Hush those rumours which suggest Hawke's Bay Magpies rugby team captain Ash Dixon won't be returning to the Bay next season.
"Hopefully I'll be back next year so I can try for 100 games," Dixon said after he was crowned player-of-the-year at the team's end-of-season function in Napier last night.
The 29-year-old Maori All Black captain and hooker finished the season on 82 first-class appearances for the Magpies which means he will not only have to play next year but in 2019 also to reach the ton.
"I played with Chris Eaton who was the last Magpie to reach 100 games and also with Karl Lowe who was the player before him. They were great guys not just on the field but off it as well ... I would love to try and match their feats."
Dixon, who played 22 first-class games for Auckland earlier in his career, admitted his first player-of-the-year award was an unexpected surprise for him.
"There were a couple of guys like Richard Buckman, Tony Lamborn and Jason Long who played really well towards the end of the year who I thought might have got it. I was really humbled to receive the award on behalf of those guys."
"This was the first season I didn't have a lot of injuries like in the past so I could play a lot more minutes and with Mark Abbott gone I had to take on a much bigger workload. If Michael Allardice and Geoff Cridge hadn't been injured so often they would have been able to too but in their absence I took it on myself to increase my workload," Dixon explained.
Dixon was forced from the field with an injury during the 53-10 loss to Canterbury and the two games he missed, a 40-27 loss to Wellington and 64-21 loss to Otago, were among the Magpies' worst.
His next goal is to make the Maori All Black team's end-of-year tour.
"It's looking pretty exciting for the team with new coach Clayton McMillan at the helm. I haven't had any talks with him yet but if I manage to be named captain again I will put my best foot forward."
With no Mitre 10 Cup semifinal for the second consecutive season Dixon is looking forward to some rest and recreation this weekend.
"I think the sea will be pretty flat this weekend so we will hit the water for a bit of diving and fishing," he added before he was smothered in congratulatory handshakes.
Dixon had earlier won the best forward award ahead of fellow finalists, prop Long and loosie Marino Mikaele-Tu'u. His Highlanders teammate, utility back Buckman, won the best back award ahead of new Hurricane Ihaia West and Cardiff Vaega.
Former Hurricanes, Southland Stags and Counties-Manukau Steelers midfield back Vaega, a son of former Magpie To'o Vaega, captured the rookie of the year award ahead of fellow finalists, new Waratahs lock Nick Palmer and world championship-winning Baby Blacks prop Pouri Rakete-Stones. Vaega finished the season well when played on the right wing after being guilty of missing too many tackles when playing in the midfield earlier in the campaign.
Long captured the players' player award which was voted for by the players using the 3, 2, 1 points system after each match. Long finished with seven points, Dixon six, Mikaele-Tu'u five and outside back Jonah Lowe also had five.