So my last blog of 2016 - Unless we get some huge news this afternoon - put me in a bit of a quandary. I usually do the 'Half Term school reports' at this time of year, however, the BBC and Jeremy Guscott have done that this year, and despite my history with it, I don't want to be accused of plagiarism and unoriginality, then I was going to write a review of the year for 2016, but Andrew Richardson eloquently summed that up a couple of weeks ago (read it here - http://www.rugbyunited.org.uk/content/2016-review-andrew-richardson) so that was that one done, so, I wanted to do something a little different (even though I have done similar before) and bring you the first ever TREV0R's (Trophy of Rugby Excellence, Valued at 0 Really. God, that took some thought power!)
The council of Rugby awesomeness (namely myself and my beautiful sidekick, Dizzdog) have come up with the categories and the winners, some will be serious categories and some a little more whimsical (blame the dog, she thinks she's a comedian) but hopefully they can keep you entertained!
The first ever Trev0r award will go to -
The redemption award! - For the player or team that showed a return to form after all seemed in a downward spiral
and the winner is......
Chris Robshaw - Harlequins and England
After the rugby world cup, all seemed bleak for Robshaw in terms of international rugby, with incoming coach Eddie Jones openly questioning his abilities and large sections of the England fanbase hoping they'd seen the last of him. However Robshaw took his opportunity with England in the 6 Nations and has now cemented himself as a key component in Englands unbeaten season with a string of sensational performances. With the pressure of captaincy taken off of him, he seems to have flourished. Long may it continue!
The second award for the season is the Playmaker Award for those visionary players who can create something out of nothing.
and the winner is.....
You want a guy who can create something from nothing, whether it's with a dummy, a kick, a pass or a body swerve, Barrett pulls the strings like a tampon thief. The 2016 world player of the year has been sensational with a range of skills thats reminiscent of King Carlos in his prime, but with an understated attitude that belies the talent he has.
The Team Performance of the year - Ireland 40 New Zealand 29
On the Fifth of November, in one of the strangest locations for Irish rugby history, Soldier Field in Chicago, Ireland started the match with an emotional tribute to Anthony Foley and ended with a first ever victory over New Zealand. Let's just break some facts down here. It was the All Blacks first defeat in 19 matches, It was the Kiwi's heaviest defeat since the 2012 loss to England and just the fifth time ever they'd conceded 40 points. The whole of the Ireland squad played a part that day, pulling together to overcome seemingly insurmountable odds (and the loss of the talismanic Sexton after taking a knock with 20 minutes to go) and it's a day that will long be remembered in the pantheon of rugby history!
This was a coin toss off a call with Italy beating South Africa, but the Boks poor form meant I had to go with the Irish win!
The Team of the year!
Tough decision to make here, so many superb performances but one team has stood out, dominating not only domestically but also conquering Europe with an expansive game that made a mockery of the 'Boring' tag so many people had labelled them with.
Yes, my team of the season is the pantomime villains from London, It's Saracens.
The coaching team at Sarries have developed a squad of real quality, plenty of homegrown talent mixed with some shrewd signings like Ellery, Figallo and Hamilton and some great talent like Bosch and Burger, it's no longer the star studded line up of days gone by where there was a team with some huge names in there, this is a squad built with purpose and direction and they have been immense this year.
The Head Coach of the year
Eddie Jones - England
He wasn't the popular choice to take over from Stuart Lancaster, but he has proved himself at every challenge so far, bringing England their first Grand Slam sinced 2003, a summer tour whitewash down under, a strong Autumn internationalseries with a squad ravaged by injury and an unbeaten 2016. His brash, often confrontational interview style has ruffled all the right feathers and he has turned a team of underacheivers into a dominant force in world rugby. At every selection, he seems to make the unpopular choice, but he has been proven right every time, drawing performances from Haskell, Robshaw et al that seemed impossible under the previous regimes and using players like May and Yarde who are oft criticised but have not looked out of place under Jones leadership.
The key words are constant improvement and belief, and if England keep following Jones mantra, how far can they go is in their own hands. Next step will be to defend the 6 nations crown, another Slam and people will be talking about Eddie as one of the greats!
Player of the season AND young player of the season. Maro Itoje.
Premiership champion, European champion, Grand Slam winner, Girls under 9 hopscotch champion, Boy Scouts hopscotch champ....seriously, there is little this man hasn't done this year. It's been a long, long time since England has produced a forward who has caught the attention of the entire world and can be considered as truly world class. He's fast, athletic, a great rugby brain and strong as an ox. We will be talking about Super Maro for many years to come. He's only 22 and that may be the scariest thing about him....
Clanger of the year
Well we've seen a few in the past few weeks, Connacht's try that shouldn't have been against Wasps, being one of the more serious clangers, but for the sake of keeping it light hearted, This award can go to JP Doyle and his card confusion! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yo2i7onmzUU (I won't mention the phantom penalty at the end of the same game......)
Referee of the year
He's just superb isn't he! Great control of the game, respected by everyone and very, very good at what he does. It's one award that really needs no explaining!
Try of the season.
I've had a great hour or so searching through and watching these, but for once, I'll agree with World Rugby and it's Jamie Heaslip of Ireland and his sensational try against Italy. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CuDlAUYqlI0 Offloads, power, pace....it really had it all! Rugby is always a joy to watch when played at pace like this, and I doubt I'll ever get bored watching this score.
Outrageous skill of the year!
Take a bow, Alan Knuckey for this piece of ridiculous skill that went viral not so long ago..... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n9HsAyRctKc To try it takes balls of steel, to pull it off and score a try from it makes it a special try worthy of an award!!!!
Campaign of the year
This is one I've only discovered recently, but the work being done by the Cudmores at @rugbysafetynet in raising awareness of concussion and head injuries is outstanding, and the clamour behind them in support of #CudmoresLaw is growing rapidly. With the current spotlight on head injury, they are providing a great service to increase knowledge in some of the grey areas surrounding the issue.
My #rugbyunited account of the year
The toughest of all categories as there are so many great accounts run by such dedicated and hard working people, and this year, I'm sharing the award between 3 accounts. @RUMunsterRugby and @RugbyIre have had a tough year, losing the fantastic Joanne Brennan who ran both amazingly well before her passing in March and also a legend for both accounts in Anthony Foley, but the accounts have continued to flourish and grow and I speak on behalf of myself, Trevor and Gemma when I say we are immensely proud of the amazing way the accounts have been run under the most difficult of circumstances!
Also to @Rugby_Global. I won't go in to details of this, but Dan has been a great contributor both on Twitter and the blog this year and myself and Trevor know it hasn't been an easy time. So a huge thank you to yourself for all you've done, It's all plain sailing now and we're delighted for you!
So that's my awards over and done with, and I know many of you out there will have your own ideas and favourites for these categories, so don't hesitate to drop me a line and tell me your favourites and why!
Have an amazing New Year, stay safe, and remember to own 2017!