First published in League Express, Monday 16th Sept 2013
No matter who is selected and who is left out, the end of season awards will always create controversy and talking points in any competition.
This year is unlikely to be any different, after the Kingstone Press Championship awards nominees were unveiled by the RFL last week.
Before going into the selections, it’s important to explain how each award is decided.
This season, for the first time, the Player of the Year in both competitions will be those that topped the cumulative tables from the weekly Premier Sports awards that have run all year.
In those, every coach from both competitions is contacted each week after their games to nominate candidates for selection in both the Team of the Week and the Player of the Week rankings, with five players handed points in each round.
A table was formed that was publicised all season up until four weeks ago, when it was withdrawn to retain suspense for the awards night in Leeds on Thursday September 26.
The top three in each competition were revealed on Thursday – in the Championship Aaron Brown, Paul Cooke and Mitchell Stringer, and in Championship One, Andy Moulsdale, Jono Smith and Dylan Skee.
All of the other awards – the Coach and Young Player of the Year in both divisions – were voted for entirely by the coaches, who were asked to name a top three from outside their club in each category.
That is how all three awards have been decided in past years – the Player of the Year titles were changed by the RFL in an attempt to build interest throughout the season.
For the record, Young Player of the Year contenders had to be 21 or under on the first day of their respective league seasons, and have played half of the league matches.
So are the selections that have been made fair?
Prop Stringer has been outstanding for Sheffield all season, and it’s hard not to argue that Doncaster and Dewsbury would have struggled to make the play-offs without Cooke and Brown respectively.
Players who can consider themselves unlucky to have missed out include Halifax’s Scott Murrell, Featherstone’s serial award winner Liam Finn, and fullbacks Quentin Laulu-Togagae and Miles Greenwood, among others.
Coach of the Year nominations are Mark Aston, Tony Miller and last year’s winner Paul Rowley, which is hard to argue with, although others undoubtedly had their claims.
The Young Player nominees are Brown again, Leigh’s Ryan Brierley, York fullback Tom Carr and Doncaster utility back Liam Kay.
Workington’s Callum Phillips and Featherstone’s Jack Bussey can’t have been too far away.
The fact that both Featherstone and Halifax have been overlooked in these awards may rankle with their supporters, and provide some extra motivation for this weekend’s semi-finals.
In Championship One, North Wales Crusaders pair Smith and Moulsdale, plus London Skolars’ halfback Skee, have all been excellent in 2013, though Oldham fullback Richard Lepori must have been in contention.
He has to settle for a Young Player nomination alongside team-mate Adam Files, All Golds forward Tyla Hepi, Gateshead’s Luke Hardcastle and Crusaders fullback Tommy Johnson.
There are usually only three nominations for each category, but there can be more if there is a tie of several players for second place in the coaches’ voting.
The Championship One Coach of the Year will come from Clive Griffiths, Joe Mbu and Troy Perkins, all of whom have their claims. But Oldham’s Scott Naylor can perhaps feel a little aggrieved, given how close he came to automatic promotion in his first season as a head coach.
All will be revealed in little over a week’s time at a ceremony at Elland Road. It’s a night that provides fitting recognition for players and coaches whose dedication in a part-time environment deserves tremendous credit.
Championship Award Nominations
Championship Player of the Year: Aaron Brown (Dewsbury) Paul Cooke (Doncaster) Mitchell Stringer (Sheffield)
Championship Young Player of the Year: Aaron Brown (Dewsbury) Ryan Brierley (Leigh) Tom Carr (York) Liam Kay (Doncaster)
Championship Coach of the Year: Mark Aston (Sheffield) Tony Miller (Doncaster) Paul Rowley (Leigh)
Championship One Player of the Year: Any Moulsdale (NW Crusaders) Jono Smith (NW Crusaders) Dylan Skee (London)
Championship One Young Player of the Year: Adam Files (Oldham) Tyla Hepi (All Golds) Luke Hardcastle (Gateshead) Tommy Johnson (NW Crusaders) Richard Lepori (Oldham)
Championship One Coach of the Year: Clive Griffiths (NW Crusaders) Joe Mbu (London) Troy Perkins (Hemel Stags)