Jeremy Smith’s consistent performances for his NRL team and his mana amongst his fellow Kiwis was recognised tonight when he was awarded the Steve Watene Memorial Medal as Kiwi Player of the Year at the 2012 New Zealand Rugby League awards.
Smith, a member of the Kiwis leadership group and a two time NRL premiership winner (Melbourne Storm / St George Illawara Dragons), was a member of the Kiwis successful 2008 World Cup and 2010 Four Nations campaigns, and this year helped his Cronulla Sharks team make the top eight. Smith is a highly respected member of the Kiwis squad who was missed during the October test preparations.
Smith travelled to Auckland to attend the awards and on receiving his award said “It's truly an honour to be here tonight. I don't get home to New Zealand all that often and it is an honour to be here to see all these people get their awards. I am truly grateful for receiving this award and being the first player to receive the Steve Watene Memorial Medal."
As the NZRL player pathway continues to develop, in addition to recognising the best senior domestic player, awards for the Domestic Player of the Year 16s and Domestic Player of the Year 18s were added. The nominees for these awards had all represented their Zones during the NZRL's National Competition and been selected for the NZ Residents 16s and 18s teams which were both unbeaten in Australia recently.
Manukau Rugby League Club was named winner of the Grassroots Club of the Year. The club dates back 100 years and has a proud heritage which includes players like George Nepia, Clayton Friend and Dean Bell. Recently the club has been renovated, with improvements to both the physical building and off field behaviour; the committee has been working with the Ministry of Social Development and the ‘It’s Not OK’! campaign. In 2012 the club was recognised by the Auckland Rugby League with two awards, Club of the year and Club Administrator of the year and is continuing to improve the experience of everyone who comes into contact with it.
Shane Rehm, winner of the Match Official of the Year award has regularly refereed in the Toyota Cup in 2012 and was appointed to referee the Bulldogs v Tigers (1 v 4) Toyota Cup round one finals match. Shane, who started refereeing in the Auckland competition, has been a regular in the NYC & NSW Cup since 2010. He made his debut as a first grade touch judge in June 2011 and has had regular appointments since. Shane has received two Sport NZ Prime Minister's Scholarships, in 2011 and 2012, which have enabled him to travel to Australia & officiate in matches and spend time with the NRL squad. Shane was unable to accept his award in person as he is currently in the UK where, last weekend, he refereed the match between England and France.
In a small departure from tradition, not one but two women received the Female Volunteer Recognition award, Stella Teariki of Wellington and Rawinia Mana of the Counties Manukau Zone as the judges felt both their contributions ought to be acknowledged this year.
Scott Carter, Chairman of the Rugby League International Federation also took the opportunity to present Shaun Johnson with his International Rookie of the Year award. Johnson was named earlier in the month by the RLIF.
A highlight of the evening was the acknowledgment of CEO Jim Doyle’s commitment to the game. Many of the speakers including presenters and prize winners spoke about Jim’s contribution; the introduction of the ‘More than just a game’ philosophy and how this has impacted positively on the way the organisation has developed since he took over.
2012 Award winners were:
Grassroots Club of the Year:
Manukau Rugby League Club (Counties Manukau)
Volunteer Recognition Award (Female):
Stella Teariki (Wellington) & Rawinia Mana (Counties Manukau)
Volunteer Recognition Award (Male):
John Boyd (Akarana)
Match Official of the Year:
Shane Rehm (Akarana)
Women's Player of the Year:
Honey Hireme (Waikato)
Domestic Player of the Year -
16s: Bunty Afoa (Akarana)
18s: Kouma Samson (Akarana)
Premiers: Suaia Matagi (Akarana)
Junior Player of the Year:
Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (Sydney Roosters)
Kiwi Rookie of the Year:
Ben Henry (Warriors)
Kiwi Player of the Year:
Jeremy Smith (Cronulla Sharks)