Ma’a Nonu has made one last big impact in New Zealand rugby, being named player of the year at the code’s annual awards.
The barnstorming inside centre has seen off Test teammates Dan Carter, Ben Smith and Dane Coles to win the major prize with the All Blacks also rewarded for their Rugby World Cup triumph.
They’ve won team of the year for a fifth successive year while Steve Hansen has been named coach of the year for a fourth year in a row.
Jamie Joseph and the Highlanders made a strong case in both categories after snaring a maiden Super Rugby title but they couldn’t compete with a historic third Rugby World Cup crown from the national team.
Highlanders five-eighth Lima Sopoaga was named Super Rugby player of the year at Friday’s awards evening in Auckland.
Other major awards were won by Canterbury halfback Kendra Cocksedge (women), All Blacks winger Nehe Milner-Skudder (Maori) and Auckland centre George Moala (NPC) while sevens awards were scooped by Scott Curry (men) and Tyla Nathan-Wong (women).
Carter was named World Rugby’s player of the year shortly after the World Cup but he didn’t have the same form in Super Rugby as Nonu, who shone for beaten finalists the Hurricanes.
Both players have since left for club contracts in France, with Test centurion Nonu having made his Toulon debut last week.
The 33-year-old showed his gratitude in a video message.
“I’ve really been humbled and grateful to be part of the All Blacks and representing my country,” he said.
PLAYERS OF THE YEAR:
Overall: Ma’a Nonu (Hurricanes and All Blacks)
Women: Kendra Cocksedge (Canterbury)
Super Rugby: Lima Sopoaga (Highlanders)
NPC: George Moala (Auckland)
Maori: Nehe Milner-Skudder
Men’s sevens: Scott Curry
Women’s sevens: Tyla Nathan-Wong
Heartland Championship: Lindsay Horrocks (Wanganui)
Age Grade: Akira Ioane (Auckland)
Team: All Blacks
Coach: Steve Hansen (All Blacks)
Referee: Glen Jackson (Bay of Plenty)
Outstanding contribution: Mike Eagle (Canterbury)