All three sevens players up for this year's World Rugby Women's Sevens Player of the Year award are Tauranga-based Black Ferns Sevens athletes, which means the title will once again go to a Kiwi.
Sevens stars Ruby Tui, Tyla Nathan-Wong and captain Sarah Hirini were confirmed on Friday morning as the three nominees for the annual award. All three nominees were named in the World Series Dream Team after claiming their fifth World Series crown in Biarritz in France earlier this year.
The announcement means the title will be awarded to one of the Black Ferns Sevens' players for the third consecutive year. In 2018 and 2017 the award was won by Bay of Plenty's Michaela Blyde.
The World Rugby announcement of nominations comes just weeks before the Black Ferns Sevens get their biggest season under way, with eight World Series tournaments and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Hirini is nominated for the fourth time in six years, which is a nod to her consistently high standards as the Black Ferns Sevens leader.
New Zealand Rugby chief executive Steve Tew said the nominations spoke volumes about the Black Ferns Sevens team.
"Sarah, Ruby and Tyla have been integral parts of the Black Ferns Sevens set up for a long time now, its great to see their commitment and excellence recognised with these nominations.
"The Black Ferns Sevens team has an exceptional record on the world stage and I know these players will be at the centre of making sure that continues over what is going to be a big 12 months," said Tew.
The nominees for the World Rugby Men's Sevens Player of the Year 2019 are Folau Niua (USA), Stephen Tomasin (USA) and Jerry Tuwai (Fiji).
Both shortlists were selected by a mix of votes cast by players and an expert panel featuring former sevens stars Humphrey Kayange, Jen Kish, Tiana Penitani, Karl Tenana, Danielle Waterman and Marika Vunibaka.
These awards are two of 12 categories of awards, including the World Rugby Men's and Women's 15s Players of the Year, World Rugby Team of the Year, World Rugby Breakthrough Player of the Year and Award for Character. The World Rugby Awards will be held in Japan on November 3.
World Rugby Women's Sevens Player of the Year Nominees:
Sarah Hirini (New Zealand)
The inspirational captain of the Black Ferns Sevens for the last five years, Sarah Hirini led her team to Cup titles in Glendale, Dubai, Sydney and Langford en route to winning a fifth HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series title in 2019. The season also saw New Zealand equal their record of 37 wins in a row on the series and the 26-year-old become the first female to play in 200 matches on the global circuit. Nominated for the fourth time in six years, Hirini has a tireless work ethic which, combined with dogged defence and vision, enables her to unlock defence for herself – as her 17 tries in 2019 shows – and others.
Tyla Nathan-Wong (New Zealand)
The top points scorer on the 2019 series with 207, Tyla Nathan-Wong is a vital piece in the success story that is the Black Ferns Sevens. As playmaker, the 25-year-old is blessed with the vision, the skill set and pace to give defending teams plenty of headaches as she showed with her two HSBC Player of the Final accolades in Dubai – scoring two tries against Canada – and Langford. Nathan-Wong may have ended the year as the top goal kicker with 79, but she also crossed for 11 tries as New Zealand showed their dominance to claim a fifth series crown.
Ruby Tui (New Zealand)
A powerful runner and tireless worker at the breakdown, Ruby Tui is one of the first names down on coach Allan Bunting's team sheet and someone who never gives less than 100 per cent for the Black Ferns Sevens' cause. The 27-year-old, like her fellow nominees, was named in the HSBC Dream Team for the 2019 series, having started every match and scored 15 tries in their title-winning season. A New Zealand team without Tui in it is not as scary a prospect for teams, not only for her physicality but the way she inspires others around her with her performances.
For more details on the panel members for each of the World Rugby Awards, visit www.worldrugby.org/awards/voting-panel.
For more information on the World Rugby Awards, visit www.worldrugby.org/awards
Previous World Rugby Women's Sevens Player of the Year award winners:
2018: Michaela Blyde (New Zealand)
2017: Michaela Blyde (New Zealand)
2016: Charlotte Caslick (Australia)
2015: Portia Woodman (New Zealand)
2014: Emilee Cherry (Australia)
2013: Kayla McAlister (New Zealand)
Previous World Rugby Men's Sevens Player of the Year award winners:
2018: Perry Baker (USA)
2017: Perry Baker (USA)
2016: Seabelo Senatla (South Africa)
2015: Werner Kok (South Africa)
2014: Samisoni Viriviri (Fiji)
2013: Tim Mikkelson (New Zealand)
2012: Tomasi Cama (New Zealand)
2011: Cecil Afrika (South Africa)
2010: Mikaele Pesamino (Samoa)
2009: Ollie Phillips (England)
2008: DJ Forbes (New Zealand)
2007: Afeleke Pelenise (New Zealand)
2006: Uale Mai (Samoa)
2005: Orene Ai'i (New Zealand)
2004: Simon Amor (England)
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