TIM Swinson was last night named Newcastle Falcons’ Player of the Season for 2010-11 at the club’s annual awards dinner at Kingston Park.
The 24-year-old flanker played in all 22 of the Falcons’ Aviva Premiership matches, making 31 appearances in all competitions as the club secured top-flight rugby for a 15th consecutive year.
The Newcastle university graduate featured in both the second and back rows, scrapping away in an improved forward pack as Newcastle escaped the drop in a dramatic climax to the campaign.
Players’ Player of the Season went to Jimmy Gopperth, the Kiwi fly-half who has slotted 230 points in his 22 league outings this term.
Gopperth’s kicking exploits had already seen him handed his second Gilbert Golden Boot this week for top-scoring across the entire Premiership, as well as being named in the ESPN Dream Team.
The Ken Lockerbie Trophy for consistent performance also went the way of the former Blues and Hurricanes man, while full-back Tom Catterick earned the Community Foundation Award for his tireless work promoting the game across the North East.
A well-attended bash saw the Falcons Supporters Club recognised for their efforts as they collectively took the Clubman of the Season prize.
Cumbrian flanker Mark Wilson was rewarded for a hugely promising year by scooping Academy Player of the Season, the 21-year-old having shone in his 27 appearances since joining from Blaydon.
A hugely popular try of the season award was collected by Tane Tu’ipulotu for the last-minute score against Harlequins which propelled his side into the final of the LV= Cup.
It was an emotional night for the Tongan veteran, who is bound for Japan, and The Journal can reveal that Iwata Shizuoka will be his eventual destination as he joins up with the Yamaha Jubilo club.
The former Hurricanes star will be aiming to force Yamaha up the Top League table from this season’s fourth-bottom finish, with his future team-mates including former New Zealand All Black captain Reuben Thorne.
Special presentations were made to a trio of players for their 200th appearance in Falcons colours, with Matt Thompson, Hall Charlton and Micky Ward all receiving a deserved ovation for their contribution.
It has been a busy week for Ward, with Thursday’s testimonial match and last night’s award being followed by the news the prop-forward has accepted the position of director of rugby at Blaydon RFC.
The 32-year-old takes over from Tom Rock at the National One club after 274 appearances in 13 seasons as a Falcon and could well include veteran scrum-half Charlton among his early signings at Crow Trees.
The club heralded their new arrival, with a statement saying: “Blaydon RFC takes great pleasure in announcing Micky Ward will become the club’s new director of rugby.
“Micky brings a wealth of experience, having played at Premiership and international level and in coaching with the Falcons.
“He hopes to continue his role as scrum coach at Kingston Park and, as a level three coach, he hopes to complement and enhance the Blaydon coaching staff as well as adding to our forward capability.
“Micky is from Wallsend and this appointment has been met with great excitement by Blaydon, with the fit between director of rugby and Blaydon club culture expected to be a natural one.
“We are also excited at the opportunity to strengthen the relationship between Blaydon and the Falcons, which will inevitably come from this venture.
“The club would like to thank Tom Rock, who has helped firmly establish Blaydon as a National One side in the past two years.”
One name potentially coming into the Falcons’ fold this summer is Bedford scrum-half Will Chudley, with the 23-year-old having held talks this week.