Jimmy Gopperth was the headline act of the Aviva Premiership Rugby Awards 2017, as the Wasps back scooped three of the prizes on offer – including the coveted Aviva Premiership Rugby Player of the Season.
The 33-year-old New Zealand-born player has pulled the strings in a star-studded Wasps backline this term that dazzled fans at the Ricoh Arena and scored a record 89 tries during the 22-game regular season.
Gopperth, who can operate at either fly-half or centre, also scooped the Gilbert Golden Boot and the Citizen Try of the Season awards.
Here they are! Director of Rugby and Player of the Season 🏆🏆
— Premiership Rugby (@premrugby) May 17, 2017
His 221 points from the tee were enough to comfortably beat Northampton Saints’ Stephen Myler and Alex Lozowski of Saracens, while it was Gopperth’s sensational score against the Saints in Round Four – where he completed a length-of-the-field breakaway try with a 50-yard dash from Guy Thompson’s offload – that also earned top billing.
Since joining Wasps from Leinster in January 2015, former Newcastle Falcon Gopperth has been a rock for the Coventry outfit, but he believes this has been his finest Aviva Premiership Rugby season yet.
“It’s very humbling the way everyone has given me recognition and nominations and whatnot, but I’m just really enjoying playing my part within this group,” he said.
“The way we have played as a team has been really, really enjoyable – how can you not be loving playing this game the way we are playing it every Friday night, Saturday, or Sunday.
“I’ve had a really good season personally, and that’s probably down to having a little bit more time on the ball at No.12, and a little bit less pressure.
“When you’re a fly-half you’re trying to look after everybody else; the forwards and the backs, but having Danny [Cipriani] in there with me, we are sharing that responsibility which gives us both freedom.
“I’ve enjoyed it so much and the way we play definitely suits me; we play with two receivers and try to give ourselves a lot of width.
“There was a lot of talk about what was going to happen when Cips got signed – we thought it was just going to be a straight shootout.
“But the way rugby goes, there’s injuries, and playing at No.12 was what was best for the team so I wanted to give it a crack.”
— Wasps (@WaspsRugby) May 17, 2017
In a season where records were shattered across the board, Wasps’ free-scoring stars scooped plenty of the prizes on Wednesday evening’s glittering awards ceremony at the Lancaster London Hotel.
After equalling Dominic Chapman’s 20-year-old try-scoring record for the 22-game season with 17, Christian Wade was named the Trivento Top Try Scorer of the Season.
And Dai Young was named the Ricoh Director of Rugby of the Season after guiding the all-star line-up to their first top-of-the-table finish in 20 years.
But the job is not done yet for Wasps, and as they welcome Leicester Tigers to a packed-out Ricoh Arena on Saturday, Gopperth is desperate to complete the semi-final job.
He said: “We had a massive game the week before last against Saracens at home, and even though they were missing a few guys, it was still really tough going.
“It was a huge win. To see nearly 32,000 people at the Ricoh as well was unbelievable, and it was the perfect preparation for a semi-final. The intensity was really high, and we played with a lot of passion.
— Wasps (@WaspsRugby) May 17, 2017
“We wanted to be the first Wasps side for a long time to do that and create our own legacy, as Lawrence Dallaglio and his side did a few years ago.
“Hopefully that can continue this week. We know if we turn up and play the way we can then it’s all there in front of us, as we’ve given ourselves the best opportunity to achieve something special.”
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