Steelform Wanganui bolter Te Rangatira Waitokia should have made up some business cards for his trip Auckland's Sky City Convention Centre on Thursday, as he stood shoulder to shoulder with the game's greats at the 2016 ASB Rugby Awards.

The 20-year-old continued a proud record for his province when he was named the Mitre 10 Heartland Championship Player of the Year, beating out Horowhenua-Kapiti's Willie Paia'aua and the other favourite in Buller's linchpin playmaker James Lash.

All Black captain Kieran Read presented the smiling youngster with his trophy.

The video presentation noted Waitokia scoring 12 tries in his 10 games during the campaign, including the amazing quartet against Poverty Bay in Gisborne on September 24.


He also scored doubles against West Coast on August 27 at Cooks Gardens and against East Coast on September 2 in Ruatoria.

Fitting in at fullback or on either wing, Waitokia set up the crucial opening try to Craig Clare in the Meads Cup final against Lash's Buller team on October 29.

He was selected for the NZ Heartland XV, scoring a try against NZ Marist, then going to Fiji and starting on the bench against Nadi before playing on the wing against Nadroga.

Having attended the awards with his proud father, Waitokia sat down with Sky TV presenter Scotty Stevenson, who acknowledged the continued success of the Butcher's Boys at the national awards, with halfback Lindsay Horrocks being last year's winner and captain Peter Rowe twice claiming the award.

"Congratulations keeping up the Wanganui tradition."

However, Waitokia brought an audience laugh for his sheepish agreement with Stevenson that he must be a bit greedy by scoring that many tries.

Stevenson asked the young man what was the secret to his success.

"I just try to play to the best of my ability," he replied.


"Going into a game, I try to clear my head.

"I usually like to clear everything out of my head, go in [with] no mind, it kind of just helps me when I go out on that pitch, gets those nerves away."

Waitokia has been a true success story of Wanganui's reputation as a rugby nursery, after he joined the new-look Wanganui Metro team to play in the Manawatu Colts competition, before being introduced as a bolter to the representative squad and continuing his education under coach Jason Caskey and backs coach Jason Hamlin.

It is widely expected that either Manawatu or another Mitre 10 Cup province will be interested in his signature in 2017.

"I would love to go to the next level," Waitokia said.

"I'll just see where it takes me now. I wouldn't mind staying in Heartland another year.

"But the big goal is to make it to the next level."

Stevenson made it clear his talents have not gone unnoticed by those in higher echelons.

"You're in the right room tonight, mate, there's a few guys that might give you that break."

Previous Heartland Players of the Year from Wanganui were Cameron Crowley (2008), Asaeli Tikoirotuma (2009), Rowe (2010 and 2012), Jon Smyth (2011) and Horrocks (2015).

Others to be nominated were Denning Tyrell (2006), Mike Thompson (2007), Steelie Koro (2011) and Stephen Perofeta (2015).