The winners of the 2022-23 Heineken Ulster Rugby Awards were confirmed last week. Over the course of Thursday 1 June, Ulster Rugby annouced the individuals who have gone above and beyond to represent the province over the past twelve months.
Ulster Rugby CEO, Jonny Petrie, said: “I would like to extend my congratulations to all the winners in the Heineken Ulster Rugby Awards for their efforts over the past season. It is encouraging to see talented young players come through the Ulster Rugby Player Pathway, with promising futures in the Ulster jersey ahead.
“Participation in our clubs and schools’ game across the province is strong, and all of the individuals recognised today, together with the coaches, referees, volunteers and other players who helped shape their journey, should be rightfully proud of their achievements.”
Danske Bank Boys Schools’ Player of the Year – Jacob Boyd (RBAI)
Jacob is the current Schools Cup winning captain with Royal Belfast Academical Institution where he scored the decisive try in the final against Campbell College. Jacob also represented Ireland U19s in their recent matches against France. He is the son of former Ulster prop, Clem Boyd, and is renowned for his athletic ability.
Danske Bank Girls Schools’ Player of the Year – Scarlett Keys (Enniskillen Royal Grammar)
Scarlett has had a great season with Enniskillen Royal Grammar School this year. After missing out narrowly in the 2022 Girls Schools’ Cup final, she captained her side to victory this year, beating Royal School Armagh in the final at Kingspan Stadium in March. Following their success, she captained the team to the National Schools Finals, where they were narrowly beaten in the final of the Plate competition by Ardgillan College, Balbriggan. Scarlett demonstrates true leadership both on and off the pitch.
Ulster Carpets Boys’ Youth Player of the Year – Ben Neely (Coleraine RFC)
Ben was a strong performer with Ulster U18s clubs and schools side making three appearances in the Inter-pro series. He has carried that form into his club season with Coleraine RFC, and helped the club to reach the Ulster Carpets U18 Final at Kingspan Stadium.
Deloitte Ulster U18 Girls Player of the Year – Ruby Starrett (Larne RFC)
Ruby has had a very successful 2022/23 season. Having been called up for her first U18 Interprovincial series in August 2022, she went on to be nominated vice-captain for their February Interpro series. She is a very physical and skilful player, and this was recognised at national level with her involvement at the U18 Girls Six Nations Festival in April 2023. No doubt she will be one to watch out for in the future.
Referee of the Year – Peter Martin
The Committee settled on Peter in recognition of his excellent performance in the Energia AIL Division 1A Final between Clontarf and Terenure College. Peter led an all-Ulster officiating team at the Aviva Stadium and his assured performance contributed to a showcase final in which Terenure fought back from a rocky start where they trailed 10-3 after 21 minutes.
Ken Goodall Club Player of the Year – George Pringle (Ballynahinch RFC)
George Pringle has had an excellent club season with Ballynahinch RFC where they just missed out on the playoffs. His individual try scoring ability was a standout feature of his performances this season.
Deloitte Young Women’s Player of the Year – Sadhbh McGrath (Cooke RFC)
Sadhbh McGrath has had a very exciting, and busy, last twelve months. From captaining the Ulster U18 Girls in their Interprovincial Series in August 2022, she moved to Cooke RFC to play in the Women’s AIL. She gained her first three provincial caps at Senior level in the Vodafone Women’s Interprovincial Championships in January 2023. Following on from her involvement in the Celtic Cup Challenge for the Combined Provinces XV, she was named in the Ireland squad for the TikTok Women’s Six Nations 2023 where she gained five Senior international caps. Still a schoolgirl and completing her Leaving Cert at Scoil Mhuire, Buncrana, it is an unbelievable achievement at this age.
Openreach Young Men’s Player of the Year- Stewart Moore (Ballymoney RFC)
Stewart’s talent and versatility across the back field has been noted for some time and this season saw the young Ballymoney man rewarded with more starts from Ulster Head Coach Dan McFarland. Stewart provides a trusted option at centre, with a good all-round game. Called up to the Emerging Ireland tour last Autumn, Moore made his 50th appearance in an Ulster jersey against Dragons RFC this season and continues to build on his talent.
Rugby Writers’ Player of the Year – Stuart McCloskey (Dungannon RFC)
The ‘Bangor Bulldozer’ only increased his beloved status with Ulster fans with his powerful performances across the season. Stuart was rewarded for his performances with a call-up and starts for Ireland in the 2023 Guinness Six Nations, ending up with a Grand Slam Winners’ medal. One of the leaders in the Ulster side, Stuart has made the no12 jersey his own and forms a strong partnership in the centre alongside James Hume.
Ulster Rugby Supporters Club Player of the Year – Tom Stewart (Ballynahinch RFC)
Tom has won the hearts of the Ulster faithful through his decisive performances during the season. Last summer, Tom was aiming to make the breakthrough from Academy to Senior team, and he managed that by working hard in the pre-season and snatching his opportunity. Tom would go on to break the BKT URC try-scoring record with a total of 16 tries and his trademark try, following a lineout maul, became one of the most dangerous weapons in Ulster’s attacking threats. Tom was rewarded for his performances with a call-up to the Ireland Rugby World Cup preparation camp as Irish Head Coach, Andy Farrell, keeps a keen eye on the promising 22-year-old hooker.
Deloitte Women’s Player of the Year – Kelly McCormill (Cooke RFC)
Kelly has been an integral member of both Cooke RFC and Ulster Women. Known for her dominant performances at centre, Kelly is lauded for her defensive work and her attacking skills. Kelly is loved by her teammates for her tireless work ethic and is seen as a game-changer with leadership qualities.
Heineken Men’s Player of the Year – Tom Stewart (Ballynahinch RFC)
With 62.5% of the votes, Tom has added to his Ulster Rugby Supporters’ Club Player of the Year award by winning the public vote for the Heineken Men’s Player of the Year award. In the space of a year, Tom has broken into the Senior team, smashed a URC try scoring record with 16 tries, and has been called up to the Ireland Rugby World Cup training camp this summer to cap off an outstanding individual year.