Highlanders fullback and wing Ben Smith has been named as the New Zealand Super Rugby player of the year for 2013.
The Highlanders co-captain was named as New Zealand's Super Rugby player of the year at an awards ceremony on Thursday.
2013 has been an exceptional year for the versatile and elusive Smith as he was part of the All Black squad that won the IRB's team of the year award earlier this week
Smith played every minute of the Highlanders' campaign in 2013 and will now go down in history as Super Rugby Player of the Year.
At New Zealand's Steinlager awards the All Blacks scooped the major honours after becoming the first Tier One nation to notch up a perfect season in the professional era.
In addition to the Team of the Year award, Head Coach Steve Hansen picked up the coaching prize for the second successive year, heading off World Cup winning coach Sir Gordon Tietjens and Dave Rennie who guided the Chiefs to back-to-back Super Rugby titles.
Dynamic no.8 Kieran Read was named the Kelvin Tremain Memorial Player of the Year.
During 2013 the All Blacks swept aside France in the Series, retained their grip on the Rugby Championship and won all matches on the recent Air New Zealand European Tour. The last time the All Blacks went through a season unbeaten was in 1989. With the win over England at Twickenham, the team now holds all the silverware it can compete for.
The team faced a stiff challenge from double Super Rugby champions, the Chiefs, World Cup Sevens winners, the All Blacks Sevens and Canterbury which claimed its sixth ITM Cup title on a trot.
Amongst the other winners tonight, the stand-out form of Canterbury half back Andy Ellis saw him named ITM Cup player of the year.
In just her first year in rugby, New Zealand Women's Sevens star Portia Woodman, has made a huge impact, picking up the IRB Player of the Tournament award at the World Cup of Sevens.
She capped that off by being named the first recipient of the Women's Sevens Player of the Year award, while new Highlander Kurt Baker, who was a regular choice of coach Gordon Tietjens this season, was named Richard Crawshaw Memorial Sevens Player of the Year.
The Salver was awarded to former All Blacks captain and New Zealand Rugby Board member Graham Mourie, recognising his extensive contribution over many decades, as a player, coach and administrator at the highest levels of the game.
Rob Jones, regarded in the Manawatu as the driving force of the women's game there, was named the Charles Monro Volunteer of the Year. He is the coach o the Feilding High Girl's First XV and assistant coach of the champion Manawatu women's sevens team.
For the first time fans had a chance to have their say on the best rugby action of the year with the Sky Fans Try of the Year.
The online poll saw Black Fern full back Selica Winiata's last minute length-of-the-field match-winning try against England be the popular choice of fans, edging out Beauden Barrett's try against France.
New Zealand Rugby Chairman Mike Eagle congratulated all winners at the awards function at the Sky City Convention Centre tonight and noted the challenges that faced the judging panel this year.
“This has been another exceptional year in rugby without doubt. This has been an extremely difficult year for our judges. When there is so much to celebrate; when we have been overwhelmed with extraordinary performances, there will always be great champions of our game who miss out on the final accolades.
“So to all the finalists, you are here tonight because you are all winners, you are exceptional performers, you have made a difference on or off the field. Thank you for your passion and commitment to the game we love.”
The Rugby Awards judging panel was:
- Former All Blacks captain, NZRU President, and NZRU Life member Andy
- Sports broadcaster Grant Nisbett
- Former All Blacks captain and New Zealand Rugby Board member Graham Mourie
- New Zealand Rugby General Manager Community and Provincial Union Rugby Brent Anderson (panel chair)
2013 Rugby Awards
New Zealand Rugby Age Grade Player of the Year
- Ardie Savea (Wellington)
Charles Monro Rugby Volunteer of the Year
- Rob Jones (Manawatu)
New Zealand Rugby Referee of the Year
- Chris Pollock
Pink Batts Heartland Championship Player of the Year
- Jon Dampney
New Zealand Rugby Women's Sevens Player of the Year
- Portia Woodman
Richard Crawshaw Memorial Sevens Player of the Year
- Kurt Baker
Sky Television Fans Try of the Year
- Selica Winiata/Black Ferns
ITM Cup Player of the Year
- Andy Ellis
Super Rugby Player of the Year
- Ben Smith
Tom French Memorial Maori Player of the Year
- Liam Messam
New Zealand Rugby Women's Player of the Year
- Kelly Brazier
New Zealand Rugby Coach of the Year
- Steven Hansen
Team of the Year
- All Blacks
- Graham Mourie
Kelvin R Tremain Player of the Year
- Kieran Read