Big week in New Zealand Rugby; new head coach and ASB Rugby Awards

Big week in New Zealand Rugby; new head coach and ASB Rugby Awards
AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - DECEMBER 12: The All Blacks Player of the Year is Ardie Savea (Hurricanes) received on behalf by Ian Foster from Sir Michael Jones during the New Zealand Rugby Awards at the Sky City Convention Centre on December 12, 2019 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Dave Rowland/Getty Images)

As the details emerge, it has been a big week in New Zealand Rugby; there has been the announcement of a new head coach and the 2019 ASB Rugby Awards.

Over the course of three days, the speculation over which man would helm the All Blacks direction over the next two years was finally decided. The call for continuity was made, as assistant coach Ian Foster was awarded a fresh tenure.

He overcame the challenge from three-time Super Rugby head coach Scott ‘Razor’ Robertson, and it was both a nod to the years of service from Foster but also for the (soon to be announced) coaching team he will surround himself with.

“I’m incredibly proud of what we have achieved in the All Blacks over the last eight years and I’m excited and energized by a new coaching team who will join me,” Foster told media.

And within a couple of days, the large group of stakeholders and nominated players, coaches, and volunteers, assembled in Auckland for the ASB Rugby Awards. A night to showcase talent from age-grade, rugby sevens, domestic, International and across the rugby-landscape.

Big week in NZ Rugby; new head coach and ASB Rugby Awards

Reflecting back on the successes of the last 12 months, there was plenty to shine a light on. Not discounting a third-place at the Rugby World Cup, the amount of rugby to highlight was a tribute to the variety and breadth of the country. Minus the Webb Ellis Cup, there was still plenty to celebrate.

The supreme award of the night, the Kelvin R Tremaine Memorial Trophy was won by Ardie Savea. The barnstorming flanker took out Super Rugby, All Blacks player of the Year awards and was acknowledged as reaching a peak of performance over the full season.

New Zealand Rugby (NZR) covers all divisions, unions/regions and includes Super Rugby. That is the ‘store front’ beside the All Blacks, but when the women’s Black Ferns and Sevens team’s are included, success has been inherent.

In 2019, that side was worthy World Champion’s status. But the big award for International team of the Year would go to the World Series-winning ‘sevens sisters’ Black Ferns 7s.

Across the two codes, over the two Islands and with respect to volunteers and to the people that have contributed to the game, it was an evening to think about the past, present and future.

2019 ASB Rugby Awards accolades:

Sky Television Fan’s Try of the Year
•    TJ Perenara (accepted by Brad Weber)

New Zealand Rugby Referee of the Year
•    Paul Williams (Taranaki)

Charles Monro Rugby Volunteer of the Year
•    Ian Spraggon (Bay of Plenty)

Kirk Award – contribution to Rugby Award
•    Josh Blackie, Hale T-Pole, Seilala Mapusua

New Zealand Rugby Age Grade Player of the Year
•    Fletcher Newell (Canterbury)

Mitre 10 Heartland Championship Player of the Year
•    Josh Clark (North Otago)

Duane Monkley Medal
•    Chase Tiatia (Bay of Plenty)

ASB National Coach of the Year
•    Scott Robertson (Crusaders)

ASB New Zealand Coach of the Year
•    Cory Sweeney and Allan Bunting (Black Ferns Sevens)

Tom French Memorial Māori Player of the Year
•    Sarah Hirini (Ngāti Kahungunu)

Richard Crawshaw Memorial All Blacks Sevens Player of the Year
•    Tone Ng Shiu (Tasman)

Black Ferns Sevens Player of the Year
•    Tyla Nathan-Wong (Auckland)

Black Ferns Player of the Year
•    Charmaine McMenamin (Auckland)

All Blacks Player of the Year
•    Ardie Savea (Hurricanes)

adidas National Team of the Year
•    Crusaders (Super Rugby)

Kelvin R Tremain Memorial Player of the Year

•    Ardie Savea

_______________________________________________________________

Ian Foster chosen ahead of ‘tough opposition’

The emphasis and attention on the nomination process, and the candidates to succeed the Steve Hansen era. And that is a daunting prospect. To look to match an 86% winning ratio over the last eight seasons, but in the competition for the mantle, it came down to two names.

Ian Foster and Scott Robertson presented their cases to the NZR board on Monday, December 9. They each have strengths and were highly fancied candidates. Robertson a charismatic leader, juxtaposed the stoic rugby figure of Ian Foster, who personifies the Waikato, Mooloo character.

Tough opposition too, and with the public opinion split, calls to add ‘fresh thinking’ was a popular option. That call had merits, and in many examples across world sport, Robertson might find himself unlucky. Especially considering that he was judged as the NZR Coach of the Year.

However, when two options are available, the trusted and tried can feel like the better choice.

While better is a word that leans towards the choice, some will argue the better record was held by Robertson. Yet, with his time spent inside the organization, within the All Blacks selection group and a large part in the success over the past nine years. That experience has counted, and the presentation Foster gave will have supported his case.

New All Blacks head coach announced

Foster said he was humbled to be selected as Head Coach. “I feel truly privileged and honoured to be given this opportunity and I can’t wait to lead the team into the next chapter of what is a remarkable legacy,” he said.

“I’m incredibly proud of what we have achieved in the All Blacks and I’m excited and energized by a new coaching team who will join me”. [who will be announced in due course].

Incoming NZR CEO Mark Robinson also congratulated Foster, saying he had impressed the panel. “These are exciting times.  Ian has pulled together a very strong team and he is an outstanding person in his own right with a high-quality set of values.

“He is committed to stamping his own mark on the team and it’s clear that he and his coaching team want to bring new and fresh energy into the All Blacks environment.”

Note: Ian Foster has been contracted for two years, which is seen as both a safe period of exposure to International rugby but, as much as a term to have a measure of the outcomes against (high public) expectations.

Foster did accept an award on behalf of the big winner of the night, Ardie Savea.

In recognition of the awards handed out, it was a night that celebrated the ascension of the Hurricanes, Wellington Lions player, and New Zealand Under-20s and NZ Schools representative.

Savea was pre-empted as a breakthrough player in 2013 – and it has rung true over 2019. Very pleasing for the individual, as much as for Hurricanes fans, who knew it was a reality well before the ASB Rugby Awards. He has reshaped the modern version of a flanker, and from 2016 when his Super Rugby team won the title, rugby observers have witnessed his fearsome play develop at numbers seven and eight, to the highest levels of New Zealand rugby.

And the Black Ferns 7s too, have been given clear recognition of their credentials. Five-time HSBC Sevens Series champions, the fact they played their first-ever tournament on NZ soil in January, was a disgrace [that is only just being repaired]. The ‘Sevens Sisters’ are worthy winners of this accolade.

The evening was much more than just handing out gestures. Like all other rugby nations, it is in fact a pat on the back for every persons contribution. From the grassroots to the Stadiums, from Thames Valley to North Otago, the celebration covers all aspects and congratulates their input on the whole.

 

“Main photo credit”
Embed from Getty Images

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