‘Super’ Sam Whitelock takes the Supreme Award in NZ Rugby

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AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - DECEMBER 14: Sam Whitelock (L) wins the Investec Super Rugby Player of the Year presented by Ian Foster (R) during the ASB Rugby Awards 2018 at Sky City on December 14, 2017 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Fiona Goodall/Getty Images for NZR)

At the 2017 ASB New Zealand Rugby Awards, there were many winners. But it was Super Sam Whitelock who took the Supreme Award in NZ Rugby.

Claiming the Kel Tremaine Memorial Award, Sam Whitelock added that to his Investec Super Rugby player of the Year award, to cap a fantastic 12 months. Over that time, the lock forward has shown a leadership quality, and a consistency which has him comparable to many of the finest in the game.

Sporting a slightly different look from the usual ‘on-field version’ of Whitelock. This was after a wonderful piece of charity recently. Shaving his head and beard – which he had been displaying for recent years – to raise money for former All Blacks logistics manager Kevin ‘Chalky’ Carr. That philanthropy is another example of the player growing as a better person, on and off the field.

See the results for the 2017 ASB New Zealand Rugby Awards here:

In 2017, he displayed an authority that rightly earned him the Supreme Award in New Zealand Rugby. Former winners of this award include Beauden Barrett, Kieran Read, Dan Carter and Richie McCaw.

And the company that Whitelock now finds himself in, shows how the 29 year old has developed into not only a formidable member of the team, but Sam Whitelock is extremely influential along with his regular locking partner Brodie Retallick, are worth points on the board with his mere inspired performances on the park.

Player Achievements in 2017

All Blacks ‘tough man’ and key ball winner, the Crusaders captain Sam Whitelock collected the supreme award as well as being commended on a tremendous Super Rugby campaign.

The most capped All Black lock of all time [96] was consistently dominant in 2017 and continued to be a key member of the All Blacks. As well as leading the Crusaders, he regularly topped the KPI figures: tackles made, lineout wins and lineouts stolen off opposition ball. He was also found often midfield and shows a distribution quality not seen since the days of [late] Sir Colin Meads.

While the team achievements have been of a high percentage, it matched the high work rate and commitment shown by the New Zealand Schools and NZ Under 19 and Under 20 player, two-time Rugby World Cup winner and now a Super Rugby winning captain.

Super Sam Whitelock takes the Supreme Award in NZ Rugby

When captaining the All Blacks in the final test of 2017, it might well be a glimpse of his role in the next few seasons. Those attributes mean that he was voted ahead of the World Rugby ‘Breakout player of the year’ and Sarah Goss. She in fact is a comparable rugby player and was seen as breaking new ground, as the first woman nominated for the Kel Tremaine award.

Seen as a core-member of the team, he is selected on form primarily–which is key to modern leadership. “Follow me” is often a byword for leadership, but Sam Whitelock can add “do as I do” to his leadership kit. Stealing lineout ball is one attribute he holds, and in his enduring fitness of being an 80 minute-man.

Whitelock’s term as the Crusaders leader was also a tip to his importance in the red and black. New head coach Scott Robertson not only saw Whitelock as his captain, but as a crucial player. His locking partnerships with Scott Barrett and Luke Romano would carry through to the All Blacks-level.

Whitelock Joined by Brother Luke in All Blacks

The New Zealand team is a high performing environment–where Sam Whitelock is a standard bearer–so for the Manawatu family, the ultimate compliment was made in 2017. After George played his only test in 2009, before the youngest brother Luke was handed an opportunity in 2017.

Having captained the Barbarians v New Zealand, he was then involved in the All Blacks midweek game v a French XV Selection. That non-test game would have been a proud moment, but the honours continued for Luke in the final test.

With Sam assuming the captaincy, due to Kieran Read being bed-ridden with a back complaint, Luke Whitelock would be called into the run-on team to play Wales. His second test (after a debut in 2013) the family were blessed to have two All Blacks on the field together.

New Zealand’s number 8 Luke Whitelock (L) hands off Wales’ prop Rob Evans (R) during the Wales v New Zealand test match. (Photo credit GEOFF CADDICK/AFP/Getty Images)

Moments like these are common within New Zealand rugby, with the Savea and Barrett brothers recently playing in tests, so the Whitelock name is now more enamoured with respect in the NZ game.

Recent news of back surgery to Kieran Read might well see the leadership role of Sam Whitelock continued, as well as the presence of Luke in the All Blacks 2018 group.

Sam Whitelock Can Target 2018 Super Rugby & 2019 Rugby World Cup

As goal setting approaches with the New Year, Whitelock may well sit back on the beaches of Canterbury and think about steps he wants to make. The 2018 Super Rugby season is about reinforcing the Crusaders strength. Eight-time champions, they can continue that elite level again, with the core side they have.

Looking further down the road, the All Blacks will play a test in Japan in November 2018. That is a ‘practice run’ in preparations and familiarity with the home conditions of the upcoming 2019 Rugby World Cup. That is in the back of players minds, and a capable player like Sam Whitelock is one who will perform from when he returns to Super Rugby [after his All Blacks rest period ends] and meet his high standards – while realizing their is a potential third World Cup to be challenged for.

Knowing the players abilities, he will likely begin the Super Rugby season at the same level as he will end that year. A ‘superman’ on and off the field, and one more and more people are admiring as a leader within New Zealand Rugby.

 

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