Dominant night for All Blacks at NZRU awards
Kieran Read's supreme year as an All Black has been given a thoroughly deserved exclamation point, with the IRB's player of the year tonight lauded as this country's standout performer for 2013
It was another banner night for the All Blacks at New Zealand rugby's annual awards in Auckland, with Steve Hansen's all-conquering team continuing a year when the sweep has very much been the name of their game.
They won all 14 of their test matches to secure the first perfect year in the professional era, then they swept all of the major gongs at the IRB's international awards - Read named player, Hansen coach and the All Blacks team of the year.
Wouldn't you know it, the broom stayed out last night as the same trio won the equivalent awards at New Zealand rugby's gala evening.
For Canterbury's Read, being honoured as his country's finest in a year when there has been some pretty special individual achievements, will be special. That's how Read is. He would have enjoyed continuing the All Blacks' dominance of the IRB's big one, but he would have savoured being lauded by his peers last night.
A big crowd at Sky City's Convention Centre made it clear they agreed with the decision too, giving the fabulous No 8 a standing ovation as he strode to the stage to accept the Kelvin Tremain Memorial player of the year award, the second time he's taken the accolade after winning in 2010.
He headed national team-mates Ben Smith and Liam Messam for the prize, though both did pick up their own awards on the night.
Smith, of the Highlanders, was named the Super Rugby player of the year, ahead of the Chiefs' Messam and Crusaders' Sam Whitelock, while Messam was the Maori player of the year for an outstanding season in which he led the Chiefs to a second straight Super Rugby championship and then nailed another strong season for the All Blacks in the No 6 jersey.
But no one played rugby at the level, at the consistency and with the sheer brilliance of Read who has developed into not only the All Blacks' most influential player, but the global game's.
His fabulous year was highlighted by a supreme all-round performance in Johannesburg when he inspired the All Blacks to that memorable, championship-sealing 38-27 victory over the Springboks.
But his forte was undoubtedly his ability to front test after test and produce hugely influential displays for the All Blacks, as he'd done for the bulk of the Crusaders' Super Rugby season as well.
Hansen probably faced the stiffest competition to gain his second straight coach of the year award, nudging out Dave Rennie for back-to-back Super Rugby titles with the Chiefs and World Cup and IRB series-winning sevens coach Gordon Tietjens.
The Chiefs were desperately unlucky not to receive anything from the night, also shaded for team of the year by the All Blacks. Tietjens' national sevens side and Canterbury, who claimed a sixth straight provincial title, were the other finalists.
Canterbury halfback Andy Ellis was named provincial player of the year, New Zealand star Portia Woodman was the women's sevens winner, while Kurt Baker won the equivalent men's prize.
The Steinlager Salver went to former All Black captain Graham Mourie, recognising his long contribution to the game as a player, coach and now administrator (he is an NZRU board member).
In a new category, try of the year was chosen via an online poll, with Black Fern fullback Selica Winiata coming up trumps for her last-minute, length-of-the-field match-winner against England, edging out Beauden Barrett's superb score against France.
2013 NZ RUGBY AWARDS
Age grade player of year: Ardie Savea (Wellington)
Volunteer of year: Rob Jones (Manawatu)
Referee of year: Chris Pollock
Heartland player of year: Jon Dampney (Mid-Canterbury)
Women's sevens player of year: Portia Woodman
Richard Crawshaw Memorial men's sevens player of year: Kurt Baker
Fans try of year: Selica Winiata (Black Ferns)
NPC player of year: Andy Ellis (Canterbury)
Super Rugby player of year: Ben Smith (Highlanders)
Tom French Memorial Maori player of year: Liam Messam
Women's player of year: Kelly Brazier
Coach of year: Steven Hansen
Team of year: All Blacks
Steinlager Salver: Graham Mourie
Kelvin R Tremain player of year: Kieran Read