VANCOUVER – The best of Canadian rugby was celebrated in Vancouver, BC, Thursday night at the Fairmont Waterfront at the 2016 Annual Awards Dinner.
Current Vike Conor Keys and alumnus Nathan Hirayama were honoured with the Young Male Player of the Year and Men’s Sevens Player of the Year awards, respectively, while women’s assistant coaches Laura Russell and Julianne Zussman were named Senior Women’s Player of the Year and the Gillian Florence Award winner, respectively.
In addition to the annual award winners, the inaugural Rugby Canada Hall of Fame class was inducted while Canada’s Rio 2016 women bronze medalists were honoured on a memorable night for Canadian rugby community in front of a sellout crowd.
2016 Annual Award Winners:
Senior Men’s Player of the Year — Evan Olmstead
It was quite the year for Canada’s Olmstead as the 25-year-old played in six tests and even grabbed his first test try against Samoa in November. Olmstead also signed a short-term deal with the English Championship’s London Scottish at the start of 2016 before his performances drew the attention of Premiership club Newcastle Falcons where he has since become a mainstay in their starting XV.
Men’s Sevens Player of the Year — Nathan Hirayama
It was simply a wonder year for the Richmond, BC product as Hirayama scored 295 points, the third most during the season. He also scored 28 tries and kicked 80 conversions, including the game-winner in Canada’s bowl win over France at the HSBC Canada Sevens.
Senior Women’s Player of the Year — Laura Russell
The 28-year-old Russell guided Canada to it’s first ever Women’s Rugby Super Series title in the summer in scintillating team performances. One of Canada’s most influential players on the field, Russell also got in on the scoring act in 2016 by touching down against New Zealand.
Women’s Sevens Player of the Year — Kayla Moleschi
An unprecedented game-changer, Moleschi had an explosive 2016 as she grabbed seven tries. Unsurprisingly, she was a core contributor in Rio with her explosive step and willingness to set up teammates, while scoring three tries herself, as Canada claimed bronze.
Young Female Player of the Year — Sophie de Goede
Heralding from a family full of Canadian rugby standouts, including Canada’s 1987 Men’s Team Captain Hans de Goede & first-ever women’s team Captain Stephanie White as parents, the latest de Goede had an exceptional 2016 where she represented Canada at the U18 Women’s Rugby Championships in France and the Rugby Americas North Rugby Championship in Trinidad and Tobago. More recently, the 17-year-old Victoria, BC native was centralized where she trains on a daily basis with Canada’s women’s sevens team.
Young Male Player of the year — Conor Keys
After surging through Canada’s U20 program, Keys became a mainstay in the engine room for Canada A and made it to the full senior team where he was part of Canada’s setup during their November Tour in the UK. His formidable work rate and commitment has led Keys to be a centralized member of Canada’s senior men’s program in Victoria, BC as he leads the wave of next generational talent forming coast-to-coast.
Match official of the year — Rose LaBreche
An appearance at the Rio Olympics highlighted another great year for LaBrèche as she claims the Match Official of the Year award for the second straight year. LaBrèche took charge of Colombia vs. Fiji and Colombia vs. Kenya. LaBrèche also took charge of the USA vs. France senior women’s match in November. Originally from Markham, ON, LaBreche also continues to be a constant member of the HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series ref team where she officiated in Dubai, Langford and Brazil, as well as the Rio Olympic Repechage event in Monaco.
Volunteer of the year — Roxanne Butler
A steadfast in the Newfoundland and Labrador rugby community for more than 20 years, Butler has been the longstanding secretary of the union. She was a key cog in revitalizing the George Street Sevens tournament and organizes the annual Eastern Canadian Rugby Championships. Furthermore, Butler helps organize exchange programs with other schools and is prominently featured in women’s rugby. As a coach, Butler helps send teams to the Las Vegas Sevens, Canada Sevens and Eastern Canadian Championships and works as volunteer to help generate funds for the union.
Provincial Union of the Year — Saskatchewan Rugby Union
After establishing Saskatchewan Mini Rugby in 2011, the number of rugby players in the province has dramatically increased with close to 1,000 kids signed up across the province, and 2016 saw a 200% increase in minor registrations from 2015. After only having two Sask Mini Rugby programs in 2015 in Saskatoon and Regina, that number grew to five in 2016 with programs in Prince Albert, Lloydminster and Lashburn being added while the previously established programs in Saskatoon and Regina saw their registration numbers nearly double.
Furthermore, there are more than 500 senior players with more than 100 junior players taking part in the sport. Sask Rugby also takes the lead in administrating high school rugby where they had over 440 players in 2016.
