CJ Stander bagged his third major award in nine days but yesterday’s Munster Rugby Player of the Year honour was, he said, the one that meant the most to him.
Back rower Stander became the first person to claim the player of the year award for the second year in a row when he picked up his trophy at the annual Munster Rugby Awards in Cork yesterday.
Stander saw off competition from lock Billy Holland and centre Rory Scannell, whose breakthrough season was further recognised when, in another first, he scooped both the Young Player of the Year and the John McCarthy Award for Greencore Munster Rugby Academy Player of the Year during a lunch at the Clayton Silver Springs Hotel.
Yet the day belonged to Stander, the South African-born forward who qualified for Ireland after three years of residency following his 2012 move from the Blue Bulls and earned a man of the match award on his Test debut against Wales in February’s Six Nations opener.
In Peter O’Mahony’s absence through injury, Stander was also handed the captaincy and his form in scoring seven tries in 21 appearances as well as numerous man of the match awards saw him crowned IRUPA Players’ Player of the Year and Supporters’ Player of the Year nine days ago while last Sunday he was named in the Guinness PRO12 Dream Team for the season.
“This is the one that really means a lot to me,” Stander said as he collected his latest trophy. “The players nominate you and they’re with you on the pitch every week and they can see what everything’s about and then the supporters (vote). Thank you very much, I appreciate it.
“It’s a team sport and people say ‘oh, it’s another honour but this is the one you want and I’m delighted with it.”
Asked what the Munster team meant to him, the back-rower said: “A lot. I would give my life for them, for the team, for the coaches and the management, especially the team.
“It’s been a tough year but we all stuck together and I think at the end of the year the way we ended on a high just shows the character of the boys, how hard they work and how much this team means to them. It comes down to work ethic and that you would give everything you have in your body to the team and the boys around you, for an extra few yards or inches, to work harder.
“It’s a place where you don’t have all the financials or the money or the big names, the boys just work hard for each other, for the team and for the jersey and that’s the big difference.”
Stander received his award from club captain O’Mahony who earlier in the afternoon cast doubt on his chances of making the Ireland tour to South Africa next month.
Speaking on stage at the awards, O’Mahony said: “The end of the season probably came a week or two short for me. I needed some games under my belt but that won’t be, for Munster certainly, for another couple of months.
“I’m really looking forward to being back playing now. I’m ready to go but I guess this gives me the opportunity of another four or five months of rehab under my belt and I’m looking forward to the pre-season friendlies hopefully and then next season with Munster.”
Scannell’s double success also brought more glory to his club after former Dolphin and Ireland international Phil O’Callaghan became the latest inductee into the Munster Rugby Hall of Fame.
There were celebrations in Tralee RFC as the club, for the third year in a row provided the Munster Women’s Player of the Year as flanker Siobhan Fleming picked up the award, her third time winning the honour.
Ulster Bank League finalists and Bateman Cup winners Cork Constitution were named Senior Club of the Year while the Junior accolade went to Bandon RFC.
Waterpark RFC from Waterford and Dingle’s Corca Dhuibhne RFC were the respective recipients for their Youth and Mini sections while the School of the Year went to Christian Brothers College, Cork.
Munster Rugby Award winners for 2015/16 were:
Club Mini Section of the Year, Corca Dhuibhne RFC;
Club Youth Section of the Year, Waterpark RFC.
School of the Year: Christian Brothers College.
Junior Club of the Year: Bandon RFC.
Senior Club of the Year: Cork Constitution FC.
Referee of the Year: Frank Murphy.
Women’s Player of the Year: Siobhan Fleming.
Hall of Fame Award: Phil O’Callaghan.
The John McCarthy Award for Greencore Academy Player of the Year: Rory Scannell.
Young Player of the Year: Rory Scannell.
Player of the Year: CJ Stander
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