Awards season is upon us and, although we are unable to be together to toast the success of the Players and the Volunteers who are winners of this season’s trophies, we would still like to celebrate the players’ prowess on the pitch and the unwavering dedication of time and energy from the volunteers. So many more people were nominated, other than those listed below, and we would like to thank each and every one of you for making Blackheath Rugby the club that it is today.
Starting with the players, we have great pleasure in announcing the following awards, with words from James Shanahan and Russell Ticehurst:
Players’ Player of the Year: Tom Burns
Tom arrived from Chinnor last season and made an instant impact: a strong ball carrier, who gave us massive ‘go forward’ all season. Even with the world’s smallest calves, he had great speed and fitted easily into our style of play. The nearest player to him in the Players’ Player award was some 12 votes away, which shows the season he had within the squad.
Coaches’ Player of the Year: Tom Burns
Tom’s performances, week in week out, made this an easy decision for both awards.
Supporters’ Player of the Year: Leo Fielding
The best compliment I can make is that you notice Leo when he’s not playing in the team. He brings a flair and creativity, which makes him a game changer. Everyone is excited when he gets his hands on the ball, knowing he could create something from absolutely nothing.
Echoing that, Pamela Kilmister, Chair of the Supporters’ Club, says that Leo has always been a firm favourite of the Supporters and Members, both on and off the pitch. His speed and dexterity bring an excitement to most games he plays in and, more often than not, he’ll be found having a beer and chatting to members in the bar after a match.
Best Newcomer: Jamie Ure
After a period of injury, Jamie made an enormous impact on the pitch with his physical presence. With big hits and strong carries, he made a huge difference to our power game in the engine room.
Most improved Player: Mark Cooke
Cool, calm and collected, Mark understands how we want to play and leads the team with that. This award is down to the goal kicking he’s worked over the year to develop and improve: his kicking game made a difference to numerous games after Christmas. A run of three games at 100% was highlight of the season.
Top Try Scorer: Jake Lloyd
Another outstanding season for Jake, scoring tries for fun. His power and speed gained him top try scorer not just at the club, but also in the whole of National Division One.
Outstanding Achievement: Markus Burcham
Markus joined Blackheath after a spell at Barking and there followed a stop-start progression into the first team until finally he made the 13 shirt his own. 158 consecutive 1st XV appearances then followed, taking his tally to 200+ caps in all. For the last five seasons he has captained the side that, under his guidance, has consistently maintained a top five finish each season. He has also regularly supported the club events, plus supported and coached the juniors on Sundays, travelling to their County Finals whenever possible. Sadly the 2019/20 season is to be his last, having made the decision to get married, move to Bournemouth and change careers. He has been a ‘Club man’ through and through, and we are delighted to recognise his fabulous contribution during his time at Blackheath Rugby.
Thank You Markus.
A special mention also goes to two players who are departing the club this year: they will both be missed, but we hope that they may come back and watch the odd game from time to time:
Stef Liebenberg – Retiring
What can I say about Stefan? He’s better to have in your team than against. The amount of teams/players that always said ‘I hate playing against him! He never shuts up…’, and he’s made a huge impact at every club he’s played. He may have lost his pace (not sure he had any), but he has an ability to move the ball quicker than any 9 I know. Lucky for me, I played over 150 games with him so I knew what he could add to Club. I’m sure he’ll miss me shouting at him constantly. And I’m sure he’ll enjoy his retirement with Mel and his three boys.
Danny Herriott – Moving
Danny moves on after three great seasons at Club. He was the cornerstone of our pack and, in my opinion, the best scrummaging tight head in the league. He also had surprisingly good skills for a tight head. Great commitment over the three seasons and will be missed. Hopefully he has the same impact at Canterbury as he did for us.
We are also delighted to announce the following Volunteer awards, with words from Pamela Kilmister and Alan Thompson:
Volunteer of the Year – Supporter: Eleri Wyn Morgan (‘Tilly’) and Mark Fiander
Tilly and Mark have been integral members of the Volunteer Army for many years, both on the fundraising side of things (including the various sponsorship programmes), and by turning up every week to help out with the many and varied jobs that need to be done around the Club sites. Mark was Chair of the Supporter’s Club until 2017, and he and Tilly are still very active members of the club. They can both be found at the centre of smiles and laughter on the Supporters’ Club tables at the pre-match lunches held at Well Hall.
