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Captain fantastic Sarah Hirini collects hat-trick of NZ Rugby awards

By Online Editors
(Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

Black Ferns Sevens captain Sarah Hirini has collected three major prizes at the 2021 ASB New Zealand Rugby Awards, including the supreme Kelvin R. Tremain Memorial Player of the Year.


Due to COVID-19 restrictions, this year’s awards were once again presented in a made-for-TV special on Sky, with awards presented to New Zealand’s leading players, coaches, administrators, and referees.

As well as being recognised as New Zealand’s outstanding overall player in 2021, Hirini (Ng?ti Kahungunu) was also named as the Black Ferns Sevens Player of the Year and became a two-time winner of the Tom French Memorial M?ori Player of the Year award.

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The panel of Ross Karl, Bryn Hall and James Parsons run their eyes over all the developments from the past week of rugby.

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The panel of Ross Karl, Bryn Hall and James Parsons run their eyes over all the developments from the past week of rugby.

The Manawat? loose forward’s individual brilliance was there for all to see as she led her team to Olympic gold in Tokyo, but her teammates and coaches were not forgotten. The Black Ferns Sevens were recognised as the Adidas New Zealand Team of the Year for the fourth year running, and co-coaches Cory Sweeney and Allan Bunting were jointly named as the ASB New Zealand Coach of the Year, for the third year in a row.

To cap off an evening where women’s rugby shone brightly, Anna Richards, one of the true legends of women’s rugby, became the first female recipient of the prestigious Steinlager Salver, an honour reserved for individuals who have made a lasting impact on the development and ongoing success of rugby in New Zealand.

Richards, an inductee to World Rugby’s Hall of Fame, has been making an impact since making her Black Ferns debut in 1990, going on to play 54 games, including 49 Tests, and winning four Rugby World Cups. She was also a member of the Auckland Storm side that went undefeated from 1994 through to 2005.

Made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2005 (MNZM), Richards’ contribution has continued well past her playing days as a coach, development manager, volunteer and mentor.


Ardie Savea was named All Blacks Player of the Year, setting a trend for loose forwards, with Kennedy Simon winning Black Ferns Player of the Year, and Scott Curry taking home the All Blacks Sevens Player of the Year award.

The Crusaders headed off the Waikato NPC team, Waikato FPC team, and South Canterbury to win the hotly-contested adidas National Team of the Year Award, after winning the Sky Super Rugby Aotearoa title and then going unbeaten through the Sky Super Rugby Trans-Tasman competition. Crusaders first five Richie Mo’unga was rewarded as the Sky Super Rugby Player of the Year.

Waikato’s Ross Filipo took out ASB National Coach of the Year, after guiding the Mooloos to the Bunnings Warehouse NPC Premiership title in the union’s centenary year. Taranaki first-five Stephen Perofeta won the Duane Monkley Medal as the NPC’s best player, after guiding his team to an undefeated season in the Championship, while Taranaki teammate and new All Black Josh Lord was named New Zealand Rugby Age Grade Player of the Year.

Northland Kauri captain and prop Krystal Murray won the Fiao’o Faamausili Medal to be recognised as the Bunnings Warehouse Farah Palmer Cup’s Player of the Year, while South Canterbury’s Willie Wright was judged to be the Bunnings Warehouse Heartland Championship’s best player.


Former Black Fern Melodie Robinson received the Kirk Award, awarded by the New Zealand Rugby Players’ Association for outstanding contribution on behalf of professional players both on and off the field.

Auckland’s Ben O’Keefe is the 2021 New Zealand Rugby Referee of the Year, while Peter Chaplin, a former prop turned administrator for High School Old Boys’ Rugby Club in Canterbury, was recognised with the Charles Monro Rugby Volunteer of the Year award.

The Sky Fans Try of the Year, decided by public vote, went to Tasman and All Blacks wing Sevu Reece who handled the ball three times during a breathtaking counter- attack try against Wales at Millennium Stadium during the Tudor Northern Tour.

