Ponytpridd centre Dafydd Lockyer lifted the top title at the sixth Principality Premiership awards dinner, a star-studded event held at the Millennium Stadium.
The 25-year-old former Wales Under 21 cap scored 13 tries last season, including ten in the Premiership, and won the Principality Premiership Player of the Month award for November.
Lockyer won the award on the back of nominations from the Principality Premiership clubs and the WRU, with fellow Pontypridd player flanker Darren Waters and Scarlets No 8 Ben Morgan also making the shortlist. Waters has been a favourite with the Pontypridd faithful after joining the club from Beddau two seasons ago and has now gained a Regional contract with the Newport-Gwent Dragons, while Ben Morgan picked up the October Principality Premiership monthly award after a barnstorming start to the season with Llanelli before being called up by the Scarlets.
Previous winners of the award include Newport’s Andrew Coombs, Bedwas’ Phil Godman, both of whom went onto become Dragons Regional players, and Morgan Stoddart who is starting at full back for Wales on Saturday.
Lockyer, who played his junior and youth rugby at Abercwmboi, was presented the award by Wales legend and WRU Board member Gerald Davies.
He said: “It was just been about getting on the pitch for me this season, and staying injury free so it’s a massive surprise to get this award, but a good reflection on our season at the club.
“I’m very grateful to Dale McIntosh and Paul John for giving me a chance to come back to Ponty when it didn’t work out at Neath. There’s such a good team spirit at the club this year, we’re all good mates, and I think that comes across in the way we have played and enjoyed our rugby this season.
“It was disappointing not to beat Llanelli in the Play-Off Final but hopefully we can come back stronger next season and win some more silverware.
“As far as I’m concerned, if Regional honours come by, great, but I’m not counting on that, and I’d be happy to stay injury free and do well with Ponty again.”
Wales Under 20 and Ospreys outside half Matthew Morgan won the Best Newcomer accolade. This prestigious title has been won in the past by Ospreys, Wales and Lions lock Alun Wyn Jones, Cardiff Blues wing Tom James and Dragons pivot Jason Tovey.
The shortlist for this award included Morgan’s Wales Under 20 team mate, Pontypridd flanker Ed Siggery and Cross Keys points machine Steffan Jones.
Morgan won the first Principality Premiership Player of the Month award of the season, back in September, and went on to represent the Ospreys in the LV= Cup and the Magners League this season. He leaves for Italy on Sunday where Richard Webster’s Wales Under 20 side will embark on their Junior World Championship campaign against Argentina next Friday.
The Coach of the Year Award went to Pontypridd’s Dale McIntosh, beating off challenges from the other shortlisted coaches Jason Hyatt of Tonmawr and Cross Keys head coach Greg Woods.
McIntosh led his side to the SWALEC Cup title this season, and although they failed to beat Llanelli in the Principality Premiership Play-Off Final, they finished the league season as No 1 club and also made it to the British & Irish Cup semi-final, using a mix of youthful exuberance and experienced club players.
Cross Keys qualified for next season’s British & Irish Cup by finishing the season in sixth place, while Tonmawr reached eighth in the league.
Other awards presented on the evening were the Fair Play award, which went to Llanelli for the best discipline record in the Premiership, and the Services to Rugby award went to Nick Jackson of Newport Supporters Club who completes innumerable tasks for the club and the community.
The top try scorer in the league, Aberavon’s Richard Carter, and top points scorer, team mate Matthew Jarvis were also recognised.
Wales internationals Gethin Jenkins, Richie Rees and Jonathan Thomas attended the event and presented awards, while the guests from the clubs, the WRU and their partners were treated to a rousing reception from Welsh choir Only Boys Aloud, courtesy of the Principality Building Society, sponsors of the Premiership and the choir.
WRU Head of Rugby Joe Lydon said, “We have enjoyed a very competitive and exciting season of Principality Premiership rugby and the award winners and shortlisted players and coaches, along with many others have greatly helped improve standards on and off the field.”