Updated: Nov 14
Thanks to all who attended the Ashton Bears Under 18s presentation evening on Sat 11th Nov 2023! What a journey it has been throughout the season, filled with challenges, triumphs, and an unwavering spirit from our incredible team. As we reflect on the past, let's celebrate the achievements and the unbreakable spirit that defined the U18's 2023 Season.
Building from the Bottom
The season began with uncertainties – a squad in transition, a coaching void, and only a handful of available players. Yet, against the odds, the team came together. With the commitment of Kieron, the introduction of Scott and the support from Paul, Kian and Phil, the squad steadily grew, attracting both new and familiar faces to build a squad for the early pre-season training sessions.
Key moments defined our journey, notably the narrow loss to Hindley and the nail-biting draw against Roose. These challenges, however, fuelled our determination. The heartbreak of the NWC cup final loss only served to propel us forward, igniting a fire that would characterise the remainder of the season and take us on to winning the NWC Division 2 title, unbeaten!
Individual Achievements and Building for the Future
Our achievements extend beyond the league winners shield. With nine squad members selected for the open age, we've successfully bridged the gap between Under 18s and the senior team. Special mentions to Callum Cottington, chosen for England Lions, and Kye van Zelst, who will be representing the Netherlands under 19s.
Awards Ceremony Highlights
Each player collected an award to recognise their contribution to this extraordinary season:
Kye van Zelst
Special Achievement Awards
Newcomer of the Year:
The U18s has a core group of players who have been with the club for a long time, but this season, unlike in previous seasons, they have seen a lot of new players join the Bears and they have all had to adjust to a new club and fit in to a new playing group. The team had 9 new players join the squad this year and they have all integrated remarkably well and improved the makeup of the overall team.
After much deliberation, the coaches narrowed the selection down to 2 players:- Ethan Bibby, who has been a force to be reckoned with all season for the U18s and the Open Age, and Isaac Mather, who joined the club having only ever played a bit of rugby league at high school and yet he still went on to nail down a starting position as prop in a very competitive and highly skilled playing group.
The Newcomer of the Year award winner - Isaac Mather
Most Improved Player:
The nominations for this award were chosen by the coaches and these are players who have shown an improvement year on year, or a sustained improvement throughout the season in their performances in training and on match day.
This was another incredibly tough decision but the nominations were narrowed down to a final list of 3 players.
Tom Shaw has stepped up his performance level this season and showed leadership and a real maturity in his performances. With a few players missing through injury at times this season Tom took this opportunity to raise his game and the whole team benefited from this. He also made his debut for the open age which is testament to the progress he has made this season.
Isaac Wheeler has been one of the most consistent players in the squad this season, he does all of the small things well on a consistent basis. These small things often make a huge difference in a game, such as defensive positioning, tackling, controlling the ruck, winning the floor, lead line running and his kick-chase.
Ryan Hickey plays well most weeks but he really came to life in the second half of this season. He also made his debut for the open age but it his performances for the 18s that have earned him this nomination. He has simplified his game and shown much more consistency in his tackling and his support play and looks a much more confident and well rounded player.
The Most Improved Player Award winner - Isaac Wheeler
The coaches award is given to a player who has constantly impressed the coaches all season. This award looks at all attributes of a player, from their performance in matches, their attitude and
behaviour in training, how well they take feedback on areas of improvement, their teamwork and leadership skills and their overall commitment to the team.
There were 3 nominations for this award.
Ethan Bibby is a newcomer to the team and he made an impact from day one. He is a ferocious carrier of the ball and a strong tackler who often terrorises opposition teams into submission. He never shies away from hard work and always puts his hand up to take the ball. Ethan showed a real commitment to the U18s despite stellar performances for the open age this season. He has been phenomenal for the U18s year and he is going to be missed next year when he moves up to play open age rugby.
