Saracens confirm 2016/17 Club award winners and leavers at ‘Big Bash’ awards night
The 2016/2017 Big Bash took place on Saturday evening and the gathered crowds enjoyed a spectacular afternoon and evening of festivities. The Wasps match was screened live before Masquerade performed in the Olympic Bar. Following that, the Saracens end of season awards took place with a host of names getting the recognition they deserve after yet another stellar season for the club.
Mike Rhodes was named Player of the Season after an impeccable campaign, 2016/2017 season has seen Rhodes’ performances go from strength to strength as he has become a crucial player at the club. He now has 38 Premiership appearances under his belt, starting 31 and winning a remarkable 29 games in just two years. He has developed a penchant for popping up with big hits when it matters most. Most notably in January with a try-saving against Exeter to earn a crucial draw against title rivals having spent 70 minutes down to 14-men. A second monumental moment came just two weeks later against Toulon where he made another vital try-saving tackle to secure a narrow 10-3 win. He added a Derby Day try against Harlequins at Wembley in April to endear himself to the Sarries faithful even further.
Having already achieved so much in his young career, Maro Itoje won the Saracens Young Player of the Season Award for the third successive season at the annual awards night on Saturday evening. Itoje’s performances have been sensational once again this year and it’s hard to see any let-up in a career that has seen remarkable performances from day one. The 22-year-old is already one of the first names on the team sheet for both Sarries and England and has been rewarded for continued excellence with a place on the 2017 Lions tour of New Zealand. The 2016/2017 season has seen continued excellence from the youngster as he starred with England defending their Six Nations title after being named the World Rugby Breakthrough player of 2016. In addition to this, he was named alongside Sarries teammates Owen Farrell and Billy Vunipola on the six-man World Player of the Year shortlist.
Marcelo Bosch won the Fans’ Player of the Season Award after a 2016/2017 season that has seen arguably the evergreen Argentine’s finest campaign in a Saracens shirt. An experienced operator, alongside skipper and midfield partner Brad Barritt, he is an excellent organisational influencer of the Sarries defence. These skills were evident during the Champions Cup defeat of Glasgow where he expertly marshalled the defence before adding a try to help Sarries into the Quarter-Final. Following on from this match, the 33-year-old was once again sublime in the Semi-Final defeat of Munster in Dublin. He had already scored a sensational try earlier in the campaign against Scarlets and added to his tally for the season with the winning score during April’s comeback victory over Northampton Saints.
Other awards for senior players were Alex Goode winning Try of the Season and Chris Ashton being rewarded for his extensive work in the community with Community Player of the Season. Goode’s try against Bath will go down long in the memories of Sarries fans as a sublime team effort from inside the hosts’ half at Allianz Park in March was finished off by Goode in the corner. It embodied the team culture at Saracens and a man who played an important role in that try was Community Player of the Season, Ashton. The 30-year-old was rewarded for his work with ‘Sarries RFC’, an all-inclusive disability training initiative run by the club’s foundation. The departing winger’s community work often goes unheralded and it is a hugely deserved award for a valued member of the Saracens family. Having Chris give up his time to come down and help the participants forget about the problems they deal with on a daily basis and have some fun makes a huge difference to the atmosphere of the session and morale of the participants. The way he engages with all of the participants is a joy to watch and never hesitates to get hands on with the activities. Chris has generously given up his time throughout the season to come down to Allianz Park on a Monday after a full day of training to support the Sarries RFC session and has been a valuable addition to the Sarries RFC programme, with his involvement it has seen an increase in members of 25%.
Academy Player of the Season was awarded to Hayden Thompson-Stringer for his impressive performances as he starts to play as a prop after spending much of his early career in the back row. He played a role alongside Itoje in the U20 World Championship triumph with England in 2014 and has gone from strength to strength this campaign and has begun to make his mark on the first team setup as well as sustained levels of high performance in the ‘A’ League. Another academy player rewarded for his efforts was Ben Earl, who made his Aviva Premiership debut against Bristol on 29 April. He won the Academy Balanced Lifestyle Award for his embodiment of the values promoted by Saracens of: Honesty, Discipline, Humility and Work-Rate. The award reflects the 19-year-old’s position as not only a role-model to aspiring Academy players on the pitch but off it as well.
A huge congratulation to all our winners.
Saracens 2016/17 Award Winners
Richard Hill Players’ Player of the Season – Michael Rhodes
Young Player of the Season – Maro Itoje
Fans’ Player of the Season – Marcelo Bosch
Try of the Season- Alex Goode vs Bath Rugby (R18 Aviva Premiership)
Community Player of the Season – Chris Ashton
Academy Player of the Season – Hayden Thompson-Stringer
Academy Balanced Lifestyle Award – Ben Earl
Saracens can also confirm the list of players who will be leaving the club at the end of the 2016/17 season. Prolific wing Chris Ashton will be linking up with French Top 14 side Toulon, whilst experienced back-rower Kelly Brown will be hanging up his boots to take up a roll in the Club’s academy. Club legend Neil De Kock will call time on a wonderful 11-year career with the Men in Black to move back to South Africa with his young family. Another Saracens stalwart Petrus Du Plessis will leave Allianz Park after a wonderful seven-year association with the Club in which the former Nottingham front-rower established himself as one of the Aviva Premiership’s most dependable tighthead props.
Scotland international Jim Hamilton will bring down the curtain on a highly successful spell with Saracens, where the lock-forward established himself as a firm fan favourite and helped the Club to two Aviva Premiership titles and the club’s maiden European trophy. Centre Tim Streather will also leaving the club. Since he arrived in 2014, he made 30 appearances for Saracens, playing a key role mentoring some of the club’s younger players in the Anglo-Welsh Cup and A-League.
Hooker Jared Saunders will end a seven-year stint with Saracens, moving to IPA Championship side, Jersey whilst academy flyer George Perkins will also move to English Rugby’s second tier to take up a contract with Bristol. Academy forward Brian Tuilagi will also be exiting the Club. Back rower Samu Vunisa will also be leaving, as will mid-season signings Tom Lindsay and Fa’atiga Lemalu
“It’s always a sad time to be bidding farewell to players at the end of the season,” said Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall, “the club would like to thank all of the players for their contributions to Saracens and wish them every success in their future careers.”
Players Leaving Saracens at the end of the 2016/17 season
Neil De Kock
Petrus Du Plessis
Saracens confirmed signings for the 2017/18 season are:
Calum Clark (Northampton Saints & England)
Dominic Day (Melbourne Rebels & Wales)
Will Skelton (NSW Waratahs & Australia)
Christopher Tolofua (Toulouse & France)
Liam Williams (Scarlets & Wales)