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Short Passes 16 December (the last one of the year)

An underwhelming weekend for the representative Sevens sides at the National tournament in Tauranga. The Men started well with a resounding win over minnows Thames Valley before coming unstuck against Southland 5-7, leaving a must-win encounter against Hawke’s Bay to make the Cup section, but went down 17-24. Consigned to the second-tier for Day 2, a 17-14 win over Manawatu put them into the Bowl semis, but they exited at that point when well beaten 12-35 by Otago. Perhaps the decision to take effectively four halfbacks; HOBM’s Sheridan Rangihuna, Tawa’s Kyle Preston, and Norths duo Campbell Woodmass and Esi Komaisavai should be questioned in hindsight. Officially ranked 12th and ahead of only Manawatu and the three Heartland sides, it’s Wellington’s worst performance for many years.

The Women faired slightly better, with Day 1 wins over Canterbury (26-7) and Tasman (12-10) bracketing a 19-35 loss to Waikato and seeing them into the Cup section. However Day 2 was a struggle, losing to Bay of Plenty 10-17 in the quarters before crashing 0-32 in the rematch with Canterbury in the Plate playoffs.

Preston and Wainuiomata’s Sam Smith topped the try list for the men with four each, with Haruna Fujisaki and Monica Tagoai dotting down three times each for the women. It was a welcome return for the latter, with the Black Fern completing a successful return to the game after breaking her leg in a preseason outing in March.


The two tournaments were won by Waikato and Counties-Manukau. The latter beat Waikato to claim the Women’s crown, while the Mooloo men were too strong for Auckland in the Mens decider. There was a Wellington element to both winning sides, with Larrisa Lima, who plays for the OBU Impalas while studying at Victoria University, part of the Counties-Manukau side, and former Heretaunga College student and Wellington age-grade representative Brandon Mudzekenyedzi in Waikato’s side. Additionally the men’s final was refereed by Wellington’s Nick Hogan.


Speaking of Hogan, he was part of a mixed bag of news for the provinces top referees with the announcement of the National Squad for 2020. The good news is that Ben O’Keeffe – who has two appointments in the upcoming Six Nations – and Mike Fraser have been retained on professional contracts, with Hogan and Richard Gordon also keeping their places. On the flip side is that Vincent Ringrose has been dropped for the second time, while Monique Dalley appears to have been a casualty of a number crunch caused by the arrival of American World Sevens Series circuit referee Emily Hseih who has taken up the job of Women’s Referee Development Manager at NZ Rugby.


A number of Wellington school-aged players were involved in the World Schools Sevens at Pakuranga’s Bell Park over Friday Saturday. Scots College pair Roderick Solo and Sage Shaw-Tait were in the victorious Condor NZ Boys team that was also coached by their First XV mentor Sam Rasch with Solo named in the tournament team, while Maddie Feaunati (St Mary’s) was in the corresponding Girls side that were beaten semi-finalists. Others involved included Paris Lokotui (Queen Margaret) and Milly Mackey (Newlands) with the NZ Maori Girls, Drenna Falaniko (St Mary’s) in the Samoan Barbarians Girls, and sisters Tema and Katharine Rayasi (St Mary’s) with the Fiji Girls.


An oval ball of a different kind. Five regular Wellington Premier rugby players – OBU’s Dale Sabbagh and Paremata-Plimmerton quartet Johno Sabo, Michael Martinez, Blake Neve, and Kewa McMillan-Parata – were all part of the Eastern Suburbs Bulldogs side, coached by Poneke club icon John Jackson, that reclaimed the Wellington Australian Rules title on Saturday over the Saints and avenging last season’s defeat.


Oriental-Rongotai’s Ardie Savea collected three awards at this year’s New Zealand Rugby Awards, including the supreme Kelvin R Tremain Memorial award for the overall Player of the Year, book-ending a year of consistently remarkable performances from the All Blacks and Hurricanes loose forward.

Savea was named the Investec Super Rugby Player of the Year, the All Blacks Player of the Year (new award), before being crowned as the Kelvin R Tremain Player of the Year award which was won last year by Black Fern Kendra Cocksedge.

Savea reached a new level of play in 2019, starting eight of the All Blacks 10 Test matches, and he showed strength and versatility across the back row.  Savea was a monster presence on the field in attack – often taking defenders for a ride – and on defence – he displayed a freakish ability to turnover crucial ball at the breakdown.

There were other awards for Wellington players and officials, with Northern United’s TJ Perenara winning the Sky Television Fan’s Try of the Year and Hutt Old Boys Marist’s Chase Tiatia winning the Duane Monkley Medal which is awarded on a 3-2-1 basis in the NPC

The award winners are all listed at the bottom of this article 


Club rugby and local sport media watch.

Short Passes has heard that the Saturday Rugby Club on Radio Sport has aired its last broadcast. No more rugby commentaries and round-up and other sports round-up on that station? Goodbye local sports coverage.


A new All Black coach, Ian Foster.

Is this a good appointment, or should they have gone with ‘Razor’ Robertson?

Kevin McCarthy commented on this subject in his final Aisle be Back column of the year the other day:

No doubt most fans would have liked Razor over Fozzie.  Now we’re going to find out the answer – but only partially. After all, we actually don’t know how Robertson would go over the next four years; it’s not a lab experiment you can run.

Foster on the other hand gets to be the lab rat. And boy, is he going to be scrutinised.

He wasn’t my choice, but it’s time to rally round the flag boys and girls. He’s our coach, and he’ll bring on board some strong assistants (John Plumtree anyone?).

