Rugby: Coman tipped as Magpies' player of year

By Shane Hurndell

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Hawke's Bay Magpies rugby captain and No8 Mike Coman is the hot favourite for his team's player-of-the-year award which will be announced tomorrow night.

The Magpies Supporters Club player-of-the-year award will be one of four announced at an East Pier-hosted Magpies sponsors function in Napier. Although Coman missed a large chunk of the season through injury he was inspirational in the side's three ITM Cup wins against Counties-Manukau, Bay of Plenty and Otago.

His absence was particularly noticed during the Magpies final two games of the season, the Ranfurly Shield challenge against Waikato and the loss against his former province Canterbury. Should he win the award it will be the ideal form of consolation for missing out on selection in the Hurricanes Super Rugby squad last month.

However it will be a surprise if he isn't named in the Canes wider training group later this month.

If anyone was to pip Coman for the major award tomorrow night it would be Maori All Black hooker Hika Elliot. But the fact Elliot missed All Blacks selection is likely to give Coman the nod.

Best forward, best back and best team man are the other awards to be announced.

Along with Coman and Elliot prop Adrian Barone must rank as a contender for the best forward award.

In his first season with the Magpies Barone scrummaged well and impressed with his mobility, particularly when he scored a try in the loss against Southland.

There is talk Barone may score a berth in the Chiefs wider training group later this month. This would be an appropriate reward for a no-nonsense-type player who would suit the systems used by Chiefs forwards coach and former Magpies co-coach Tom Coventry.

Considering how poor the Magpies back play was throughout the season the best back award must have been tough for the judges to select.

Previous winner Andrew Horrell tried hard but like his Chiefs teammates struggled to recapture his Super Rugby form.

If Horrell was to miss out the next best candidate would be first five-eighth Dan Waenga. Like Coman, Waenga, also missed a fair chunk of the season through injury but the backline wasn't as cohesive without him.

Apart from in the Ranfurly Shield challenge loss to Taranaki Waenga's goalkicking was impressive. His defensive work was often better than some of those outside him and when he decided to attack he always broke the advantage line.

New Zealand Maori flanker Karl Lowe must be the top candidate for the best team man award. He took over as captain when Coman was injured and took on a huge workload.

Lowe, who finished the season with 91 first-class appearances for the Magpies, was inspirational in the win against Bay of Plenty when the Magpies loosies outplayed the star-studded Steamers trio. His New Zealand Maori and Hurricanes selections were appropriate rewards for his contribution to the Magpies Cup campaign.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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