Nick Williams scooped the Peter Thomas Player of the Year Award at the Official Cardiff Blues Awards on Thursday night, as young players dominated elsewhere on a night when Fa’ao Filise was honoured as the King of Tonga should be.
Held at Stratstone Land Rover, the evening started with the Cardiff Blues men’s senior squad entering the room parading the European Challenge Cup trophy won against Gloucester in Bilbao two weeks ago.
Host Tom Shanklin then got the evening underway, with the community game the focus of the early part of the awards, as Lauren Holloway won Club Volunteer of the Year for her work with St Albans RFC, as well as around District B.
Michael Connor, who works with a host of clubs and schools teams around the region, as well as assisting with coaching Cardiff Blues Ladies, won School Volunteer of the Year, while another who works hard around the region, Gavin Clement, was crowned Young People’s Coach of the Year.
The final community award was the Outstanding Contribution to Rugby Development, which went to Llandaff RFC’s Endaf Williams who has played a major role in setting up Cardiff Chiefs, the city’s first mixed ability rugby team.
Off-field Cardiff Blues staff were acknowledged, with player and family liaison manager Helen Davies, who is also a #StayStrongForOws co-ordinator, and club doctor Gareth Jones jointly winning employee of the year. It is also a happy retirement to Dr Jones, who has run onto the Arms Park field to assist a player for the last time.
Onto the player awards, and the Cardiff Blues Ladies were up first as Manon Johnes won U18 Player of the Year, while Katie Jenkins was awarded senior Player of the Year. Unfortunately Katie was not able to attend after undergoing knee surgery on Thursday, so here’s hoping for a speedy recovery.
The men’s awards started with the Try of the Season, voted for by supporters on Twitter, and unsurprisingly Tomos Williams’ effort in the Challenge Cup Final was a landslide winner, dribbling the ball through and collecting it off the post after Gareth Anscombe’s initial good work.
Next up was Academy Player of the Year, which was one by Owen Lane after a fine debut season which saw the winger score six tries in 11 Guinness Pro14 games and be tipped for a call-up to Wales’ summer squad.
Jarrod Evans was the big winner of the night, scooping Discovery of the Year and Players’ Player of the Year on the back of a season that saw the young fly-half nail down the number 10 jersey and also count himself unlucky not to be named in the Wales squad.
It was the big man who won the main prize of the ceremony though, as Nick Williams won the Player of the Year award named in honour of our long serving Chairman, after a season in which he became a talisman figure within the Cardiff Blues squad.
There was also time on the evening to wish Alex Cuthbert a fond farewell ahead of his summer move to Exeter Chiefs, but the end of the night was stolen by the one and only Taufa’ao Filise.
An excellent retirement video was put together with Cardiff Blues players and coaches from the past and present chipping into to share memories of the tighthead prop, who retires after 255 appearances across 12 seasons at the Arms Park.
The King of Tonga was honoured with a standing ovation and a presentation of the Cardiff Blues Special Recognition Award, thoroughly deserved for an absolute legend.
Full list of winners
Club Volunteer of the Year – Lauren Holloway
School Volunteer of the Year – Michael Connor
Young People’s Coach of the Year – Gavin Clement
Outstanding Contribution to Rugby Development – Endaf Williams
Cardiff Blues Employees of the Year – Helen Davies & Dr Gareth Jones
Cardiff Blues Ladies U18 Player of the Year – Manon Johnes
Cardiff Blues Ladies Player of the Year – Katie Jenkins
Cardiff Blues Try of the Year – Tomos Williams (vs Gloucester)
Cardiff Blues Academy Player of the Year – Owen Lane
Cardiff Blues Discovery of the Year – Jarrod Evans
Cardiff Blues Players’ Player of the Year – Jarrod Evans
Peter Thomas Player of the Year – Nick Williams
Cardiff Blues Special Recognition Award – Taufa’ao Filise