NRL: Matulino wins Player of the Year

Ben Matulino arrives at the Warriors Awards dinner last night with his partner Courtney. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Ben Matulino arrives at the Warriors Awards dinner last night with his partner Courtney. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Vodafone Warriors prop Ben Matulino last night joined club greats Joe Vagana, Jerry Seuseu, Ruben Wiki and Steve Price when he became the fifth prop in the club's history to win the premier Lion Red NRL Player of the Year award.

The club's annual gala dinner was held at the SkyCity Convention Centre in front of almost 700 guests, among them co-owner Owen Glenn.

A multiple winner of the players' player of the day accolade, Matulino (23) was clearly the team's most outstanding player during the season, finishing well clear of the other nominees, hooker Nathan Friend, rookie centre-back rower Ben Henry, captain Simon Mannering and back rower Feleti Mateo.

The Wellingtonian, who was one the highest scoring props in the 2012 Dally M Awards, created NRL history this year when he became the first NYC graduate from the 16 clubs to make 100 first-grade appearances.

With his mix of brutal front-on defence and a high work-rate, Matulino impressed peers and experts as one of the game's best front rowers.

"It's a great honour to receive this award,'' he said tonight.

"So many great players have won it before me. It's humbling knowing I've joined them in being named the player of the year.

"I just want to thank all my team-mates and the coaching staff for the support and help they've given me throughout the season.

"It's a great club to be a part of and I can't see myself playing anywhere else.''

Matulino made his 100th appearance against Cronulla at Toyota Stadium, having also made his NRL debut against the same opponent at the same venue in 2008 after starting the year as a foundation player in the Vodafone Junior Warriors.

Remarkably durable, he came close to playing three seasons without missing a game only to be side-lined for the round 23 and 24 matches against North Queensland and Penrith. It ended a sequence of 73 consecutive appearances since the start of the 2010 NRL season.

He finished the season with most average runs per game (13.8) ahead of Mateo (13) and Vatuvei (12); most metres (2784) ahead of Mateo (2418), Bill Tupou (2290) and Vatuvei (2278); most average metres per game (126.5) ahead of Vatuvei (113.9), Konrad Hurrell (111.2) and Mateo (100.8); and he was just edged for most runs by Mateo (311) to his 303, Mateo having played all 24 matches.

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