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Michael Bent best in amber and black
Frontrower's strong season earns top gongGLENN MCLEAN
He could be an Ireland test player in little over a week but last night Michael Bent was recognised for his outstanding provincial season when he was named Taranaki player of the year.
Bent, 26, jetted off to Ireland on Saturday to take up a contract with top European side Leinster, although there is a chance he could be turning out in the emerald green before he even pulls on his new club jersey.
Word out of Dublin is Bent will be on the bench against the Springboks for the November 10 test at Aviva Stadium.
Having been told of his player-of-the-year award before he left, Bent recorded a video message, which was played to the crowd of more than 300 at last night's prizegiving at Yarrow Stadium.
"I'd just like to say thanks for an awesome season this year because it's been a pleasure playing with each and everyone of the players and I really feel pretty stoked to receive this award," he said.
Bent's father, Roger, followed up his son's brief message with a few of his own thoughts.
"As you know Michael does not like to blow his own trumpet, so I'm quite happy to blow it for him," he said. "It's been a year of mixed fortunes for Michael but he has worked hard for a long period of time for this.
"I'm tempted to say it would be nice to take this trophy down to Mark Hammett [Hurricanes coach] and ask him to Dublin and present it to 80,000 people."
After being used as nothing more than a bit part player for the Hurricanes this year, Bent returned to Taranaki and played in every one of the side's 13 first-class matches.
While he was used extensively as a loosehead prop in 2011, Bent showed his versatility by making the No 3 jersey his own in a campaign that saw Taranaki defend the Ranfurly Shield six times and win seven of their 10 regular season national provincial championship fixtures.
He developed his game this season, improving his defence, mobility and ball carrying.
Along with fellow prop Chris King and hookers Timo Tutavaha and Laurence Corlett, Taranaki developed into the best scrummaging side in the NPC.
That was clearly displayed in their semifinal loss to Canterbury when they destroyed the champions' scrum on numerous occasions.
As well as the player of the year, Bent was named the sportsman of the year - the players' player of the year - who best demonstrated excellence on and off the field.
Surprisingly, and an anomaly of the awards, Bent was not named forward of the year by the selection panel made up of the Taranaki management team. Instead, that prize went to No 8 Blade Thomson who turned in several good performances after a back injury seriously interrupted his club season in Wellington.
Thomson beat out Bent and Kane Barrett, who were finalists in the category which did not feature Scott Waldrom, despite his man-of-the-match efforts in successful Shield defences over Hawke's Bay and Canterbury. Unfortunately for Waldrom, he broke his arm after six NPC matches.
James Marshall's versatility and high standard of performance in several positions, including wing, first five-eighth, fullback and second five-eighth helped him win back of the year in his first season after transferring from Tasman.
Other finalists in that category were top points scorer Frazier Climo and halfback Jamison Gibson-Park, who was awarded the most promising player ahead of finalists Mitchell Brown and Seta Tamanivalu.
New Plymouth Boys' High School openside flanker Lachlan Boshier won the Roger Urbahn Memorial Trophy for his excellent season, which culminated with his selection in the New Zealand schools side that faced Samoa and Australia. Another openside flanker, Berny Hall, was the Taranaki development player of the year while fellow loose forward Adrian Wyrill was judged most promising in a side that ended the season unbeaten.
Championship winner Joe Lawn was named club coach of the year after guiding Coastal to their first senior A title since 2009 while New Plymouth Old Boys loose forward Jonno Crossan was club player of the year.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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