Three Toronto Wolfpack team-mates are in the running to be crowned Betfred Championship Player of the Year at the competition’s annual awards evening in Manchester next Tuesday.
The Canadian club finished the regular season 12 points clear at the top of the table, and that domination has been recognised as hooker Andy Ackers, full-back Gareth O’Brien and the former St Helens and Great Britain loose forward Jon Wilkin have emerged as the most admired players from a poll of the 14 Championship coaches.
Brian McDermott, the former Leeds Rhinos coach, is also in the running for the Coach of the Year category after his first season with the Wolfpack. The other contenders in that category are Mark Aston, whose Sheffield Eagles team challenged for a play-off place and also won the AB Sundecks 1895 Cup; and James Ford, who has steered York City Knights to a top three finish after he was named Betfred League 1 Coach of the Year in 2018 for leading them to promotion.
Bright young talents from Leigh, Swinton and Widnes – Joe Cator, Matty Ashton and Keanan Brand – are the three front-runners for the Betfred Championship Young Player of the Year award.
The leading nominees for this year’s Betfred League 1 awards reflect Whitehaven’s success in securing the first promotion position, as they have at least one contender in each of the three main categories – with the voting conducted through a poll of the head coaches of the 11 League 1 clubs.
Captain Marc Shackley is joined by Dion Aiye, the Papua New Guinea half-back who has become such a popular figure in several seasons in West Cumbria, to give ‘Haven two representatives in the Player of the Year category. However they face competition from key figures in two of the teams currently battling for the second promotion position in the Play-Offs – Oldham’s Danny Langtree, and Nick Newman of Newcastle Thunder.
Gary Charlton is in the running for the Coach of the Year award, with competition from Scott Naylor, whose Oldham team will begin their Play-Off campaign at home to Doncaster this weekend after finishing second in the table, and Anthony Murray, who continues to earn admiration for his work with the North Wales Crusaders.
Whitehaven’s teenage wing Andrew Bulman is one of five nominees from five different clubs in the Young Player of the Year category. He is joined by two players from Super League clubs who have spent the season on loan in Betfred League 1 – Wigan’s Caine Barnes, who has impressed with Workington Town, and Callum Hazzard of St Helens, who has done likewise with North Wales Crusaders. The five are completed by Jacob Jones, a Loughborough University student who joined Coventry Bears from London Broncos last winter; and Alex Clegg, a Northumbria University student originally from Castleford, and now playing for Newcastle Thunder.
The winners will be announced at the Betfred Championship and League 1 Awards Night at the Hilton Hotel in Manchester on Tuesday September 24 – which will be screened live on the RFL’s Our League app.
There will be a number of other awards, including Club of the Year in each of the divisions, and Foundation of the Year across both competitions. Three nominees for the latter award have also been announced, including two of the previous winners since it was introduced in 2015 – Leigh, who were the inaugural winners, and Newcastle Thunder, who won it two years ago. They are joined by Halifax. York City Knights won the award last year.
[Contenders for the Young Player of the Year award in each division had to be 21 or under at the start of 2019, and to have made a minimum of 10 first-team appearances in the relevant competition]
- Player of the Year: Andy Ackers (Toronto Wolfpack), Gareth O’Brien (Toronto Wolfpack), Jon Wilkin (Toronto Wolfpack).
- Young Player of the Year: Matty Ashton (Swinton Lions), Keanan Brand (Widnes Vikings), Joe Cator (Leigh Centurions).
- Coach of the Year: Mark Aston (Sheffield Eagles), James Ford (York City Knights), Brian McDermott (Toronto Wolfpack).
Betfred League 1
- Player of the Year: Dion Aiye (Whitehaven), Danny Langtree (Oldham), Nick Newman (Newcastle Thunder), Marc Shackley (Whitehaven).
- Young Player of the Year: Caine Barnes (Workington Town), Andrew Bulman (Whitehaven), Alex Clegg (Newcastle Thunder), Callum Hazzard (North Wales Crusaders), Jacob Jones (Coventry Bears).
- Coach of the Year: Gary Charlton (Whitehaven), Anthony Murray (North Wales Crusaders), Scott Naylor (Oldham).
- Betfred Championship / League 1 Foundation of the Year Nominees: Halifax, Leigh, Newcastle Thunder.