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Hawkins Medal Winner - Wade McRae
Photo: Ken Baker Photography.
Caption: Wade McRae is presented with the Hawkins Medal by Steve Taw, Hawkins South Island Regional Manager and Brendon Hill, Canterbury Metro Rugby chairman at AMI Stadium.
Hawkins Medal winner Wade McRae almost sounds a tad embarrassed to be wearing the tag of Most Valuable Player in Christchurch rugby.
Over 17 rounds of rugby leading into Sunday’s club final, the Lincoln University flanker proved to be the most consistent player of Christchurch Metro Division One.
“I was quite surprised, to be honest. Actually, I was very surprised,” saidMcRae after he was presented with the medal by Steve Taw, Hawkins South Island Regaional Manager, and Brendon Hill, chairman of Canterbury Metro Rugby.
“It’s a great honour, but it is a reflection on the whole team and how well we all have played this season,” McRae added.
To determine the Hawkins Medal winner, independent observers have each week awarded three, two and one points to the best three players at each game.
Last weekend’s semi-final was the final round where points were awarded and McRae knew he was going head-to-head with New Brighton’s Billy Harmon, the only other player that could still knock him off the top of the leaderboard.
“I was aware of those rankings, but didn’t give it too much thought. I just wanted to win the semi-final. And if I was going to win the Hawkins Medal, that would just be a bonus,” said McRae.
Ironically, neither leading flanker managed to add to their tally in the hard-fought semi-final in wet, challenging conditions, dominated by the tight five.
Lincoln University had stumbled at the semi-final stage over the past two years, despite winning the round-robin Hawkins Cup, and again was staring at defeat with 13 minutes to play. Instead of being haunted by the past, McRae said his team-mates stayed “cool and calm” and eventually set up the winning try by Broc Hooper.
McRae’s performance this year has been remarkable, as it is only his first full season in the top division.
After starting in the Lincoln colts after arriving from Southland, last year’s elevation to the top team was ruined by a concussion that kept him out of most of the season. “But the head is all fine now,” he assures.
McRae grew up on a sheep farm in Southland and made his mark as a standout player for the tiny Menzies College in Wyndam. “We only had about 300 students but we always punched above our weight,” he remembers proudly.
He represented Southland at all age-group levels and jumped at the chance to take up a sports scholarship at Lincoln University to complete a BCom degree in Agriculture.
The degree opens up a host of career opportunities and the young flanker admits that he has no real idea what his next step will be once he finishes his studies. “I may not be in Christchurch next year, so Sunday may be my last game for Lincoln, so we better make sure we go out with the trophy.”
While he is trying to work out what he wants to do for a day job, his rugby talent may give him some time to figure that out. “Playing professionally? Of course, I wouldn’t turn it down if the opportunity came around.”
McRae is in Scott Robertson’s wider Canterbury training squad for the ITM Cup but says that the competition is tough with New Brighton’s Billy Harmon and Marist’s Charlie Gamble also eyeing up the red-and-black No.7 jersey.
The Lincoln student still has the Southland twang and admits that it is a bit unusual not to be wearing the maroon colours when he was part of the Canterbury Colts team last year.
“I never got to beat Canterbury in all those years playing for Southland, so it’s still a bit strange wearing Canterbury colours,” said McRae.
“But there are a lot of good flankers in Canterbury at the moment, so I’ll just have to wait and see when the team is announced.”
Hawkins Medal (MVP) final points: Wade McRae (LU) 16, Jarred Percival (HSOB), Billy Harmon (New Brighton), Richie Mo'unga (Linwood) 14, Jason Merrett (Chch) 13, Sam Godwin (University) 12, Ben Corston (Sumner) 11, Billy Guyton (Marist Albion), Caleb Makene (LU), Rowan O'Gorman (Marist Albion), Frank Havea (Belfast) 10, Ross Kennedy (Marist Albion), Tulolo Tulolo (New Brighton), Hagen Schulte (Marist Albion), Amanaki Nicole (Sumner), Maeve Tomasi (Shirley), Mike Davis (Burnside) 9, Stefan Moir (New Brighton), Josh Taylor (HSOB), Dylan Nel (Sumner), Kalave Auali'itia (Sydenham) 8, Peter Samu (Burnside), Jason Watson (Marist Albion), Tom Sanders (LU) 7.
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