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The Planet Rugby Awards

December 31
12:00 2008

image Written By : SUN FIJI SPORTSDESK. It’s that time of year again when we reward all those kind enough to have provided entertainment over the past 12 months, wittingly or not.
We hand out the prestigious gongs, a couple of bouquets for a couple of memorable plays, and also a few booby prizes for those who added some of the colour to the year on and off the pitch. So sit back, enjoy, applaud, and if you reckon we missed anybody out, do let us know!

The serious awards:
Team of the year: Tempting to say New Zealand for their rebirth after the loss of so many players, tempting also to say Wales for their Grand Slam, but the team that really wowed us here in 2008 is the New Zealand Sevens team. Records tumbled in their wake as they strolled to the IRB World Series victory last year, the reaction of the other Sevens teams this year is proof of how Gordon Tietjens’ squad has raised the bar.
Player of the Year: It’s so hard to single one out. Richie McCaw, who has once again led so inspiringly? Shane Williams, who re-wrote the Welsh record books? Mike Blair, who has led Scotland through the thinnest of times? All were IRB nominees – Williams was the IRB winner – but we’ve gone for another IRB nominee: Sergio Parisse. The Azzurri skipper has been scintillating for country, also in thin times, but backs that up by being the leading light at Stade Français as well. So much asked of him, so much delivered, a truly unique talent and work-rate combo.
Newbie of the Year: England’s new tyro Danny Care. At only 21 years old, he already looks to be ironing out the flaws at a rate of knots – playing inside Nick Evans probably helps. A decade of greatness beckons.
Try of the Year: You’ll remember some of the French tries against Ireland early in the year. You’ll remember Tonderai Chavhanga’s efforts in the Super 14. Perhaps you’ll remember one or two of Bath’s late-season efforts as they hammered Saracens last April. But none were so sudden, so desperate, so important and so individually brilliant as Enrico Januarie’s try that won South Africa their first-ever game in Dunedin. A dart, a swerve, a deft chip and chase, and a stunning swan-dive, to win the match two minutes from time. Sensational.
Match of the Year: The Top 14 Final. As this is an English-speaking website, perhaps many did not see it. But those who did will never forget the emotion, speed and attacking prowess served up by Toulouse and Clermont in Paris.
Occasion of the year: Munster are never far away from this one and scoop it once again with the internal tour match against the All Blacks. Bernard Lapasset advocated a return to internal tours shortly before it, and Thomond Park showed us why.
The lighter side:
Teflon Award for having slung mud simply fall off: An England player – whoever he was – whose team-mates stood accused of sexual assault but was himself exonerated of any allegation with the endorsement “My England man put rampant rabbits to shame” in a national newspaper.
‘Dubya’ award for peculiar soundbites: Peter de Villiers has kept us agog with his wisdom all year, including a hypothetical match on the moon. At times, lunacy.
The UK Home Office Award for leaking controversial news at inconvenient moments: The RFU have not run the tightest of ships, but the manner in which they tried to keep a lid on their obvious pursuit of Martin Johnson while Brian Ashton was still in office would have Gordon Brown’s civil servants briefly glowing with pride at merely losing the occasional memory stick.
Hollywood award for producing consistent twists in the tales – Nick Evans: At the last count, he has been responsible for five last-minute winners/equalising scores this year.
The Jonafan Woss award for a career-damaging mistimed outburst – Tom James, for his tirade to a local cub reporter about the Welsh coaching staff after only getting a couple of minutes’ game-time on tour in SA. Not been seen since (although he has been injured as well).
The Jonny Wilkinson award for bad luck with persistent, peculiar and varied injury issues – Gavin Henson. Jonny Wilkinson ran the Welshman close though.
The Mike Tyson award for lapses into psychosis – Clermont lock Jamie Cudmore. The James Haskell incident could have been left behind as an isolated six punches or so, but after the whistle, once the others had stopped the handbags, looking into Paul O’Connell’s eyes… and then watch the red mist come down and the fists go flying.
The Sarah Palin award for a distinctly vacuous lack of a coherent forward strategy – The IRB, or more specifically, the codgers tasked with giving us a new set of laws that we can all play, all at the same time.
The Lawrence Dallaglio award for prattling to the media too much – John O’Neill. On and on and on and on and…
The Vinny Jones ‘I don’t care what you earn, you’re going down’ award – Harry Ellis, who welcomed Dan Carter to European rugby with a particularly agricultural tackle.
The Carlsberg award for having probably the best draw in the world – New Zealand, who can now lose to France, yet still progress to the next round of the World Cup after being drawn in a pool together. Clever, clever.
The Eric Cartman Tantrum award – Biarritz coach Jack Isaac, shaking with rage on Sky Sports after his team failed to cope with Peter Allan’s refereeing in Gloucester.
The RFU fartiness award for self-righteousness and reliance upon higher committees – Perpignan, whose appeal against Marius Tincu’s 18-week ban for gouging went to an Olympic appeal court in France. -Planet-rugby

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