July 05, 2023

2023 Chiefs Rugby Club Award Winners Announced

The Chiefs Rugby Club celebrated the success of their 2023 season recently with their annual awards night.

The evening celebrated the stand-out players from the season, the outstanding personalities, and those that go above and beyond for the benefit of the club, its supporters, sponsors and stakeholders.

Chiefs Rugby Club CEO Simon Graafhuis said: “Across all of the Chiefs Rugby Club teams, there has been an emphasis on connection which has shone through in their on-field performances. The continuity of players, care for each other, and depth in squads have made it a hard decision to choose winners for these awards.”

The Gallagher Chiefs had an outstanding 2023 DHL Super Rugby Pacific season showing their talent and class throughout, unfortunately losing out on the title in a tight battle with the Crusaders in the final.

It comes as no surprise that Damian McKenzie took out the Waikato Draught Fans Player of the Year once again, with the recently named All Black Emoni Narawa taking out the Gallagher Players' Player of the Year. Daniel Rona who was a standout debutant this season earnt the First Windows and Doors Rookie of the Year award.

Gallagher Chiefs head coach Clayton McMillan admitted that the decision for Coaches Player of the Year was “split about eight ways”, but ultimately the hard work and leadership of Sam Cane both on and off the field rightly earned him the honours.

The Waitomo Chiefs Manawa had an amazing second season of Sky Super Rugby Aupiki and continued to build connections and skillwithin the team in the growing women's rugby space. In a hard-fought final against Matatū they finished runner-up for the 2023 season.

At this year's awards, recently capped Black Fern's Mererangi Paul and Kate Henwood took out the MyTreat Rookie of the Year and Waitomo Players' Player of the Year awards respectively. As voted by Chiefs fans, the Carpet Mill Fans Player of the Year went to Sky Super Rugby Aupiki’s top try scorer, Luka Connor.

Waitomo Chiefs Manawa head coach Crystal Kaua thanked the sponsors and club for their support of women's rugby ahead of announcing the Coaches Player of the Year, Tanya Kalounivale.

Looking to the future of the Gallagher Chiefs, a player progressing strongly through the pathways is Codemeru Vai who took out the University of Waikato U20 Player of the Year. Vai earlier this year made his debut for the All Black Sevens in Hong Kong at just 18 years old and is part of the New Zealand Under 20s currently contesting the World Rugby U20 Championship.

Always charismatic and caring, Brad Weber deservedly received the Personality of the Year award and will be greatly missed by the Chiefs Rugby Club as he heads overseas next year.

The Mana Kotiate award went to Quinn Tupaea who, although sidelined due to injury this season, has worked extremely hard throughout his rehabilitation period and continued to offer his time to both the club and the community.

The Kotahitanga award for outstanding contribution to the Chiefs Rugby Club this year went to two very worthy winners, Gallagher Chiefs Team Manager / Head of Teams Martyn Vercoe and Social Media and Marketing Executive, Kyra Alexander.

“As we close out the season I extend a massive thank you to our sponsors and fans, we wouldn't be able to do this without you and your support means so much to all of us here at the Chiefs Rugby Club,” said Graafhuis.

“We congratulate all of our winners, farewell those moving on this year, and look forward to what we can achieve in 2024.”

Chiefs Rugby Club Award Winners:

Gallagher Chiefs
Coaches Player of the Year: Sam Cane
First Windows and Doors Rookie of the Year: Daniel Rona
Gallagher Players’ Player of the Year: Emoni Narawa
Waikato Draught Fans Player of the Year: Damian McKenzie

Waitomo Chiefs Manawa
Coaches Player of the Year: Tanya Kalounivale
MyTreat Rookie of the Year: Mererangi Paul
Waitomo Players’ Player of the Year: Kate Henwood
Carpet Mill Fans Player of the Year: Luka Connor

University of Waikato Chiefs U20
University of Waikato U20 Player of the Year: Codemeru Vai

Club Awards
Personality of the Year: Brad Weber
Mana Kotiate Award: Quinn Tupaea
Kotahitanga Award: Martyn Vercoe and Kyra Alexander

2023 Chiefs Rugby Club Award Winners Announced