Hawke's Bay Magpies rugby flanker Tony Lamborn accepted the team's 2015 MVP award with a little reluctance last night.
"My personal opinion was that it should have gone to one of the other nominees, Ihaia West. He was the bloke who scored those crucial tries and kicked those vital kicks and won us those nailbiting games," Lamborn said after accepting the award at a black-tie function hosted by the Hawke's Bay Racing Centre.
"But I'm rapt and I will take it."
On Wednesday he was the Magpies only newcomer among 17 players to secure fulltime Super Rugby contracts for next year.
Fans of winger Mason Emerson may have felt hard done by when the Hastings Rugby and Sports player was pipped for the Rookie award by Napier Technical prop Mark "Cracker" Braidwood. Particularly when one takes into account Emerson was the only one of the three finalists to make the starting XV for the ITM Cup Championship final against Wellington and he scored the crucial late try which Ihaia West converted to secure the title.
Emerson also scored a similar try in what proved to be the turning point in the away win against Southland. However Braidwood certainly made the most of his game time this season, most of which was off the pine during the cup.
It will be many years before we forget Braidwood's crucial turnover which led to winger Robbie Fruean's try which gave the Magpies a 22-all draw in their away round robin game against the Lions. This was crucial in the Magpies quest to secure their home final.
Hot favourite West fully deserved the Best back award. His directional play went up a notch this season and his goalkicking under pressure was superb.
He followed his seven successes from as many attempts in the semifinal with six from six in the final and both games were played in tricky winds. In 44 first class games for the Bay West, who will have his third season with the Blues Super franchise next year, has scored 461 points which puts him third on the all-time points scorers list behind the late Jarrod Cunningham who scored 998 and Ian Bishop who finished his career with 631.
Hurricanes lock Mark Abbott was equally as deserving of the Best forward award. His consistent performances reminded pundits of the displays former Magpies captain and loosie Michael Johnson rattled off week after week when he was at his peak during the 2004 and '05 seasons.
Winners and finalists:
Rookie: Winner, Mark Braidwood. Other finalists: Jarvy Aoake, Mason Emerson.
Best back: Winner, Ihaia West. Other finalists: Richard Buckman, Chris Eaton.
Best forward: Winner, Mark Abbott. Other finalists: Ash Dixon, Tony Lamborn.
Most valuable player: Winner, Tony Lamborn. Other finalists: West and Abbott.