Levin woman Irene Eruera-Taiapa had the night of her life at the New Zealand rugby award dinner, capped off by a hug and a kiss from her favourite All Black and a kind word from the Prime Minister.

Irene had no idea she had won the Charles Munro Rugby Volunteer of the Year Award and sat in silence for "about six seconds" with cameras glaring before reality kicked in.

The award was in recognition of her support as a volunteer at the Wanderers club in Levin.

"When my name was called out I just sat there..." she said the morning after the awards, held at Sky City in Auckland.

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"It was amazing, an amazing night. I'm a bit overwhelmed."

Irene was sitting at the table next to former Levin schoolboy and All Black hooker Codie Taylor, who was awarded the Tom French Memorial Māori Player of the Year.

Taylor remembered her as he had played schoolboy rugby with her sons at Horowhenua College in Levin and, as locals tend to do, he was one of the first to congratulate her.

Tom French Memorial Maori Player of the Year winner All Blacks Codie Taylor. Photo/ www.photosport.nz
Tom French Memorial Maori Player of the Year winner All Blacks Codie Taylor. Photo/ www.photosport.nz

"He gave me a hug and a kiss and said he went to school with one of my sons. He must have remembered me," she said.

"The icing on the cake" was when Prime Minister Jacinda Adern came over to her table and congratulated her on the award, followed soon after by All Black Sam Whitelock and NZRU CEO Steve Tew.

"I got photos with heaps of people - Black Ferns and All Blacks. It was awesome to be in the company of such great people. And a photo with Codie Taylor - that was the one I wanted.

When she returned to her hotel room there was a bottle of champagne and a congratulations card waiting for her.

"How cool is that," she said.

The award nomination had come as a surprise and clashed with a family holiday to Australia, so flights were changed so she could head away the next day.

"The trophies were so heavy I've had to rearrange all my bags so I am under the limit. It weighs about 3.5kg," she said

She organised after-match functions, sat on various committees and performed a variety of roles within the club, like setting up the changing rooms with players gear.


2018 NEW ZEALAND RUGBY AWARDS WINNERS

Fans' Try of the Year
Chris Hala'ufia (St Peter's College)

New Zealand Rugby Referee of the Year
Glen Jackson (Bay of Plenty)

Charles Monro Rugby Volunteer of the Year
Irene Eruera-Taiapa (Horowhenua Kāpiti)

New Zealand Rugby Age Grade Player of the Year
Tom Christie (Canterbury)

Mitre 10 Heartland Championship Player of the Year
Brett Ranga (Thames Valley)

Duane Monkley Medal
Luke Romano (Canterbury)

Fiao'o Faamausili Medal
Kendra Cocksedge (Canterbury)

National Coach of the Year
Alama Ieremia (Auckland)

New Zealand Coach of the Year
Clark Laidlaw (All Blacks Sevens)

Super Rugby Player of the Year
Richie Mo'unga (Crusaders)

Tom French Memorial Māori Player of the Year
Codie Taylor

Richard Crawshaw Memorial All Blacks Sevens Player of the Year
Scott Curry (Bay of Plenty)

Black Ferns Sevens Player of the Year
Michaela Blyde (Bay of Plenty)

Women's Player of the Year
Kendra Cocksedge (Canterbury)

Kelvin R Tremain Memorial Player of the Year
Winner: Kendra Cocksedge (Canterbury)

National Team of the Year
Winner: Crusaders

New Zealand Team of the Year
Winner: Black Ferns Sevens.