Richards collects award on crutches
Engage Super League’s reigning Man of Steel Pat Richards went on stage on crutches to receive one of the top prizes at the Rugby League International Federation awards night at Eden Park.
The Wigan winger is still in the early stages of his recuperation from surgery on the Achilles tendon he tore during the Warriors’ Grand Final triumph last month but that did not stop him making a whistle-stop trip to Eden Park to attend the prestigious ceremony.
Richards, who was on a visit to his family in Sydney, had no idea he was going to be named international winger of the year when he received the invitation.
“I got a call yesterday from the NRL to invite me to come over and I’m glad I made the effort,” he said.
“I was visiting the family for a couple of weeks and I leave next Thursday to go back to England so it was a bit of a freak encounter.”
Richards was also named Ireland player of the year, an award that recognised achievements up to October 3, before the start of this year’s European Cup in which the Irish finished with the wooden spoon.
“I played a friendly last year so I must have qualified in that way,” he said. “I love playing for Ireland and hopefully Ireland rugby league will continue to grow strong.”
Leigh centre Mick Nanyn took the award for Scotland and Lee Briers was named Wales player of the year.
Meanwhile, Richards is resigned to missing the start of Wigan’s title defence but hopes to be back playing by the end of March.
The 28-year-old, who equalled Andy Farrell’s Super League points in a season record this year, had an operation two days after the Grand Final but will remain on crutches for another two weeks.
“I’ll start walking then and maybe run about four weeks after that,” he said.
“I should be near enough to the start of the season or a bit after. I’m not going to rush it. I’m going to make sure it’s right.”
Wigan stand-off or full-back Sam Tomkins completed a fairytale season when he was named international rookie of the year.
The 21-year-old, who has won the title of Super League young player of the year for the last two seasons, succeeds another England international, Leeds Rhinos winger Ryan Hall, as the most promising young player in world rugby league.
Australians dominated the awards, with Sydney Roosters stand-off Todd Carney completing a stunning transformation from the scrap heap to the pinnacle of the game by being named international player of the year.
But Warrington Wolves captain Adrian Morley, who pulled out of England’s Four Nations campaign on the eve of the tournament with an arm injury, was named prop of the year.
Tomkins had been nominated along with Morley and Richards for the top award but that went to the 24-year-old Carney, who spent the 2009 season rebuilding his life and his career playing district football for the North Queensland town of Atherton.
The award winners, chosen by an international panel based on performances from October 13, 2009 to October 3, 2010, are:
Player of the Year: Todd Carney (Sydney Roosters).
Coach: Wayne Bennett (St George Illawarra).
Rookie: Sam Tomkins (Wigan and England).
Full-back: Darius Boyd (St George Illawarra and Australia).
Winger: Pat Richards (Wigan).
Centre: Shaun Kenny-Dowall (Sydney Roosters and New Zealand).
Stand-off: Todd Carney (Sydney Roosters).
Scrum-half: Scott Prince (Gold Coast and Australia).
Prop: Adrian Morley (Warrington and England).
Hooker: Robbie Farah (Wests Tigers and Australia).
Second-rower: Gareth Ellis (Wests Tigers and England).
Loose forward: Luke Lewis (Penrith and Australia).