Papakura Sea Eagles dummy-half Phoenix Hunt has been named Auckland Player of the Year, claiming the major honour at the annual Auckland Rugby League Awards on Wednesday evening.
The dynamic 19-year-old was a standout performer for Papakura in 2018, playing every game and scoring eight tries, in an otherwise disappointing season for the club, which saw them finish eighth in the 10-team first division competition.
A product of the Auckland junior system, Hunt came through the SAS College Rugby League ranks with Otahuhu College before linking up with the South Sydney Rabbitohs, where he played for the club’s National Youth Competition side.
Hunt beat powerhouse Northcote Tigers forward Nalu Tuigamala and Pt Chevalier Pirates prop Daniel Palavi to the award, which was decided by a 3,2,1 voting system, used in every game of the regular season.
Papakura manager Dave Smith, who attended the awards on Hunt’s behalf, spoke about his 2018 campaign.
“Phoenix has had an exceptional year,” Smith said.
“He just knows when to go in a game, he’s got that x-factor. He’s a very shy kid, but his family, who are very close, will be delighted by this honour.”
There was further joy for south Auckland clubs at the awards, with the Franklin Storm’s Reuben Tolovae being named the Crown Lift Trucks Sharman Cup Player of the Year, after helping the Premiership newcomers through to the major semi-finals.
Richmond playmaker Alice Vailea capped a brilliant year, in which she led her side to the Farrelly Photos Women’s Premiership Grand Final and earned a contract with the New Zealand Warriors women, by being named Farrelly Photos Women’s Player of the Year.
Twenty-two-year-old Vailea was quick to praise her Richmond team for her success.
“I’m very grateful to be recognised for the year I’ve had, but this is for my teammates and coaches too,” she said.
“I made a decision this year to make a real go of it, I was determined to be committed and get fitter, and tonight I can say all that paid off.”
Northcote flyer James Waterson topped the try-scoring charts with 21 four-pointers in 18 games, while Howick playmaker Drew Radich was the king of the kickers, booting 67 goals to claim the Lance Painter Rose Bowl.
Otahuhu premier manager Dennis Singh won the CTAS Manger of the Year, while fellow Leopard Geronimo Doyle scooped up Kahawai Productions Rookie of the Year honours.
Glenora coach Bernie Perenara was named Coach of the Year for the second-straight season, with his Bears side winning 18-consecutive games on route to booking their spot in the SAS Fox Memorial Premiership decider.
Mangere East were picked as Club of the Year, while the club volunteer prize went to Papakura stalwart Dave Smith.
The awards evening at Alexandra Park, Auckland, was attended by the Hon Kelvin Davis, MP for Te Tai Tokerau, and Manurewa MP Louisa Wall, along with Kiwi international and New Zealand Warriors forward Adam Blair.
2018 AUCKLAND RUGBY LEAGUE PREMIER AWARD WINNERS
Club Volunteer of the Year | Dave Smith (Papakura)
Club Administrator of the Year | Mike Farrelly (Howick)
Club of the Year | Mangere East
Premier Manager of the Year | Dennis Singh (Otahuhu)
Crown Lift Trucks Sharman Cup Club Players of the Year:
Ben Henry (Bay Roskill)
Darin Kingi (Ellerslie)
Liam Ackland (Hibiscus Coast)
Bradley McGregor (Manukau)
Henry Dunn (Manurewa)
Michael Young (Mt Wellington)
Piri Keenan (New Lynn)
Pita Tupou (Northern)
Regan Tiera (Otara)
Vao Tuipulotu (Pakuranga)
Katopau Maliko (Papatoetoe)
Damon Niko (Ponsonby)
Heathangrant Pulevaka (Waitemata)
Crown Lift Trucks Sharman Cup Player of the Year | Reuben Tolovae (Franklin)
SAS Fox Memorial Club Nominated Players of the Year:
Epalahame Lauaki (Glenora)
Jethro Friend (Howick)
Howard Brown (Mangere East)
Toleafoa Leaupepe (Marist)
Sala Falelua-Malio (Mt Albert)
Nalu Tuigamala (Northcote)
Geronimo Doyle (Otahuhu)
Phoenix Hunt (Papakura)
Daniel Palavi (Pt Chevalier)
Matiu Stone-Dunn (Richmond)
Phelan Shield (Crown Lift Trucks Sharman Cup minor premiers) | Bay Roskill
Rukutai Shield (SAS Fox Memorial Premiership minor premiers) | Glenora
Roope Rooster (challenge cup that goes on the line at each of the holder’s home games) | Glenora
Kiwi Shield (based on points percentages from both the SAS Fox Memorial premier and premier 1st competitions – judging best club) | Glenora
Farrelly Photos Women’s Player of the Year | Alice Vailea (Richmond)
Lance Painter Rose Bowl for top goalkicker in the SAS Fox Memorial Premiership | Drew Radich (Howick)
Masters Rugby League Cup for top try-scorer in the SAS Fox Memorial Premiership | James Waterson (Northcote)
John Percival Medal for Referee of the Year | Anthony Eliott
SAS Fox Memorial Premiership Rookie of the Year | Geronimo Doyle (Otahuhu)
SAS Fox Memorial Premiership Coach of the Year | Bernie Perenara (Glenora)
George Rainey Medal SAS Fox Memorial Premiership Team of the Year:
Fullback – Geronimo Doyle (Otahuhu)
Winger – James Waterson (Northcote)
Centre – Ethan Nukanuka (Otahuhu)
Centre – Chaz Brown (Glenora)
Winger – Saula Solomona (Pt Chevalier)
Standoff – Jordan Tuarae (Glenora)
Halfback – Drew Radich (Howick)
Prop – Sala Falelua-Malio (Mt Albert)
Hooker – Phoenix Hunt (Papakura)
Prop – Daniel Palavi (Pt Chevalier)
Second-row – Nalu Tuigamala (Northcote)
Second-row – Epalahame Lauaki (Glenora)
Lock – Chris Sio (Pt Chevalier)
SAS Fox Memorial Premiership Player of the Year | Phoenix Hunt (Papakura)