Sask Rugby also took the lead in helping fundraise money in wake of Cyclone Winston that hit Fiji where they fundraised nearly $20,000. The money that was raised helped the victims rebuild their lives and communities while in addition a container was shipped to the country that contained toys, clothes, building supplies and bedding for families.
Coach of the year male — John Daggett
Winner of Rugby Ontario’s 2016 Male Club Coach of the Year, Daggett earns the same honour from Rugby Canada after guiding Barrie RFC to an undefeated 2016 Toronto Rugby Premiership season and promotion to the Rugby Ontario Marshall Championship. Registration has also doubled at Barrie RFC with Daggett’s input. Daggett was also recognized last year as the 2016 Ontario Colleges Athletic Association Coach of the Year.
Coach of the year female — Jen Boyd
It was a busy 2016 for Boyd. A teacher at Ashbury College, Boyd led Canada’s women’s U20 team to England for a three game series and also coached Canada to a silver medal at the 2016 FISU World University Rugby Sevens Championships in Swansea, Wales. Boyd also guided the Ottawa GeeGees to the USport women’s final where finished second after a 27-19 loss to St. FX.
2017 Rugby Canada Hall of Fame Class
Charron, one of the most dominant rugby players of his time, is Canada’s all-time caps leader after suiting up as a starter in all 76 appearances for his country. Charron played in four Rugby World Cups and went to a fifth as part of management team. He is the only Tier 2 player to have scored test tries against New Zealand, Australia and South Africa.
As one of the most prolific front rowers in Canadian rugby history, Snow enjoyed an illustrious career that saw him play in four Rugby World Cups for Canada. The Bonavista, Newfoundland native, won 62 test caps for Canada, the most of any front rower. Snow played for Eastern Province in the 1995 Currie Cup and would go on to play professionally with Newport RFC, where he is the highest scoring prop in their 140 plus year history, as well as the Newport Gwent Dragons making over more than 230 appearances between both clubs and winning the 2001 Welsh Cup.
A dominant specimen, Hindson was a force in both the sevens and fifteens editions of the game on the international scene. Hindson won 31 test caps for Canada and was a member of the inaugural 1987 Rugby World Cup squad. On the sevens front, Hindson played in the famed Hong Kong Sevens from 1980-1987 as well as the 1987 Sydney Sevens.
One of the most recognizable rugby stars of all-time, Rees won 55 test caps over a sensational career and played in four Rugby World Cup’s. He became the first North American inducted into the World Rugby Hall of Fame in 2011. Rees’ 491 points are the second most in Canadian test history while his 120 points in Rugby World Cups also remain a Canadian record. He retired in 1999 having captained Canada in two Rugby World Cups and 25 times, a record he holds with Al Charron. He also represented the famed Barbarians four times.
An astonishing talent, Florence is the most decorated Canadian female player of all-time after a fantastic two decade plus career. Hailing from Hudson, Quebec Florence played for Canada a record 66 times and is one of only five players to play in five Women’s Rugby World Cups after playing in the 1994, 1998, 2002, 2006 and 2010 editions of the tournament.
Spray was the first president in Rugby Canada’s history, at the time known as the Canadian Rugby Union when re-launched in 1965, and held the position until 1972 when he chose to not stand for re-election.
Luke established the St. John’s club and was co-founder of the Newfoundland Rugby Union and its first president. Luke played 16 test matches for Canada and captained Canada on eight occasions. He also represented the Barbarians on three occasions and was a member of the Overseas XV that played against Wales as part of the Welsh Rugby Union Centenary celebrations. He was an assistant coach and manager of the Canadian squad that reached the quarterfinals of the 1991 Rugby World Cup.
Honorary Life Member — Stephanie White
Hailing from Victoria, BC, she was the first captain of the Women’s Fifteens Program where she played in two Women’s Rugby World Cups, played a key role in developing women’s rugby here in Canada, was a member of Rugby Canada’s Board of Directors, served as a coach and is currently Chair of the Monty Heald Fund which had successfully raised funds to eliminate the pay to play process for Canada’s senior women’s team as they prepare to play in the 2017 Women’s Rugby World Cup in Ireland this year.
Honorary Life Member — John Billingsley
A British Columbia native, Billingsley played for Canada’s senior men’s team for 10 years earning nine caps. He then moved to Ontario where he served as Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer for Rugby Canada from 1981-2001. He also coached the Ottawa Irish for 10 years and refereed for a decade too, reaching the provincial level before retiring. He now serves as the Honorary Secretary of both the Rugby Canada Ways and Means Committee and the Rugby Canada Hall of Fame Project team.
Gillian Florence Award — Julianne Zussman
Canadian Shield Award — Ray Barkwill