooney said...

Excellent article. Really enjoyed it.

Great site you have here by the way, would you be able to drop me an email when you get the chance? Would be much appreciated.



Total Flanker said...

Nice one Ferdy - and thanks for the shout out!