Gago shines bright on red carpet at season awards

Gago shines bright on red carpet at season awards

The red carpet was literally rolled out for members of the Counties Energy Heat and Counties Manukau Women’s Development teams at the 2022 season awards on Friday night as hooker Grace Gago reigned supreme.

 Held at Sudima Auckland Airport Hotel, the awards celebration was the first for either team since 2019 after nearly three years of COVID interruptions.

 Guests were treated to a performance from Drums of the Pacific as a welcome before events got underway.

 In the Women’s Development space, Vii Fanene was crowned player of the year and presented her award by CMRFU President and Steelers Centurion Jim Coe.

Their award winners included Valu Mafi (best attacking player) and Sandy Toiu (best defensive player).

 For the Counties Energy Heat, meanwhile, rising star Gago was the reluctant hero of the night, taking out players’ player of the year, forward of the year and ultimately MVP of the year gongs.

 Young gun Jaymie Kolose was crowned rookie of the year, Emily Kitson back of the year while veteran Stacey Brown was confirmed as the “pride-in-the-hoops” winner for exhibiting high standards on and off the field. Brown was also presented with the jersey she wore in her 50th game for Counties Manukau during the Farah Palmer Cup season.

“Grace Gago is our undisputed MVP for 2022. The future leader of this team and looked up to and held in high regard as a player and a person by her peers, coaches and supporters of the Counties Energy Heat,” CMRFU Women’s HP Manager Peter Shaw said.

 “Picking up three awards during the evening is reward for her work ethic as a player and as a genuine teammate.

 “We are immensely proud to have Grace wear the red, white and black hoops and we congratulate her and all our winners on their personal achievements in 2022.”

 As part of her swag of prizes, Gago was gifted an OPPO Reno8 mobile phone, valued at $999.

 Shaw also paid tribute to the other prize winners on a night where Sudima Auckland Airport left no stone unturned to ensure the event was a success, including bringing in a red carpet for the athletes and their guests.

“Jaymie Kolose is undoubtedly one of the breakout players of the entire competition in 2022. I’m excited to see her continue to grow as a rugby player. She’s only 21 and in her first year of the code her ceiling is high,” Shaw added. 

“Stacey Brown was the deserved winner of Pride in the Hoops. What an incredibly loyal, humble and selfless woman. The epitome of a team person. 

“Emily Kitson levelled up her game in 2022 making the switch to the midfield after spending the past four seasons at fullback. The move paid off - Emily was one of the most consistent backs of the competition.” 

To close the night off, President Coe addressed the players from both teams and encouraged them to trust one another next year and work hard as they chase their rugby dreams. Coe reminded them that to play for Counties Manukau is to "bleed red, white and black".

The CMRFU would like to thank our key partners including Counties Energy, Navigation Homes, PIC, Barfoot & Thompson, Paerata Rise, Grassroots, South Auckland Motors, CCC, Seki Healthcare, HYNDS, OPPO Mobile and Sudima for helping drive the women and girls’ game in our region.