Thanks for joining me for the first PARKY awards here on Loverugbyleague.com. Sadly despite the promising picture I couldn’t promise the company of Michelle Keegan or a couple of big rugby players!
Hopefully I won’t bore everyone too much with my look back on the last twelve months!
Firstly let’s start with my COACH OF THE YEAR:
It would be easy to look in Super League and just give it Brian McDermott, although he did a fantastic job turning Leeds from what looked like one trick ponies half way through the season to the thoroughbreds they were in October.
The man I am choosing is Daryl Powell, Head coach of Featherstone Rovers, not only is he the top interview conducted by my Talking Points co-host Adrian Jackson, he is also boss of the most consistent side in rugby league and there is little doubting that Rovers have got better and better with next year looking like another belter for the men from the BigFellas. He has also seen Rovers bring in an under-18 side meaning that with a bit more progression to come, the club will be well placed to have a proper go at retaining their title and obtaining a Super League Licence.
On Powell, a stint working with England during the recent Four Nations will see him in good stead.
IMPROVING COACH OF THE YEAR AWARD:
Once again I could look at Super League, but I am going to cast my eye further down the professional rugby league food chain and pick out three gentlemen who will share the limelight.
Let’s start first of all with John Stankevitch of Rochdale Hornets, a rising coach and one who has a habit of turning a pig’s ear into something. John has been superb for Hornets since he walked through the door at Spotland and I know that he works so hard both on self improvement and getting the best out of his players. His Rochdale side came within ten minutes of what many pundits would have deemed an improbable Grand Final when they led against favoured Keighley only for the Cougars to find an extra burst of energy from somewhere to take the game away from the brave Hornets.
The other part of the shared award heads up the M6 and into the depths of Cumbria, moving along the coast to Derwent Park and Workington where Gary Charlton and Martin Oglanby have performed a minor miracle in recent years. The Cumbrians have sadly been on a downward spiral ever since they took part in the first Super League season in 1996 and current Warrington boss Tony Smith played a largely anonymous spell for them, but together Charlton and Oglanby have arrested the slide and there is genuine hope of Town emerging again as a Rugby League force from Cumbria, especially following the signings of Peter Lupton and rumoured arrival of Jamie Thackray. Town’s progression was further underlined by a Grand Final appearance at Warrington against Keighley but sadly for the Cumbrians, Workington froze on the day with Keighley proving much too strong.
REVOLVING DOOR AWARD:
There was some stiff competition from a number of teams for this award, after all Barrow have had another season of unrest in the coaches office but Wakefield get the award for announcing EIGHTEEN new signings and a new coach in Richard Agar for the 2012 season. One can only hope for the sake of the Wakefield fans that they are able to get themselves away from the bottom of Super League and that their plans for a new stadium finally come to fruition.
TWITTER POST OF THE YEAR:
Yes the Social networking site has a lot to answer for and this is where Keith Senior’s rant gains further recognition when in the words of the Del Amitri song, the former international centre was the “Last to know” about Crusaders withdrawing their Super League application. His frustration was evident and fully understandable.
FINAL COUNTDOWN AWARD:
Leigh Centurions get this one for their last second victory over Halifax in the Northern Rail Cup Final in July. The Centurions had always trailed in this game with Fax establishing a 10-0 half-time advantage but Leigh never gave this one up and when Martyn Ridyard feigned a kick before running and Stuart Littler held play up superbly for dual contract man Tom Armstrong to go over, there were the two contrasting sides of sport right there.
SAM TOMKINS AWARD:
Goes to Sam Tomkins, who is surely the hottest property in northern hemisphere rugby after another superb year for Wigan that included some mesmeric play and truly wonderful tries. Okay he had to endure his brushes with controversy – boo boys at Headingley, gestures at Wembley. But, Tomkins turned it in his favour in the end and was even given a run by the Rah-rahs.. Okay make that Barbarians as he crossed codes and finished a good try despite the ineptness around him. Those people that know me, know that I love my stats, well how about this one which shows Tomkins is on the cusp of something special: (Wigan record: 90 appearances, plus 6 as sub. 74 tries, 9 goals, 2 drop goals).
