OLD Hararians (OH) and Zimbabwe international utility back-liner Gardner Nechironga could cap off a memorable season for his club after being included on the shortlist of nominees for the prestigious Lion Lager National Rugby League player of the year award.
Nechironga, who joined OH at the start of the season after parting ways with German club SC Neuenheim, helped the Old Boys lift their first national title in eight years.
His versatility in the back line and ability to score crucial tries in key matches made OH one of the most consistent teams in the league as they lost once the entire season.
In an interview with sister paper NewsDay Sport yesterday, Nechironga, who will be one of the key players for the Sables on their season-ending tour of Namibia next week, described the nomination as a surprise.
“Obviously I was surprised when I heard that I had been nominated for the player of the season award, but anyway I’m happy to have been given such an honour. Obviously all credit to my teammates for all the support during this season as I would not have achieved this without their support,” Nechironga said.
Nechironga will, however, face very stiff competition from Harare Sports Club teenage fly-half Teddy “Boxer” Hwata, who finished as the league’s top pointsscorer with 230 points ahead of Old Hararians’ Tichafara Makwanya who scored 185 points.
Hwata, who was also nominated for the backline player of the year award, was the leading light for Harare Sports Club despite their failure to challenge for honours.
Also in the running for the top accolade of player of the year is Old Georgians’ top tryscorer Farai Jijita.
Matabeleland Warriors’ loose forward Lucky Sithole is in the running for the forward of the Year award together with Old Hararians’ Tawanda Chowe and Jijita.
Meanwhile, the league’s losing finalists Old Georgians dominated the National Rugby League Select team providing eight players in the all-star team while champions Old Hararians had five players.
Lion Lager National Rugby League chairman Nody Kanyangarara said the league’s awards banquet will be held at a local hotel on November 16.
NRL select team of the year
- Pieter Joubert (OGs), 2 Keith Murray (OGs), 3 Jakov Jakov (OGs), 4 Costa Dinha (OH), 5 Jonathan Goosen (OGs), 6 Farai Jijita (OGs), 7. Jacques Leitao (OGs), 8 Andrew Rose (OGs), 9 Phil Machisa (HSC), 10 Tichafara Makwanya (OH), 11 Kuda Chiwanza (OGs), 12 Simbarashe Chirimuuta (HSC), 13 Lungile Tshuma (OH), 14 Gardner Nechironga (OH), 15 Tangai Nemadire (OH)
Finals list of nominees
- Player of the Year: Gardner Nechironga (OH), Teddy Hwata (HSC), Farai Jijita (OGs)
- Backline player of the year: Kuda Chiwanza (OGs), Kilvan Magunje (Gweru Sports Club), Teddy Hwata (HSC)
- Forward of the year: Tawanda Chowe (OH), Farai Jijita (OGs), Lucky Sithole (Mat/Warriors),
- Rookie of the year: Walter Gode (M/Warriors), David Makamba (HSC), Josh Mutasa (HSC)
- Most disciplined player of the year: Daniel Hondo (HSC), Costa Dinha (OH), Grant Mitchel (OGs)
- NRL referee of the year: Scott McDonnell (Mashonaland Rugby Referees Society), Gabriel Masenda (Mashonaland Rugby Referees Society), Simba Danga (Matabeleland Rugby Referees Society)
- Coach of the year: Sykes Sibanda (HSC), George Mukorera (Western Panthers), Cyprian Mandenge (OH)
- Top tryscorer: Steven Hunduza (HSC)
- Top points scorer: Teddy Hwata (HSC)