On the field, Les Elder is uncompromising. Off the field, she brings people together and gets the best out of them.
These skills are among the reasons Les Elder has been named the Supreme Award winner of the annual Bay of Plenty Rugby Awards ceremony at the Distinction Hotel in Rotorua tonight. This year has been a big one for her. Not only is she Bay of Plenty Rugby Union's women's player development manager and the co-captain of the Bay of Plenty Volcanix this season, but she also skippered New Zealand's women's rugby team, the Black Ferns.
The loose-forward was announced as the supreme winner at the awards, where players, coaches, referees, administrators and volunteers were recognised for their successes, accomplishments and efforts.
Bay of Plenty Rugby Union chief executive Mike Rogers says Elder is a natural leader and a great rugby role model for women.
"On the field Les is uncompromising, and her knowledge of the game is outstanding. Off the field she has the ability to bring players together and bring out the best in them. She sets high standards for herself and for others to follow. She is a deserving recipient," Rogers said.
Speaking with NZME earlier this week about high-performance rugby in the Bay of Plenty, Elder said she valued her time with BOP rugby.
"I always say this to young people that enter our programme, because I've come from a different programme, and I've never had in my career the support that I've had since I've been here in the Bay of Plenty."
Though recovering from injury for much of the 2019 Farah Palmer Cup season, Elder has continued her support from the sidelines.
"I still was at every single session that all the girls were required to be at so I was very much a part of the team, it sucks that you can't play, you know it's not ideal and definitely wanted to just get back out there but an injury, it is what it is and you can only really control what you can control so I just had to be, I guess, the best I could for the team from the sideline. But yeah, I would've loved to have jumped into a couple of those games," Elder said.
Other top award recipients included Chase Tiatia, who took home the Steamers Team Award, the Steamers Player of the Year Award and the Sports Person of the Year Award.
The backline star has enjoyed an impressive 2019 season so far, with his on-field unpredictability proving a strength. He's been powerful, elusive and exciting to watch and leads the race for the Duane Monkley Medal, awarded to the best player in the Mitre 10 Cup.
The Bay of Plenty Steamers scooped the Team of the Year nod and head coach Clayton McMillan scored Representative Coach of the Year.
The Steamers finished the Championship round robin top of the table with eight wins and two losses. This week, they take on Manawatu Turbos in their home semifinal at the Rotorua International Stadium on Friday night.
Volcanix loose-forward Kendra Reynolds - a consistent powerhouse on the field, has been recognised as this year's Volcanix Player of the Year, while Kelsie Wills' outstanding first season in rugby earnt the Volcanix Forward of the Year award and Sapphire Tapsell scored the Volcanix Back of the Year award, as well as the Volcanix Team Award.
In the Community Awards section, 2019 Baywide Premier Club champions Te Puna Rugby Club stood out. Celebrating their centenary year, Te Puna had an impressive season picking up the Baywide Premier title and the Premier Development and Senior Reserves titles for the first time in the club's history.
Te Puna was named Club of the Year, while head coach Aidan Kuka won the Club Coach of the Year award, for the great work he did leading his premier side to their first Baywide championship title. Standout player in the Baywide premier final, Te Puna's Rewita Biddle, was named the Male Club Player of the Year.
Five people were recognised for their services to Bay Rugby; Charles Kuka, George Rogers, Ron Henderson, Rodney Voullaire and Ron Pearson are recipients of the Services to Sport.
- See more about award recipients in tomorrow's paper.
Bay of Plenty Rugby Awards 2019:
Spark Service to Sport Award: Charles Kuka, George Rogers, Ron Henderson Rodney Voullaire and Ron Pearson.
Toi Ohomai Secondary School Programme of the Year Award: Mount Maunganui College.
Bethlehem Coachlines Secondary School Coach of the Year Award: Leander Huiarangi from Katikati College.
Grass Roots Trust Administrator of the Year Award: Carolyn Katu from Rotorua Girls' High School.
FMG Rugby Good Sorts Award: Sean Lett from Te Puna Rugby Club.
Toi Ohomai Female Club Player of the Year Award: Calli Perrott from Rangiuru Rugby Club.
Spark Male Club Player of the Year Award: Rewita Biddle from Te Puna Rugby Club.
Spark Club Coach of the Year Award: Aidan Kuka from Te Puna.
Farmlands Co-operative Club Team of the Year Award: Te Teko Premier Men's Team.
R80 Club of the Year Award: Te Puna Rugby Club.
JMC REFEREE AWARDS:
Lawrence Medal for Best Premier Referee: Sam Fellows.
Nick Brian Award for Best Sevens Referee Award: Jamie Bell.
Martin Teo Shield Best Referee Award: Ryan Waite.
Samurai Under-16 Female Player of the Year Award: Ayla Bowring.
Samurai Under-16 Male Player of the Year Award: Ngakohu Walker.
Samurai Under-18 Female Player of the Year Award: Olioli Mua.
Samurai Under-18 Male Player of the Year Award: Marshall Barker.
One Foundation Te Waiariki Player of the Year Award: Nephi Sanireve.
WASPs Emerging Representative Player of the Year Award: Nephi Sanireve.
Classic Builders Under-19 Player of the Year Award: Benet Kumeroa.
TECT Women's Sevens Player of the Year Award: Mahina Paul.
Distinction Hotels Men's Sevens Player of the Year Award: Will Ngatai.
Ngāwhā Player of the Year Award: Joe Johnston.
DVS Volcanix Back of the Year Award: Sapphire Tapsell.
DVS Volcanix Forward of the Year Award: Kelsie Wills.
DVS Volcanix Player of the Year Award: Kendra Reynolds.
Craigs Investment Partners Steamers Rookie of the Year Award: Emoni Narawa.
Spark Award for Community Service: Baden Wardlaw.
Aquaheat Steamers Forward of the Year Award: Mitch Karpik.
Horizon Energy Group Steamers Back of the Year Award: Fa'asi Fuatai.
Samurai Steamers Team Award: Chase Tiatia.
Steamers Warrior of the Year Award: Matthew Skipwith-Garland.
Steamers Player of the Year Award: Chase Tiatia.
New Zealand Charitable Trust Representative Team of the Year Award: The Bay of Plenty Steamers.
Lion Foundation Representative Coach of the Year Award: Clayton McMillan.
Rotorua Lakes Council Sports Person of the Year Award: Chase Tiatia.
Pukeroa Oruawhata Trust Supreme Award Winner 2019: Les Elder.