Leigh Centurions star Jamie Ellis capped off a fine season by taking home an award double during the Co-operative Championships Awards Dinner, with the 21-year-old scooping both the Player of the Year and Young Player of the Year awards.
Ellis, who will be plying his trade in Super League with Hull FC next season, has impressed throughout this season for the Centurions, scoring 34 tries in all competitions and helping guide Leigh to victory in the Northern Rail Cup final.
Ellis beat off stiff competition from team-mate Chris Hill, and 2010 Player of the Year Liam Finn to clinch the top prize while the half-back edged out Halifax’s Jacob Fairbank and Batley Bulldogs star Dane Manning for the honours of Young Player of the Year.
Featherstone Rovers coach Daryl Powell received the Championship Coach of the Year award for the second year running after guiding his team to a second successive League Leader’s Shield. Powell received the award ahead of Batley Bulldog’s coach Karl Harrison and Leigh Centurions boss Ian Millward, both of whom will be leaving their current clubs to take up roles at Halifax and Castleford Tigers, respectively, next season.
Swinton Lions took home two awards in the Championship One categories, with coach Steve McCormack presented with the Co-operative Championship One Coach of the Year award and full-back Ian Mort claiming the Player of the Year prize.
Points machine Mort, who scored over 300 points during the season, edged the award ahead of stiff competition from team-mate Phil Joseph, Rochdale’s Craig Ashall and Workington Town player Darren Holt, all of whom were tied on the same number of votes in second place. McCormack earned his award ahead of Whitehaven’s David Seeds and Workington coaching duo Gary Charlton and Martin Oglanby.
The Young Player of the Year award went to Workington’s Jack Pedley, who has helped steer the Cumbrian side to third place in the league, scoring 11 tries in the process. Also on the shortlist were Karl Ashall of Swinton and Doncaster’s Kyle Kesik.
There was further recognition for Leigh with John Duffy receiving the Northern Star award for his efforts in making an outstanding contribution to the local community in 2011.
Batley Bulldogs and Gateshead Thunder were the winners in the club specific section, with the Bulldogs named Club of the Year following a successful season which saw them build on last year’s Northern Rail Cup final to finish third in this season’s table.
Gateshead were awarded the Community Programme of the Year award for their continued efforts to increase the sport’s profile in the North East. The Thunder have undertaken some groundbreaking work with the deaf community in 2011 and their continued efforts have seen the amount of club rugby league teams double in the last two years in the region.
Female referee Sarah Bennison received the Neil Whittaker Award for Match Official Achiever of the Year in recognition of an historic season. Bennison made headlines by becoming the first female referee ever to referee a men’s international, Norway versus Germany, in the Rugby League European Federation Shield in July, just days after she became the first female to referee a fixture in the professional game.
Bennison was not the only referee to receive an award with Matthew Thomason, who refereed this season’s Northern Rail Cup final between Leigh and Halifax, receiving the Co-operative Championships Referee of the Year award.
In the Co-operative Rugby League Conference National, Huddersfield Underbank Rangers coach Richard Knight received the Coach of the Year award after leading his club to their first ever League Leader’s Shield while Martyn Smith of Hemel Stags was rewarded for an outstanding season by winning the Young Player of the Year award.
Dewsbury Celtic’s Alex Walmsley was awarded the Player of the Year title in the Conference National after a stellar year with the Yorkshire club which has seen him reject several offers to turn professional.
The Co-operative Championships awards are voted for by all the head coaches in the two respective competitions – with each coach submitting three nominations from outside their own club for each category. Their first nomination gains three points, the second two, and the final one a single point. The winners are those that collect the most points.
2011 Co-operative Championships Award Winners
Championship Player of the Year: Jamie Ellis (Leigh)
Championship Young Player of the Year: Jamie Ellis (Leigh)
Championship Coach of the Year: Daryl Powell (Featherstone)
Championship One Player of the Year: Ian Mort (Swinton)
Championship One Young Player of the Year: Jack Pedley (Workington)
Championship One Coach of the Year: Steve McCormack (Swinton)
Conference National Player of the Year: Alex Walmsley (Dewsbury Celtic)
Conference National Young Player of the Year: Martyn Smith (Hemel Stags)
Conference National Coach of the Year: Richard Knight (Huddersfield Underbank Rangers)
Northern Star winner: John Duffy (Leigh)
Neil Whittaker Award: Sarah Bennison
Referee of the Year: Matthew Thomason
Club of the Year: Batley Bulldogs
Community Programme of the Year: Gateshead Thunder