The Annual Pulse Energy Highlanders Awards were held last night in the final week of the Investec Super Rugby Aotearoa competition. The ceremony attended by team sponsors, club members and players and management celebrated excellence across a number of areas both on and off the field.

Outstanding loose forward Shannon Frizell picked up Forward of the Year and the Players’ Player awards. Frizell has been arguably the form blindside of the Super Rugby competition with his trademark charging runs and brutal defence. He has crossed the chalk four times this year and played a major part in the team’s resurgence in form in the post lockdown period.

The Defender of the Year was awarded to Dillon Hunt who has started in every game and has been a menace for opposition teams with his hard-hitting tackling. His work at the breakdown forcing turnovers has been among the very best in the competition.

All Black halfback, Aaron Smith, picked up the Back of the Year and the Fans Player of the Year after showing some of the best form of his long career in recent weeks. The extra responsibility of co-captaincy has not weighed heavily on the electric halfbacks’ shoulders with his signature bullet pass, sniping runs and boundless energy he is surely one of the best scrumhalves this country has ever produced.

A player with a lot less experience but just as much enthusiasm is Rookie of the Year, Jona Nareki. A small winger by today’s standards, his blistering pace and ability to change direction on defenders has made it a great first up year for the Otago outside back.

Connor Garden-Bachop won the Community Champ Award for his extensive work and enthusiasm across a range of community promotions.

Joint winners of the Player of the Year award were co-captains Ash Dixon and Aaron Smith who have both been in great form while steering the ship this season. Dixon’s all round field play and unerring lineout throwing has made him the first-choice hooker for most of the season. The joint MVPs will both achieve milestones this weekend with Ash Dixon playing his 100th Super Rugby game and Aaron Smith playing his 150th Super Rugby Game and 150th game for the Highlanders this weekend.

The coveted Highlander Man Award went to Aaron Smith - the award recognises a person who exhibits the character and values that the club aspires to. The inspirational halfback was humbled by the award which has been won by Club stalwarts such as Nasi Manu and Ben Smith in the past and was presented to him by his great mate, Ben Smith.

The Highlanders play their last final game of the Super Rugby Aotearoa competition on Saturday night against the Hurricanes in Dunedin.

Pulse Energy Highlanders 2020 Awards


2Degrees Community Champ – Connor Garden-Bachop

Defender of the Year – Dillon Hunt

Swanndri Forward of the Year – Shannon Frizell

NZME Back of the Year – Aaron Smith

Dunedin City Motors Fan Player of the Year – Aaron Smith

PlaceMakers Rookie of the Year – Jona Nareki

Speight’s Player’s Player – Shannon Frizell

Pulse Energy Player of the Year – Ash Dixon and Aaron Smith

Highlander Man – Aaron Smith



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