All Black star cleans up at Highlanders awards
NEWS: The annual Highlanders awards were held on Monday, at the start of the final week of the Super Rugby Aotearoa competition.
All Black scrumhalf Aaron Smith, the team’s co-captain, took away four awards – Back of the Year, Fans’ Player of the Year, Highlanders Man and a share of the grand prize – Player of the Year.
He shared the latter with co-captain Ash Dixon.
Outstanding loose forward Shannon Frizell picked up Forward of the Year and the Players’ Player awards.
Frizell has been arguably the form blindside flank of the Super Rugby competition with his trademark charging runs and brutal defence. He has crossed the chalk four times this year and played a major part in the team’s resurgence in form in the post lockdown period.
The Defender of the Year was awarded to Dillon Hunt, who has started in every game and has been a menace for opposing teams with his hard-hitting tackling. His work at the breakdown forcing turnovers has been among the very best in the competition.
All Black scrumhalf Aaron Smith picked up the Back of the Year and the Fans Player of the Year – after showing some of the best form of his long career in recent weeks.
The extra responsibility of co-captaincy has not weighed heavily on the electric scrumhalf’s shoulders with his signature bullet pass, sniping runs and boundless energy he is surely one of the best scrumhalves this country has ever produced.
A player with a lot less experience but just as much enthusiasm is Rookie of the Year, Jona Nareki. A small wing by today’s standards, his blistering pace and ability to change direction on defenders has made it a great first up year for the Otago outside back.
Connor Garden-Bachop won the Community Champ Award for his extensive work and enthusiasm across a range of community promotions.
Joint winners of the Player of the Year award were co-captains Ash Dixon and Aaron Smith who have both been in great form while steering the ship this season.
Dixon’s all-round field play and unerring line-out throwing has made him the first-choice hooker for most of the season.
The joint MVPs will both achieve milestones this weekend with Ash Dixon playing his 100th Super Rugby game and Aaron Smith playing his 150th Super Rugby Game and 150th game for the Highlanders this weekend.
The coveted Highlander Man Award went to Aaron Smith – the award that recognises a person who exhibits the character and values that the franchise aspires to.
The inspirational scrumhalf was humbled by the award which has been won by franchise stalwarts such as Nasi Manu and Ben Smith in the past and was presented to him by his great mate, Ben Smith.
The Highlanders play their last final game of the Super Rugby Aotearoa competition on Saturday night against the Hurricanes in Dunedin.
Highlanders 2020 Awards
Community Champ – Connor Garden-Bachop
Defender of the Year – Dillon Hunt
Forward of the Year – Shannon Frizell
Back of the Year – Aaron Smith
Fan Player of the Year – Aaron Smith
Rookie of the Year – Jona Nareki
Player’s Player – Shannon Frizell
Player of the Year – Ash Dixon and Aaron Smith
Highlander Man – Aaron Smith