According to the National Rugby Championship’s annual player survey, 90 per cent of players believe that the standard of play in the competition was at a higher standard than that of club rugby. Additionally, the five-man shortlist for the competition’s Players Player award was finalised.
As the curtain fell on the third iteration of the National Rugby Championship, players were surveyed in an attempt to gather crucial information for the continued development of the competition.
Over 120 unique responses were recorded with a number of interesting results arising.
According to 82 per cent of surveyed players, their overall rugby development was aided by participation in the tournament.
80 per cent said the standard of coaching on offer in the NRC increased in comparison to club rugby.
Perhaps most importantly for the tournament, a massive 96 per cent of players stated that they would return to the competition in 2017, if selected.
This time around, the number of teams participating in the NRC was reduced to eight. A move which 88 per cent of players supported owing to a more even distribution of talent across each side.
Players were also asked about the preparation and pre-season time on offer in the 2016 edition in comparison to it’s predecessors. To which 79 per cent said they had better preparation time in 2016, attributing this to the three-week break between the end of the NSW & Queensland Club competitions and the first round of the NRC.
Interestingly, only 44 per cent of players reported a belief that the competition should revert to the same laws as Super Rugby.
The survey was also used to decide the five-man shortlist for the players’ player award for the competition. An award which has previously been won by Brisbane City’s Samu Kerevi and UC Vikings’ Ita Vaea.
This year’s finalists all come from different teams and will be keen to add their name to the list of winners of the highest individual honour the NRC has to offer.
The nominees are:
Jake Gordon (NSW Country Eagles)
Scrumhalf Gordon scored nine tries on the way to his side’s NRC grand final berth in 2016. The 23-year-old will be hoping to make his Waratahs debut in the near future after excelling in the NRC in recent years.
Jono Lance (Perth Spirit)
A two-time winner of the Super Rugby, signed for the Western Force in 2016 before injuries saw him play most of his football in the NRC. He stood out once again for the eventual winners of the tournament, directing his side around outstandingly from flyhalf.
Izaia Perese (Queensland Country)
Despite playing just five NRC games this season, Perese managed to show off enough of his skills to be nominated for this award. The winger/outside centre scored four tries for Country and was rewarded with a development place on the Wallabies Spring Tour.
Irae Simone (Sydney Rays)
Fresh off winning the Ken Catchpole Medal for best player in the Shute Shield and securing a Wallabies contract for 2017, the 21-year-old dominated the NRC following a code switch from the South Sydney Rabbitohs in 2016.
Simone made the equal most line breaks in the competition playing in the centres for the Rays.
Tyrone Viiga (Western Sydney Rams)
Despite not playing a single game last season for his former team the NSW Country Eagles, Viiga was a force for the Western Sydney Rams in 2016. The 25-year-old managed to score seven tries despite missing a game through injury.
The winner of the award will be announced at the Volvo RUPA Awards lunch next month.
The competition will return in 2017, and will feature the introduction of a new team – the Fiji Warriors.