Soccer: Smith picks up OFC title

Rebecca Smith has had her impressive efforts rewarded by being named 2011 Oceania women's footballer of the year. Photo / Getty Images.
Rebecca Smith has had her impressive efforts rewarded by being named 2011 Oceania women's footballer of the year. Photo / Getty Images.

New Zealand captain Rebecca Smith has had her impressive efforts rewarded by being named 2011 Oceania women's footballer of the year.

The defender held off the challenge of a raft of the Pacific's finest players to receive the accolade after 12 months of both personal milestones and major contributions to team success.

It is the first time Smith has received the award and her recognition retained the Kiwi stranglehold in the category since it was introduced in 2008.

The Germany-based Smith wrote herself into the folklore of the women's game in New Zealand at last year's women's World Cup in Germany, where she scored in her side's 2-2 draw with Mexico as the Football Ferns earned their first ever point at the event.

For those efforts, she was one of only two New Zealand players to be singled out as an 'outstanding player' by Fifa at the tournament - the other being fellow nominee Katie Hoyle.

The 31-year-old achieved a personal milestone in 2011 when she played her 50th international in a friendly against Australia in May, while she also continued to carve out a professional career overseas with Frauen Bundesliga outfit VfL Wolfsburg.

The men's award, won last year by All Whites captain Ryan Nelsen, went to New Caledonia striker Bertrand Kai - the first time since 2008 the award has gone to a player not from New Zealand.

Kai edged New Zealand nominees Winston Reid, Shane Smeltz, Chris Wood and Daniel Koprivcic, while Smith triumphed over teammates Hoyle, Sarah Gregorius, Ria Percival and Ali Riley.

The OFC player of the year awards have been made annually since 1988, with players from Australia and New Zealand traditionally dominating the list.

- APNZ

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