Seven of the 10 Betfred League One clubs have nominees for the three end-of-season awards which will be announced next month – with champions Dewsbury Rams leading the way, and Cornwall receiving their first ever nomination.
The Rams, who have secured the first promotion spot to the 2024 Betfred Championship by finishing top of the table with 15 wins and only two defeats in their 18 fixtures, have two contenders for the Player of the Year Award – hooker Reiss Butterworth and Paul Sykes, who is the oldest player in the professional game by a distance at the age of 42, having made his senior debut way back in 1999, but has continued to pull the strings and kick goals from stand-off in his 25th season.
They are joined on the shortlist of four by another two players at the veteran stage of their careers – Doncaster’s 34-year-old Sam Smeaton and Martyn Ridyard, the 37-year-old playmaker who has completed his second season with Oldham.
Dewsbury’s third nominee is Liam Finn in the Coach of the Year category, recognising the influence of the former Ireland half-back as the Rams have bounced straight back following relegation from the Championship last season.
The other contenders are Anthony Murray, who joined Workington Town for the 2023 season after previously winning the award with North Wales Crusaders in 2021, and Mike Abbott, in recognition of the progress Cornwall have made in their second season – winning five matches out of 18, a 400% increase on one out of 20 in 2022.
Abbott is originally from St Helens but moved to Cornwall in 2016, and was appointed as assistant to Neil Kelly for the club’s debut season before stepping up to take charge last winter.
Four players from different clubs are on the shortlist for the Betfred League One Young Player of the Year Award, which is open to players who were 21 or under on January 1, and who have made a minimum of nine appearances in 2023.
They are: Joe Burton, an outside back who joined Hunslet after coming through the Leeds Academy; Connor Carr, a centre who has impressed in his second stint on loan at Oldham from Huddersfield Giants; Ben O’Keefe, another three quarter who has shone for Rochdale Hornets since joining them from Wigan; and Ciaran Walker, a goalkicking half-back from the Seaton Rangers community club who is in his second season with Workington Town after a spell in the Newcastle Thunder Academy.
The winners will be announced as part of Rugby League’s biggest ever Awards Night at Emirates Old Trafford on Tuesday October 10.
There are still two matches to go in the Betfred League One season, to decide who secures the second promotion place and joins Dewsbury Rams in the Betfred Championship next year.
This Sunday (September 17), Hunslet host North Wales Crusaders in the Preliminary Final – with Carl Forster’s Crusaders aiming to continue a fairytale run through the Play-Offs which has already seen them claim away wins at Workington and Oldham.
But Hunslet, who finished second in the league table, will be determined to bounce back from last weekend’s home defeat by Doncaster – and earn the chance to take revenge against the Dons in the Promotion Play-Off Final at the Eco Power Stadium on Sunday week (September 24).
Both matches will be shown live, exclusive and free on The Sportsman.
Betfred League One Awards Nominees
Player of the Year
- Reiss Butterworth (Dewsbury Rams)
- Martyn Ridyard (Oldham)
- Sam Smeaton (Doncaster)
- Paul Sykes (Dewsbury Rams)
Coach of the Year
- Mike Abbott (Cornwall)
- Liam Finn (Dewsbury Rams)
- Anthony Murray (Workington Town)
Young Player of the Year
- Joe Burton (Hunslet)
- Connor Carr (Oldham)
- Ben O’Keefe (Rochdale Hornets)
- Ciaran Walker (Workington Town)