Out of the shadow of Steve Hansen, he will have a couple of years to reshape the team. His hand of cards will be very different.

If the team struggles in 2020 and 2021, we can expect all sorts of blood on the floor and pressure to wield the axe on the coach. It would be the sort of instability New Zealand fans have forgotten actually exists when you are back in the pack.

It would be  a stretch to say it would be fun. But it would certainly be different, and hey, different is good. You just know we were sick of all that winning.

If Plumtree is appointed assistant coach, current assistant Jason Holland will be in the main chair for 2020 with Chris Gibbes as his assistant.


Rongotai College old boy Ben Smith looks at possible bolters for the 2022 Rugby World Cup, always an interesting read.

He has selected Hawke’s Bay’s Devan Flanders and Folau Fakatava, Tasman’s Anton Segner, Auckland’s Niko Jones and Canterbury’s Fergus Burke.

Read more HERE


Leo Crowley moves up from the Assistant’s role to Head Coach for the Wellington Lions for 2020, having been appointed ahead of former All Black, Hurricane, Lion, Sunwolves coach, and 1992 Billy Wallace Best & Fairest winner Filo Tiatia. It’s a somewhat puzzling decision on the surface, with Club Rugby understanding that the less than stellar state of the union’s finances and the status of Lions assistant Cory Jane (also signed through 2020) are factors in the decision.


This column concludes Short Passes and Club Rugby’s coverage of rugby for 2019 – we have run out of road and there is no more rugby for several weeks.

Club Rugby thanks everyone who has supported us this year and hopes to return in 2020!

We welcome your feedback, suggestions and input. Please email for more.

New Zealand Rugby Award Winners 2019

Sky Television Fan’s Try of the Year
TJ Perenara

New Zealand Rugby Referee of the Year
Winner: Paul Williams
•    Rebecca Mahoney (Wairarapa Bush)
•    Ben O’Keeffe (Wellington)

Charles Monro Rugby Volunteer of the Year
Winner: Ian Spraggon (Bay of Plenty)
•    Sue Mitchell (Taranaki)
•    Kevin Pulley (Wellington)

NZRPA Kirk Award
Winners: Josh Blackie, Seilala Mapusua & Hale T-Pole

Steinlager Salver for an Outstanding Contribution to New Zealand Rugby
Steve Tew

New Zealand Rugby Age Grade Player of the Year
winner: Fletcher Newell (Canterbury)
•    Zach Gallagher (Canterbury)
•    Tupou Vaa’i (Taranaki)

Mitre 10 Heartland Championship Player of the Year
Winner: Josh Clark (North Otago)
•    Campbell Hart (Whanganui)
•    Robbie Smith (North Otago)

Duane Monkley Medal
Winner: Chase Tiatia (Bay of Plenty)
•    Gareth Evans (Hawke’s Bay)
•    Salesi Rayasi (Auckland)
•    Fletcher Smith (Waikato)

Fiao’o Faamausili Medal
Winner: Chelsea Bremner (Canterbury Women)
•    Ayesha Leti-I’iga (Wellington)
•    Patricia Maliepo (Auckland)

ASB National Coach of the Year
Winner: Scott Robertson (Crusaders)
•    Andrew Goodman (Tasman, Crusaders) and Clarke Dermody (Tasman)
•    Kieran Kite (Canterbury)

ASB New Zealand Coach of the Year
Winner: Cory Sweeney and Allan Bunting (Black Ferns Sevens)
•    Steve Hansen (All Blacks)
•    Glenn Moore (Black Ferns)

Investec Super Rugby Player of the Year
Winner: Ardie Savea (Hurricanes)
•    Scott Barrett (Crusaders)
•    Brad Weber (Chiefs)

Tom French Memorial Māori Player of the Year
Winner: Sarah Hirini (Ngāti Kahungunu)
•    Ash Dixon (Ngāti Tahinga)
•    TJ Perenara (Te Arawa / Ngāti Rangitihi)

Richard Crawshaw Memorial All Blacks Sevens Player of the Year
Winner: Tone Ng Shiu (Tasman)
•    Dylan Collier (Waikato)
•    Andrew Knewstubb (Horowhenua Kapiti)

Black Ferns Sevens Player of the Year
Winner: Tyla Nathan-Wong (Auckland)
•    Kelly Brazier (Bay of Plenty)
•    Sarah Hirini (Manawatu)

Black Ferns Player of the Year
Winner: Charmaine McMenamin (Auckland)
•    Kendra Cocksedge (Canterbury)
•    Ayesha Leti-I’iga (Wellington)

All Blacks Player of the Year
Winner: Ardie Savea (Hurricanes)
•    Beauden Barrett (Hurricanes)
•    Anton Lienert-Brown (Chiefs)

adidas National Team of the Year
Winner: Crusaders
•    Canterbury Women
•    Tasman Mako

adidas New Zealand Team of the Year
Winner: Black Ferns Sevens
•    All Blacks
•    Black Ferns

Kelvin R Tremain Memorial Player of the Year
Ardie Savea

Previous Kelvin R Tremain award winners (last 10 years):
2018   Kendra Cocksedge
2017   Samuel Whitelock
2016   Beauden Barrett
2015   Ma’a Nonu
2014   Brodie Retallick
2013   Kieran Read
2012   Richie McCaw
2011   Jerome Kaino
2010   Kieran Read
2009   Richie McCaw
2008   Andrew Hore

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