Kieran Read proud but humble Player of the Year
December 4, 2013
Rugby Test Team of the Year
Read was an unbackable favourite to take out the award announced on Tuesday, such was the measure of his form in 2013, but he awoke in New Zealand on Wednesday having returned from a five-day coaching commitment in Brazil to say: "It's fun playing rugby for the All Blacks."
"That's what we've always done this for," Read said on Radio Live Sport. "It's a proud moment to get the recognition [of the award]. It was a great year for the All Blacks and it makes me feel really proud. Awards are just part and parcel of what you do on the pitch. Getting the opportunity to captain the ABs was awesome. I think that gives you confidence when you are out there on the field to lead and really play as best you can."
Read has certainly played the best he can for the All Blacks in 2013, the loose forward among the chief beneficiaries of the updated game plan that has freed him of some of his former responsibilities at the breakdown to range wider in support of team-mates with attacking ball in hand. He has scored six tries, including four in consecutive Tests, but most notably the player once known for consistency now produces consistently at the biggest moments of the biggest games of the season - such as his man-of-the-match display when New Zealand defeated the Springboks in their epic Test at Ellis Park in Johannesburg to win The Rugby Championship title. And he is now known for sublime skill as much as for powerful running, such as his sleight-of-hand passes to set Aaron Smith and Ben Smith on the way for tries against Argentina and South Africa; seemingly, he can win matches on his own.
Kieran Read has the slight-of-hand of a magician © Getty Images
"Kieran Read was a colossus in a great All Blacks year," Taine Randell wrote for Fairfax News NZ this week, the former All Blacks back-rower describing Read as "the best player in the best team".
"The baton has been passed on from Richie McCaw and Dan Carter to Read, whose contribution comes in so many areas with so much distinction. He has brought a timeless style to the No.8 jersey, a position that has been a tricky area for the All Blacks over recent years.
"Murray Mexted always said if you had a good seven and eight, you had the substance of a good team. We have great players in those positions and we have a great team. "Some No,8s are ball players who love to hit it up, others like to range wide. Read does both and he's magnificent on defence and a lineout option as well. He brings the absolute full scope to this position."
Read's performances this year have seen him draw plaudits throughout the campaign, with Steve Hansen saying recently that the back-rower was "up there in their company" alongside the team's greatest No.8s in history - Sir Brian Lochore, Wayne Shelford and Zinzan Brooke. Read said on Wednesday that he had "grown up watching Zinzan Brooke", and he was humbled to have been mentioned alongside the legendary All Blacks.
"Everyone has their own personality and their own way they play," Read said on Live Sport. "To be compared is awesome."
Read's humble personality somehow seems fitting given the Player of the Year award was not this year named at a lavish ceremony. "I just woke up to a text this morning from someone, telling me I'd won it," Read told Radio National. "It's certainly a massive honour and I'll take what goes with it."
Read said the All Blacks would come under increasing pressure in 2014, halfway between Rugby World Cup tournaments and desiring to be the first team to retain the trophy. "You look at it, we have to improve. Over the times I've been here, if you stood still, teams will catch up," he said on Live Sport. "There are always improvements in this game to be made. It's hard ... the coaches will have a lot of time on their hands to try and create something new, but the basis of what we have done this year will hold us in pretty good stead."
For now, however, he is looking to relax at home after running coaching clinics in Sao Paulo, Brazil, as part of a commitment to All Blacks sponsor AIG. "It was a real eye-opener ... we had coaching clinics, including one with under-privileged kids," he told Live Sport. "It was cool trying to touch a football-mad nation. That brings you back down to earth ... that captured me a little bit."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd
Huw Richards rewinds to 1864 to mark the birth of Welsh rugby's first authentic star - Arthur Gould
Michael Cheika has succeeded in becoming the Wallabies coach under his own terms, writes Greg Growden
In the blink of an eye, a winger can go from a hero to villain. Hugh Godwin talks to Zac Guildford and David Strettle about life on the flank
Munster, No.8s, the imploding Australians, wonderful Glasgow and Lancaster's dilemma - it is Monday Maul time