Danny Hill's commitment to training and the energy and resilience he shows in every game earn Danny a well deserved nomination. He is often the last line of defence out wide and he puts in some thunderous tackles that often swings momentum in the team's favour and he is also often first on the ball out of a scrum or on a kick return and this always puts the team on the front foot in the transition. Danny also made his debut for the open age this year and slotted straight in and looked comfortable playing at that level. Danny is a man of few words but he does his talking on the pitch and his work rate is appreciated by his teammates and coaches.
Isaac Wheeler's work rate, particularly off the ball often goes unnoticed, but his commitment to the details in his game and his unselfish attitude towards positioning and running lead lines often creates space for the team. He constantly puts in a minimum of 8/10 every week and is a valued member of the squad.
The Coaches Award winner - Ethan Bibby
Top Try Scorer:
Tries were counted from all 17 league, cup and pre-season matches.
3rd Place - 12 Tries - George Green
2nd Place - 13 Tries - Callum Cottington
Top Try Scorer Award winner, with an incredible 16 tries - Ronny Broderick.
Players Player of the Year:
It was very close towards the top, with only a few votes separating the winners.
5th Place - George Green. Despite missing out on the top three by only a few votes, George has demonstrated immense dedication and skill, and we want to acknowledge his outstanding contributions to our success this season.
4th Place - Danny Hill, also came tantalizingly close to the top 3. Danny's dedication and commitment to the team have been remarkable throughout the season, and the team benefits massively from his contributions every week.
3rd Place - Connor Ashley
Connor is a player who is a strong leader on the field and his physical presence, power and pace have meant he has been unstoppable in some games this season. His ability to play in a number of positions in the forwards and in the halves has really helped the team throughout the season.
2nd Place - Matthew Ward
Matty is a player who's has great communication and organisation skills which greatly benefit the team. His ability to slot seamlessly into the attacking line, along with his energy and enthusiasm in returning the ball under pressure and often serving as the last line of defence, has been invaluable. Not to forget, the extra points he adds every week as the team's goal kicker.
1st Place and winner of the Players Player of the Year Award - Ronny Broderick
Ronny is a player who is a skilful and exciting player to watch. He is excellent at guiding the team around the park in a structured way but he also has the ability to make things happen out of nothing and he keeps us all on the edge of our seats with his unpredictability. Combined with his humour, likeable personality, and overall character, it makes him an indispensable asset to our squad.
Player of the Season:
In every game we play the opposition nominates a man of the match. These nominations, gathered throughout the season, serve as the basis for the Player of the Season award winners.
Joint 4th Players of the Season - Matty Ward and Ethan Bibby
3rd Place - George Green
George is a player who is an absolute joy to watch. He is known for his lightning-fast speed, mind-bending side-step, and creative brilliance. He shows strong leadership, both on and off the field. He is the engine room and playmaker for our team.
2nd Place - Ronny Broderick
Ronny is a player who brings unpredictability and excitement to our attack. He is a force to be reckoned with in defence where we have seen him deliver some ferocious tackles this year and terrorises defences when he sniffs out an opportunity for a solo run, and he does all of this with a huge smile on his face.
1st Place, the winner of the Player of the Season - Callum Cottington
Callum is a born leader on the rugby pitch. He is a powerful forward, renowned for his exceptional tackling skills and a work rate that is second to none. He creates opportunities for the team with his
skilful ball-handling and versatile playing style. He puts his body on the line every time he pulls an Ashton shirt on and he leaves his mark in every game he plays in. He really is a true asset to our squad.
NWC Presentation and League Winners Trophy
The climax of the evening arrived with the NWC presentation, where Ashton Bears Under 18s were crowned Division 2 winners of 2023. The Open Age Head Coach, David Picton presented the winners' medals to each player, acknowledging their exceptional achievement.
As we wrap up this unforgettable season, we would like to thank every supporter, from the side-lines to the behind-the-scenes heroes. Together, we've proven that Ashton Bears are not just a team; we're a family and we've all played our part in an unforgettable season for the Mighty, Unbeaten, Invincible, Ashton Bears – NWC U18s Division 2 Winners 2023!
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Photograph's courtesy of Ruth Ward - Thank you