Women’s Player of the Year – Caroline Crossley: Previous winners of this award had very strong college season or careers–but this year’s winner isn’t even in college yet. In fact, she hasn’t even finished her high school education. Caroline is only 17, but has already made the Canadian Women’s 7s team, breaking into a squad that is one of the best in the world and qualified for the Olympics. We are not sure how flashy she’ll be, or how quickly the coaches will try to bring her along, but she’s already pegged as the next star for Canada. We are witnessing a player that could possibly play in four Olympics and four World Cups.
Men’s Domestic Player of the Year – Jamie Mackenzie: The younger brother of Phil Mackenzie, established Canadian 7s and 15s international, Jamie seems to have finally conquered long-term injury woes and played his best test rugby to date in 2015. Still, he isn’t assured of a spot in the team with the likes of Gordon McRorie and Andrew Ferguson hot on his heels. Mackenzie has a chance to make the No. 9 jersey his own during the Americas Rugby Championship (ARC), but it won’t be easy.
Men’s International Player of the Year – Ciaran Hearn: Hearn finally gave in and signed his first overseas contract with London Irish, and has already made an immediate impact in the 2015/2016 season. The move may have cost him a shot at the Olympics with the 7s team, though he could return to the squad at the conclusion of the Aviva Premiership season. Either way, his international profile should continue to grow after an excellent World Cup and newfound pro status.
Young Player of the Year – Alex Mascott: Canada desperately needs a hooker, and this guy could get a look. There is a massive gap between the incumbent, Ray Barkwell, and the next in line, backrower Aaron Carpenter. Mascott’s chance will likely come during the upcoming ARC. He was the U-20 national team hooker in 2013, and is the current starter for the defending BC champion, UBC Thunderbirds. Unfortunately, he missed the 2015 Canadian Rugby Championship (CRC) with injury, but is back and fully fit for 2016, and could be set for a breakthrough year.
7s Player of the Year – Admir Cejvanovic: A big, powerful runner at 5’11”, 220lbs. Admir makes up one half of ‘the freaks’ along with Class of 2014 member Adam Zaruba for the size and pace. Cejvanovic appears to be nudging ahead of Adam Zaruba in the pecking order. A proven try-scorer as a No.8 in the BC league, Cejvanovic is starting translate that talent to the abbreviated game,, and turned heads with some big scores for the 7s side. He will be a key man in helping Canada turn their fortunes around on the World Rugby Sevens Series.
Club of the Year – UBC Thunderbirds: The days where club rugby could elevate a player to the national side are over. That said, if there is a club worth watching on the field it is the Thunderbirds, who have supplanted UVic(University of Victoria, B.C.) as the top destination for Canada’s best college age-grade players. The T-Birds won the domestic league in BC last year and are tearing it up once again this season. It’s not difficult to imagine that a few ARC players will come from within their side, despite the talk of how much the CRC matters.
Coach of the Year – Jeff Williams: TThe current national U-20 head coach got his men to the final of the World Rugby Junior Rugby (U-20) Trophy last season, before eventually losing to the overwhelming Georgians in the final. This year’s team is even better on paper, so there’s a real chance they could finally graduate back to top tier for next season–though to do so they’ll have to win a one-off game against the USA Rugby All-Americans in February, in Austin, Texas. Williams is a former Canada international in both 7s and 15s with a highly-regarded rugby brain. He is from the East part of the country, but played out west for a while, giving him good knowledge of the Canadian rugby landscape. He is another who could move up the Rugby Canada ladder if his 2016 is a success.
Alberta (Prairie Wolf Pack): At last the Wolf Pack achieved their goal of winning the CRC, albeit in a severely truncated version. Can they repeat their success with a return to a round-robin format? Of course the Pack represent the Prairie region (Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba), but with Alberta now home to two of the five largest Canadian cities, it is no surprise that the Wolf Pack are based in one of them Calgary . As such, Alberta gets much of the plaudits, and it’s true that within the province the quality of rugby seems to be rising, with top players continually returning from BC to boost their club sides. With the new ARC putting added emphasis on CRC form for national selection, can the Alberta Cup raise its profile to the level that the BC and Ontario premier divisions hold? If it can, more players may stay home instead of traveling. If the Alberta Cup can become as good as the other two comps, then the CRC will only improve as a whole, and so too the national team.
Administrator of the Year – Jim Dixon (Rugby Canada GM): Jim has a hell of a task in front of him. He was named as the replacement for Mike Chu and with no CEO currently in place at Rugby Canada, Dixon is currently the de facto head honcho. And he has a busy year ahead. He recently extended Kieran Crowley‘s tenure as head coach of the senior men’s team until August 2017 only to see Crowley step down weeks later. Dixon now he has to look for a new head coach while also overseeing the CRC, the new Vancouver stop on the World Rugby Sevens Series, and possible entry into the new PRO Rugby league starting in the USA. Add to that an Olympic run that is looking far from certain for the men’s 7s, and continual pressure from the rugby community to eliminate the pay-to-play model for the senior women’s program, and Dixon has his work cut out for him to say the very least.
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