Emerald Headingley will stage a new awards dinner for Wheelchair Rugby League on Friday January 31 – which will include the crowning of the first winner of the International Rugby League Wheelchair Golden Boot.
The International Rugby League award has been added to a dedicated awards night in which the Rugby Football League will recognise a year of outstanding progress and achievement for the Wheelchair game in 2019.
Seven domestic awards will be presented, based on performances in the Wheelchair Super League and Wheelchair Challenge Cup in 2019 – Player of the Year, Young Player of the Year, Coach of the Year, Team of the Year, Club of the Year, Match Official of the Year, and the Chair’s Award, a special award from Martin Coyd OBE, Chair of Wheelchair Rugby League.
Leeds Rhinos and Halifax, the Challenge Cup and Grand Final winners respectively, are strongly represented in the nominees, with England team-mates James Simpson and Jack Brown in the running for Player of the Year; the Rhinos team-mates Nathan Collins and Josh Butler challenged by Rob Hawkins of Halifax for Young Player of the Year; and Halifax’s Wayne Boardman one of the nominees for Coach of the Year.
But there is also plenty of interest in the awards outside the big two, with the emergence of North Wales Crusaders, who receive two nominations – in the Coach of the Year category for Steve Jones, in addition to the Club of the Year category; and for the Argonauts of Kent, who have four nominations – for Lewis King as Player of the Year, Fred Nye as Coach of the Year, and collectively for Club and Team of the Year.
Martin Coyd OBE, the Chair of England Wheelchair Rugby League, said:
“2019 was a year of improvement, progress and achievement for Wheelchair Rugby League, both domestically and internationally – ending with our England team excelling in Australia on their groundbreaking Ashes tour.
The introduction of this awards night provides us with the opportunity to recognise and celebrate those achievements – and also to look forward to an exciting year of growth domestically in 2020, with an incoming Wheelaroo Tour to crown the season in October and with Rugby League World Cup 2021 coming fast over the horizon.”
The introduction of the International Rugby League Wheelchair Golden Boot will provide the game with a trio of global award winners.
The Golden Boot was founded in 1984 by Open Rugby magazine, with Wally Lewis winning the inaugural award. New Zealand’s Roger Tuivasa-Sheck was crowned the latest winner in November, when Australia’s Jessica Sergis became the second winner of a Women’s award which was introduced in 2018.
Eight contenders for the inaugural Wheelchair award have been nominated by the newly formed International Rugby League Wheelchair Steering Group after a busy international season, in which England toured France and Australia as well as playing in a Tri Nations tournament in Wales.
The eight nominees are as follows: Jack Brown, Nathan Collins and James Simpson (England); Gilles Clausells and Kevin Pastor (France); Cory Cannane (Australia); Jay Anderson (Scotland); and Stuart Williams (Wales).
Nigel Wood, the IRL’s Chief Executive Officer said: “We are delighted to announce the addition of a third Golden Boot award for Rugby League.
“We are keen to recognise the rapid progress of Wheelchair Rugby League over recent times, and the outstanding skill, athleticism and courage of those involved. It is without doubt, one of the greatest undiscovered aspects of Rugby League but that will all change as Wheelchair Rugby League continues to excite, thrill and enthral up to, and beyond the World Cup. The award of the Golden Boot will attract more eyeballs to this magnificent version of Rugby League and that can only be welcomed.”