Toomaga-Allen caps big year with award

HAMISH BIDWELL
Last updated 05:00 31/10/2012
Jeffery Toomaga-Allen
ROSS GIBLIN/ Fairfax NZ
TOP AWARD: Jeffery Toomaga-Allen shows off his trophy after being named Wellington rugby player of the year.

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Just as well Jeffery Toomaga-Allen has something else to look forward to shortly.

Last night he could have been forgiven for thinking that life couldn't get any better, after he was crowned Wellington rugby player of the year at the union's annual awards function.

Known to few people other than loyal Marist St Pats supporters a year ago, the dynamic tighthead prop has had a meteoric rise. Selected for the Hurricanes despite never having played for Wellington, the 21-year-old was a revelation in Super Rugby, before playing to a similarly high standard for the Lions.

Those performances were recognised last night when he beat fellow finalists Tim Bateman and Jeremy Thrush to claim the major award. It was fair reward for an outstanding season and the fact that last year's winner, Alapati Leiua, could not make the finalists indicated how far the Lions have come under the coaching of Chris Boyd.

Both Thrush and Bateman had to be recognised, though. The on-field leaders of the Lions team that made this year's NPC premiership semifinals, both also played to an exceptionally high standard.

Thrush continues to mount a useful case for selection in the All Blacks at some point and the Wellington Rugby Supporters Club named him its player of the year. Bateman, meanwhile, had the honour of being included in the Maori All Blacks squad this week.

But last night belonged to Toomaga-Allen, whose next public-speaking appointment will come at his wedding. He and fiancee Margaret are due to tie the knot on November 17, two days before his 22nd birthday.

Two of Oriental Rongotai's emerging stars were also acknowledged last night. Outside back Matt Proctor won the Al Keown Memorial Cup for best performed Wellington Academy player, while it was hardly a shock to see Ardie Savea named most promising player. Savea also received the Billy Wallace Memorial Trophy, as joint winner of the club best-and-fairest award - along with Wainuiomata's Shahn Eru.

Jubilee Cup winners Marist St Pats were named club team of the year with their co-coaches, Clayton McMillan and Murray Tocker, winning the award for best club coaches.

Wellington Pride flanker Kiri Mei was women's players' player of the year. Under 16A coach Earl Va'a got the nod as best representative coach.

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