TRY OF THE YEAR:
Again some belters in here from the Tomkins-Tomkins double act at Wembley through to the roadrunner effort in the Super League Grand Final from Rob Burrow. My favourite however has to be Ryan Hall and any of his international finishes at the end of the year. Okay not the most spectacular or easy on the eye as an 80 metre dash but seeing Hall get his body in the most unlikely of positions to give him the best chance of touching down shows such awareness and I hope I am seeing Hall running in plenty more tries for years to come.
CAPTAIN OF THE YEAR:
A big mention to Leeds here. Their end of season charge was excellent and typified by their captain Kevin Sinfield. Sinfield divides opinions up and down the Super League like no-one else but I must admit if I won the Euro Millions and set about making a Super League dream team, he’d be in there to lead my galacticos….. Meanwhile back in the real world, Sinfield has proven himself for Leeds time and time again, nerves of steel, big game temperament, great durability and an eloquent speaker about the game, oh plus his goal-kicking accuracy. Is it obvious yet that I rate the guy? Well done Kevin on another good season.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR:
Okay I’ve mentioned Tomkins, I’ve mentioned Sinfield, but who would be my player of the year? I suppose it depends where I am looking.
In Championship One, Ian Mort was superb for Swinton. He broke their points in a season record, scored plenty of tries and goals and really got back on the horse having been released by Leigh at the end of 2010.
The Championship saw two halfbacks edge the rest for me with Liam Finn and Jamie Ellis fighting it out for top dog. Finn was magnificent for Featherstone Rovers, and a player I have always rated. He dominated the midfield for Rovers and made things much easier for the likes of Andy Kain and Jonny Hepworth, but in truth there are probably more players from Fev that deserve a mention such as warhorse Stuart Dickens for example.
Ellis has landed himself a two year Super League contract with Hull and also picked up two awards at the glitzy Co-Operative Championship night in Manchester following an ever-present campaign and 34 tries.
In Super League it would be easy to pick Rangi Chase of Castleford, after all he won the coveted Man of Steel but I reckon James Roby of St Helens is the Player of the Year. He is Mr Perpetual-Motion. Be it tackling, running, supporting, he always seems to be there. For that reason and the fact he has replaced the seemingly irreplaceable Keiron Cunningham, he gets my nod.
My final two awards are fairly tongue in cheek.
ROLLERCOASTER OF THE YEAR AWARD:
Barrow Raiders. They started with such high hopes and after a lengthy search for their new coach appointed Garry Schofield who lasted… five matches. Replacement Nigel Wright fared little better as Barrow battled inconsistency, injury and doping bans. We then saw an ugly affair played out in the media about Ned Catic leaving the club and all the while there were rumours of Salary Cap breaches. Famous steady hand Dave Clark came in for the fourth time to complete the season and having earlier been deducted six points for a salary cap anomaly, the club was then deducted the remainder of the points it had won and eccentric chairman Des Johnston was banned from being involved with a rugby league club for several years. Relegated and facing a big debt of £550,000, Barrow has now turned the corner. Although Clark has departed for South Wales, record point scorer Darren Holt is back as coach and he’s brought several players back to the club from Workington as they look to escape Championship One at the first attempt.
NONE STORY OF THE YEAR AWARD:
Widnes won this award at a canter (in addition to their place at the rugby league top table). What did they do I hear you ask, well they gave the impression there was to be a massive announcement on the coaching front in the preparation for moving into Super League. Wayne Bennett’s name had been mentioned and people from West Bank to Farnworth were giddy at the thought of the Aussie Super Coach coming in to give some of his knowledge, it was therefore a letdown when the drums rolled, the curtain fell and the “new man” was revealed to be…. Denis Betts, the current incumbent.
Hopefully next year I’ll be invited back to dish out some more of my own awards. Enjoy your 2012 wherever you are and I will see you soon.