Tom Stewart has been rewarded for an incredible season by being named Heineken Men’s Player of the Year at the Ulster Rugby Awards.
Stewart claimed 62.5 percent of the vote to claim the top honor and add it to his Ulster Rugby Supporters’ Club Player of the Year gong.
It’s been an incredible year for the Ballynahinch RFC hooker, who broke into the Ulster senior team and surpassed the United Rugby Championship try record.
Stewart touched down 16 times last season en route to being called up for Ireland’s Rugby World Cup training camp this summer, capping off an outstanding individual year.
Stewart was one of several winners recognized at the Ulster Rugby Awards.
Kelly McCormill (Cooke RFC) was crowned Deloitte Women’s Player of the Year, while the The Rugby Writers Player of the Year went to Stuart McCloskey.
Young players were also honored, with Jacob Boyd receiving the Danske Bank Boys Schools Player of the Year award and Scarlett Keys (Enniskillen Royal Grammar) the Danske Bank Girls Schools Player of the Year award.
Ulster Rugby CEO Jonny Petrie said: “I would like to extend my congratulations to all the Heineken Ulster Rugby Awards winners for their efforts over the past season. It is encouraging to see talented young players making their way down the Ulster Rugby Player Pathway, with promising futures in the Ulster jersey ahead.
“Participation in the game from our clubs and schools across the province is strong, and all the people recognized today, along with the coaches, referees, volunteers and other players who helped shape their journey, should be rightfully proud to His achievements”.
Here are all the award winners and what Ulster Rugby had to say about each player:
Heineken Player of the Year: Tom Stewart (Ballynahinch RFC)
With 62.5% of the vote, Tom added to his Ulster Rugby Supporters’ Club Player of the Year award by winning the public vote for the Heineken Men’s Player of the Year award. Within a year, Tom broke through to the senior team, breaking a URC record with 16 tries and being called up for Ireland’s Rugby World Cup training camp this summer to cap off an outstanding individual year.
Deloitte Women’s Player of the Year: Kelly McCormill (Cooke RFC)
Kelly has been an integral member of both Cooke RFC and Ulster Women. Known for her dominating performances at center, Kelly is praised for her defensive work and her attacking abilities. Kelly is loved by her teammates for her tireless work ethic and is seen as a game changer with leadership qualities.
Danske Bank Boys Schools Player of the Year: Jacob Boyd (RBAI)
Jacob is the reigning Schools Cup-winning captain at Royal Academic Belfast, where he scored the decisive try in the final against Campbell College. Jacob also represented Ireland U19 in their last games against France. He is the son of former Ulster prop Clem Boyd and is known for his athletic ability.
Danske Bank Girls Schools Player of the Year – Scarlett Keys (Enniskillen Royal Grammar)
Scarlett has had a great season with Enniskillen Royal Grammar School this year. After narrowly missing out on the 2022 Girls Schools’ Cup final, she captained her team to victory this year, beating Royal School Armagh in the final at Kingspan Stadium in March. Following her success, she captained the team to the National Schools Finals, where they were narrowly beaten in the final of the Plate competition by Ardgillan College, Balbriggan. Scarlett demonstrates true leadership both on and off the pitch, and she has been recognized by representing Ulster U18 Girls at the upcoming Interprovincial 7s tournament, along with six of her Enniskillen RGS teammates.
Ulster Carpets Men’s Youth Player of the Year: Ben Neely (Coleraine RFC)
Ben performed strongly with Ulster U18s clubs and schools making three appearances in the Inter-pro series. He carried that form into his club season with Coleraine RFC, helping the club reach the Ulster Carpets U18 final at Kingspan Stadium.
Deloitte Ulster Under-18 Women’s Player of the Year – Ruby Starrett (Larne RFC)
Ruby has had a very successful 2022/23 season. After being called up to her first U18 Interprovincial series in August 2022, she went on to be nominated vice-captain for her February Interpro series. She is a very physical and skilled player and this was recognized nationally with her participation in the Girls Under-18 Six Nations Festival in April 2023. She will certainly be someone to watch in the future.
Deloitte Young Women’s Player of the Year: Sadhbh McGrath (Cooke RFC)
Sadhbh McGrath has had a very exciting and busy last twelve months. From captaining the Ulster U18 Girls to their Inter-Provincial Series in August 2022, she moved to Cooke RFC to play in the Women’s AIL. She earned her first three caps at senior level at the Vodafone Women’s Inter-Provincial Championships in January 2023. Following her participation in the Celtic Cup Challenge for the Combined Provinces XV, she was named in the Ireland squad for the TikTok Women’s Six Nations 2023 where he earned five senior international caps. Even as a schoolgirl and completing her Leaving Cert at Scoil Mhuire, Buncrana, she is an incredible achievement at this age.
Ulster Rugby Supporters Club Player of the Year: Tom Stewart (Ballynahinch RFC)
Tom has won the hearts of the Ulster faithful through his decisive performances throughout the season. Last summer Tom was aiming to make the move from the Academy to the senior team, and he achieved it by working hard in pre-season and seizing the opportunity from him. Tom would go on to break the BKT URC try record with a total of 16 tries and his signature try, following a lineout maul, became one of the most dangerous weapons in Ulster’s attacking threats. Tom was rewarded for his performances with a call-up to Ireland’s Rugby World Cup training camp, as Irish head coach Andy Farrell keeps a close eye on the promising 22-year-old hooker.
Openreach Young Men’s Player of the Year: Stewart Moore (Ballymoney RFC)
Stewart’s talent and versatility in the backfield has been noted for some time and this season saw the young man from Ballymena rewarded with more starts from Ulster head coach Dan McFarland. Stewart offers a reliable option at center, with a good all-round game. Called up for the Emerging Ireland tour last autumn, Moore made his 50th appearance in an Ulster shirt against Dragons RFC this season and continues to develop his talent.
Rugby Writers’ Player of the Year: Stuart McCloskey (Dungannon RFC)
The ‘Bangor Bulldozer’ only increased his beloved status among Ulster fans with his powerful performances throughout the season. Stuart was rewarded for his performances with a call-up and starts for Ireland at the 2023 Guinness Six Nations, finishing with a Grand Slam Winners medal. Stuart, one of the leaders of the Ulster team, has made the number 12 shirt his own and forms a strong partnership at center alongside James Hume.
Umpire of the Year – Peter Martin
The Committee decided on Peter in recognition of his excellent performance in the AIL Energy Division 1A Final between Clontarf and Terenure College. Peter led a team of Ulster referees at the Aviva Stadium and his guaranteed performance contributed to a spectacular final in which Terenure recovered from a difficult start as they trailed 10-3 after 21 minutes.
Ken Goodall Club Player of the Year: George Pringle (Ballynahinch RFC)
George Pringle has had an excellent club season with Ballynahinch RFC where they missed out on the playoffs. His ability to score individual tries was a standout feature of his performances this season.
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