Andre Esterhuizen has been crowned the Eterlast Players' Player of the Year at this year's Eterlast RPA Awards 2022, held at Evolution London on Wednesday evening.
The Harlequins Centre polled the greatest number of votes from his fellow professionals to claim the most prestigious award in the English game, capping off a fantastic year for the South African.
The eight-time capped Springbok has been instrumental for Harlequins, winning three back-to-back Man of the Match Awards back in January, and was awarded January’s Player of the Month in the Gallagher Premiership. He has been in electrifying form, making an incredible 1,703 metres for the South-West London side, beating 60 defenders, and scoring eight tries. He has also been a hugely disruptive influence in the Quins defensive line, stealing the ball 14 times from the breakdown.
On winning the award Esterhuizen said: “It's an incredible honour to win this award and for it to be voted by all the players and teams that I've played with and against makes it even more special. It is something that I am extremely proud of. Thank you to all of my family and teammates for their support."
Meanwhile, Freddie Steward took the title of the MPH Sports Young Player of the Year. Steward has been a key cog to Steve Borthwick’s Leicester side in securing top spot and a home semi-final in this season’s Gallagher Premiership. He beat Marcus Smith, Bevan Rodd, and Henry Arundell to secure this title.
Capping off an incredible awards night, Steward also took home the England Men's Player of the Year in association with esya. This award was voted for by members of the Elite Players Squad and beat Ellis Genge and Marcus Smith for this Award.
Steward said: “Thank you to everyone who voted. It is a big honour to win an award voted on by your peers and I feel humbled to win given the talent in the game. I would like to acknowledge my teammates at Leicester Tigers, who I wouldn’t be able to have done what I have without."
Other notable winners on the night included Marlie Packer as The Obex Dental England Women's Player of the Year, topping off a fantastic year for the Red Roses. Sadia Kabeya was named the Allianz Premier 15’s Award sponsored by Allianz, and Harlequins scrum half Danny Care was awarded the RPA Special Merit Award in association with Walter Cooper.
Our Eterlast RPA Awards 2022 Winners:
The Eterlast Players' Player of the Year
Winner: Andre Esterhuizen
“It's an incredible honour to win this award and for it to be voted by all the players and teams that I've played with and against makes it even more special. It is something that I am extremely proud of. Thank you to all of my family and teammates for their support."
The MPH Sports Young Player of the Year
Winner: Freddie Steward
“Thank you to everyone who voted. It is a big honour to win an award voted on by your peers and I feel humbled to win given the talent in the game. I would like to acknowledge my teammates at Leicester Tigers, who I wouldn’t be able to have done what I have without.”
The Obex Dental England Women's Player of the Year Award
Winner: Marlie Packer
“I am incredibly happy to have won this award selected by my teammates. I have absolutely loved this season both at club and country and I look forward to the rest of the year with an incredibly talented bunch of players.”
The England Men's Player of the Year in association with esya
Winner: Freddie Steward
“I was surprised to have even been nominated for the award so to win it was an incredible feeling. It tops of a year full of incredible experiences in an England shirt that will stay with me and my family forever. I’ve been fortunate to be part of team with some unbelievable rugby players and individuals that have helped me learn so much.”
The Allianz Premier 15’s Award sponsored by Allianz
Winner: Sadia Kabeya, Loughborough Lightning
“I am extremely grateful to be receiving this award! It’s been a whirlwind of a season with a new club and the bonus of playing for my country to. The support around me in the Allianz Premier 15’s has been huge, and I am looking forward to seeing where I can go next season!”
The Vodafone Business Gain Line Award
Winner: Billy Keast, Exeter Chiefs
“When I got told the news, I couldn’t believe it! I’m very thankful for it and it makes me appreciate what I’ve done in the last few years myself and it’s nice to be recognised. I look forward to continuing my professional rugby career alongside growing No 1 Cubs with my business partner Matt and our great team."
The RPA Special Merit Award in association with Walter Cooper
Winner: Danny Care
"I am truly humbled and privileged to receive this award and would like to thank the RPA Players' Board for this incredible honour. I have made so many great memories playing for club and country and would like to thank all my teammates that I've played with, and to my family for their support."
The RPA Blyth Spirit Award in association with hasta
Winners: Andrew Fenby and Kevin Sinfield OBE
Andrew Fenby said: “Winning this award is a huge honour and a very humbling experience for me. To have my story recognised by the RPA, alongside players who have demonstrated such incredible courage and resilience in the face of adversity, is one of the first times I’ve really stopped to reflect on my own journey.
When I was diagnosed with testicular cancer in October 2020, I was living back at home with my parents and young family after COVID had left us without a home in London and had decimated the business I had founded. I’m pleased to say that I now have a clean bill of health and life is great once again.
Finally, I’d like to dedicate this award to all the people who supported me. Particularly my parents, my boys and my incredible wife. I couldn’t have done it without them.”
Kevin Sinfield OBE said: “I’m very humbled to win this award, so thank you very much to the RPA for doing this, and it shows both rugby codes are uniting to fundraise and raise awareness of MND.”
The RPA Hall of Fame in association with Aperol
Winner: Katy Daley-McLean MBE
“It’s massive honour to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, especially when you look at some of the legends that have also been inducted. I loved my time playing rugby both at club and international and this is just a lovely honour to receive and one I’m my very grateful for.”
The Champagne Bollinger RPA Moment of the Season
Winner: Chris Ashton breaking the Premiership Rugby all-time try scoring record
“It’s an honour to receive this award from the RPA. I have played in some great teams with amazing players and coaches that have all played a part and helped me throughout my career and I can’t thank them enough. Since I was 5 years old all I’ve wanted to do is score tries for my team and that feeling is as strong today as it was when I first picked up a ball.”
Penny Maltby-Payne – Head of Communications
Stephen Thomas – Communications Manager