Each year, the Commonwealth Nations all looked toward the United Kingdom, as the New Years Honours list is released. And in 2018, the recipients include legendary players of the past and present.
Named by the New Zealand Governor General, former-All Black BG Williams (see main picture) becomes Sir Bryan Williams. That is for his services to rugby and to the community. Meanwhile the Welsh Assembly Government First Minister has judged that the Order of the British Empire (OBE) will be given to Sam Warburton.
Huge congratulations @samwarburton_ on receiving an OBE in this year's New Year's Honours list; well deserved recognition of your hard work and dedication #UpTheChurch #ProudSchool pic.twitter.com/KKMecKUKZw
— WHS Rugby Academy (@WHS_Rugby) December 30, 2017
Each man has entertained rugby fans on the field, and each has shown leadership off the field. Their deeds recognized for civic and charitable roles, as much as their standing in the community. And they carry on a tradition that goes back to the earliest days of Empire.
New Years Honours List; Sir Bryan Williams and Sam Warburton OBE
While the lists are ostensibly only used in Commonwealth nations – beside Australia, who’s awards are given on Australia Day, January 26 – the widespread popularity of the recipients endeavours are universal. The full list for the UK is available here, and the NZ list here.
While politics and civic duties are often preferred, sporting figures have and will always hold a special place. This includes both Bryan Williams and Sam Warburton. They join other leading figures, like Dame Valerie Kasanita Adams and Heather Knight OBE, and many others.
For rugby, the two New Years honours list names add to a long, and proud history. From Sir Clive Woodward to Margaret Alphonsi MBE, the sport has been a popular one with governments and with the Queen. For many years, Queen Elizabeth II was the royal patron of the England Rugby Union (replaced in 2016 by Prince Harry).
Sir Bryan Williams: Born 3 October 1950 in Auckland, New Zealand
Already awarded the MBE–Most Excellent Order of the British Empire–Bryan Williams is a leading figure in both All Blacks, and Samoan Rugby history. A brilliant winger in the 1970’s he was a game breaker, with a huge right foot step. Representing the Ponsonby Rugby Club, and Auckland Rugby province, where he has continued those roles for the majority of his life; leading to this newest honour.
He is the 8th All Black to have a knighthood bestowed on him. Williams proudly sat as the President of the New Zealand Rugby Union in 2011-12. He is also the patron of the New Zealand Rugby Foundation, which supports players who suffer injuries from the game. He heads the NZ Barbarians Club, as well as supporting MAGS (Mount Albert Grammar School) where there is a field named in his honour.
But ‘BeeGee’ Williams is also a pivotal figure for Samoan Rugby. The first Polynesian player to be heralded not only for his size, but for his ability on and off the rugby field. As player for New Zealand, he also worked closely with Manu Samoa – famously coaching the side to their success in the 1999 Rugby World Cup.
Sam Warburton: Born 5 October 1988 in Cardiff, Wales
The Wales and British and Irish Lions captain is still actively playing, and has been rewarded for his profile and his performance. Sam Warburton has shown a loyalty to his jersey; be it the Cardiff Blues or the red of Wales.
Inspirational on the field, it is the inspiration which Warburton also delivers which is as much recognized for. Diabetes UK Cymru, St Johns Ambulance service and the Helping Hands Organization; to name a few.
Warburton also fronts TACKLE, the first ever joint community rugby initiative between the four regions in Wales. TACKLE will link with education and careers partner, Careers Wales, to help disaffected young people with clear education and personal development options; helping improve self-confidence, school attainment and employability skills.
Both Warburton and Williams are recognizable. One a flanker who never gives up, and the other an athletic winger who mesmerized defences of the Springboks, home nations and the Lions. They each now hold the proud feeling of being named on the New Years Honours list, and will continue to inspire children and rugby players across the globe.
“Main photo credit”
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