Volunteer of the Year – Playing Management: Michael ‘Chappers’ Chapman
With his dedication and committed coaching, Chappers has transformed the Blackheath Bandits from an occasional XV to a well-organised, winning team that’s attracting new players. The respect that Chappers has within the Bandits is palpable, with many players speaking of his passion, commitment and inspirational leadership, which have helped guide the team to back-to-back promotions over the past three seasons. One nomination for why he should win this award sums it up nicely: “Because he’s a legend”. The Club would like to thank him, and wishes him all the best in his move to the Midlands.
Volunteer of the Year – Lifetime Achievement: Mike Newsom
Mike joined Blackheath as a player back in the 1960s. He toured the USA as a member of the Blackheath team in 1968. On retirement from playing, Mike took over from ‘Doc’ Kinsey as the 1st XV Team Secretary, a post he held until Paul Stack became Team Secretary in 1980. Mike was honoured to be appointed as President of Kent RFU from 2003-2006. He then became President of Blackheath FC from 2008-2012 – this term of office included Blackheath’s 150th Anniversary season in 2008-2009. Mike continues as Chair of the South-East Division of the National Clubs Association and he is a longstanding member of the Disciplinary Committee of Kent RFU. He is also currently a member of both the Executive Committee and the Club Committee of Blackheath FC, advising on matters relating to the NCA and the RFU. Mike has indeed devoted a lifetime of service to Blackheath, and fully deserves this season’s Blackheath Supporters’ Club Award for Volunteer of the Year – Lifetime Achievement.
Blackheath Bandits Awards
Had the season played out the Bandits too would have had their Awards Night at Well Hall and they were due to play the Pacific Islanders RFC as part of the big Club end of season event on 4th April. Their Awards come on the back of the third successive season winning promotion and will be playing in the Kent Invicta Leagues next season. In the words of Chappers, the Coach, and senior players Matt, Andy & Nik:
Back of the Year: Ben Stanyard
Stanners has been a top performer the past few years but has upped his personal game and marshals the forwards well whilst giving his 10 good, clean ball. And his sniping off the base has been very effective.
Forward of the Year: Mark Rogers
Mark, or Mad Dog as he’s known in the team, faced tough competition for this award but his workrate & commitment nudges him out ahead of the rest of the pack, so much so he has a Line Out move named after him.
Best Newcomer: James Pierson
Coming to rugby quite late in life, from a background in football, James’ development as the season went on and his desire to learn has been everything the coaching & leadership team could want, as well as coming to every 1stX game when he’s not been playing.
Players Player: Ryan McSweeney
Most people in the Club will know Ryan because when he’s not playing he’s usually found behind the Club bar, pouring our drinks and DJing the post match party. His commitment, workrate and skills around the field are exemplary. He’s the first to training and to matches for warm ups, he plays the full 80 in the front row, on either side of the scrum, carries like a battering ram and tackles hard – as his team mates in training know all too well.
Club Man of the Year: Tim Brindle
The club man of the year is a special award, and I can’t imagine a more deserving recipient than this year’s winner. As well as working tirelessly for the Club, our winner is always the first to step forward and support his teammates in any way he can, whether that is by getting the changing rooms ready, launching the Bandits social media, or being an incredible role model for the younger lads joining the squad. He was also an incredible ‘Tour Virgin’ back in Cork.
It is fantastic to see that his appetite for the club and the game go from strength to strength; he is willing to step in and cover the bench for the Bandits, play wherever needed for the Buccaneers. and continues to be a regular at training every week. I know his one ambition in rugby is to play alongside his son Nathan in the coming years, and I for one can’t wait to see that happen.
Lord Cardigan Award: Cameron Squire
This award is a Bandit tradition resurrected – think Lord Cardigan of the Battle of Balaclava. Its winners are those who have committed an act of such idiocy as to inflict great harm to self and /or team, or incompetence of great hilarity. Cameron is a great player when fit but his propensity to injure himself is unbelievable – it happens every time he plays a friendly. Most recently, in the first warm up game of the season against Footscray 1s, he managed to inflict a Grade 3 hamstring tear on himself and literally had just returned to training when rugby was suspended.
Coaches Award: Johnny Walker
Johnny was been outstanding in every aspect and, in his own words, fell back in love with rugby. As well as being a Bandit he’s a core part of the Vets team, yet the older he gets the better he plays – he covers every inch of ground, makes devastating tackles and carries strongly – everything we want from a back row.
We would like to congratulate the winners of the awards mentioned here, as well as those who have been recognised in all the other Blackheath Rugby sections. As soon as we’re able to come back together again, we will celebrate appropriately!
You can watch a short video of the above awards here
Keep safe, keep well, and keep in touch.