2021 ASB Rugby Awards (winners in bold)

New Zealand Rugby Referee of the Year:
James Doleman (Otago)
Ben O’Keeffe (Auckland)
Tiana Ngawati (Bay of Plenty)

Charles Monro Rugby Volunteer of the Year:
Paul Batters (Counties Manukau)
Peter Chaplin (Canterbury)
Greg Heller (Otago)

Steinlager Salver:
Anna Richards (Auckland)

NZRPA Kirk Award
Melodie Robinson (Auckland)

New Zealand Rugby Age Grade Player of the Year:
Chay Fihaki (Canterbury)
Josh Lord (Taranaki)
Soane Vikena (Auckland)

Bunnings Warehouse Heartland Championship Player of the Year:
Hone Haerewa (Ng?ti Porou East Coast)
Willie Wright (South Canterbury)            
Stefan Destounis (Poverty Bay)                                                              

Duane Monkley Medal:              
Lincoln McClutchie (Hawke’s Bay)
Stephen Perofeta (Taranaki)      
Luke Romano (Canterbury)

Fiao’o Faamausili Medal:           
Grace Houpapa-Barrett (Waikato)
Krystal Murray (Northland)        
Joanah Ngan-Woo (Wellington)

ASB National Coach of the Year:
Neil Barnes (Taranaki NPC)
Ross Filipo (Waikato NPC)
Scott Robertson (Crusaders)
James Semple (Waikato FPC)                          

Sky Super Rugby Player of the Year:
Richie Mo’unga (Canterbury)
Dalton Papalii (Counties Manukau)
Aaron Smith (Manawat?)

Tom French Memorial M?ori Player of the Year:
Ash Dixon (Hawke’s Bay)
Sarah Hirini (Manawat?)            
Aaron Smith (Manawat?)

Richard Crawshaw Memorial All Blacks Sevens Player of the Year:
Scott Curry (Bay of Plenty)          
Andrew Knewstubb (Tasman)
Ngarohi McGarvey-Black (Ng?ti Porou East Coast)

Black Ferns Sevens Player of the Year:
Gayle Broughton (Taranaki)
Sarah Hirini (Manawat?)            
Tyla Nathan-Wong (Northland)

Black Ferns Player of the Year
Les Elder (Bay of Plenty)
Kennedy Simon (Waikato)          
Liana Mikaele-Tu’u (Auckland)

All Blacks Player of the Year:
Jordie Barrett (Taranaki)
Rieko Ioane (Auckland)
Will Jordan (Tasman)
Ardie Savea (Wellington)

adidas National Team of the Year:
South Canterbury
Waikato FPC
Waikato NPC

Kelvin R Tremain Memorial Player of the Year:
Sarah Hirini (Manawat?)


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finn 6 hours ago
Mick Cleary: 'England fans are entitled to be grumpy and weary'

“no stand-out talent that would trouble the selectors of a world XV. Until that status changes, then they will be confined to this mid-table (at best) mediocrity.” I really think this is nonsense analysis. Finn Russell isn’t better than George Ford. Jamie George is the third best hooker in the world after Marx and Sheehan. Ben Earl would probably start for any team in the world bar Ireland, and the same goes for Ollie Lawrence when he’s in form. The problem England have is (1) people hate their style of play, so will always overlook players like Ford and George when comparing them with more flashy alternatives; (2) that people expect England to be one of the best teams in the world, so when they fall short it is held against them. Finn Russell has far more poor games than George Ford, but because Scotland aren’t expected to be consistently winning trophies it isn’t a scandal when he does play badly. Conversely if Ben Earl was playing for scotland, or wales, or italy, everyone would be blown away by his performances, but because he’s only playing slightly better than we expect english back row players to play then he’s not given the plaudits he arguably deserves. I say “arguably” because ultimately I don’t think it matters whether we value individual players accurately or not. I’m not aggrieved that english players don’t get selected in world XVs, I just don’t think its a good explanation of a nation’s performances!

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