London Broncos and York Knights have been recognised for their late-season surges into the Betfred Championship Play-Offs with significant representation among the contenders for the competition’s end-of-season awards.
The Knights, who go to Bradford Bulls in Sunday night’s televised Play-Off after a run of nine wins in 10 matches since June, have Andrew Henderson in contention for the Coach of the Year award, and 20-year-old wing AJ Towse is nominated in the Young Player category for the second consecutive season, after scoring 16 tries.
The Broncos, who finished fifth in the table after winning six of their last seven matches and now face Sheffield Eagles on Sunday afternoon, have a nominee in each of the three categories.
Mike Eccles is in the running for Coach of the Year, the Italy hooker Dean Parata is one of three nominees for Player of the Year, and Bill Leyland is in contention for Young Player of the Year – the hooker, who is from Maidstone and has come through the Broncos Academy, following in the footsteps of his elder brother OIi, who was among the nominees last year.
Mark Aston, the long-serving Sheffield Eagles stalwart, is the third nominee in the Coach of the Year category with Henderson and Eccles.
Aidan McGowan, who has impressed at full-back for Batley Bulldogs on a season-long loan from Huddersfield Giants, joins Towse and Leyland as the Young Player nominees.
Parata’s fellow nominees for the Betfred Championship Player of the Year award are Lachlan Walmsley, the Scotland wing who has been the leading try-scorer across domestic Rugby League in 2023 with an incredible 36 touchdowns; and Caleb Aekins, who represented Wales in last year’s World Cup and has excelled in a range of positions for Featherstone Rovers this season as they have clinched the League Leaders’ Shield, scoring 16 tries.
The nominees and winners in all three categories are determined by a poll of the head coaches of the competition’s 14 clubs. A total of 23 players received votes in the Player of the Year category spread across 10 clubs, Featherstone leading the way with five of their players recognised.
The winners will be crowned at Rugby League’s biggest and most inclusive Awards Night at Emirates Old Trafford on Tuesday October 10.
Aston’s son Cory has been confirmed as the leading pointscorer in the Betfred Championship regular season with 224 – four ahead of Jake Shorrocks, the Toulouse Olympique half-back who has been the leading goalkicker with 102.
Featherstone and Toulouse have a bye through the first round of the Play-Offs this weekend as a reward for finishing first and second respectively.
Featherstone will play the lowest-ranking of this weekend’s winners at the Millennium Stadium next Sunday evening (October 8, 630pm, live on Viaplay), while Toulouse will play the higher-ranking winners at Stade Ernest Wallon on Saturday October 7 (6pm French-time).
The Betfred Championship Grand Final will then be played at the home ground of the highest-ranked Semi Final winners on Sunday October 15, kicking off at 2pm and again live on Viaplay.
Betfred Championship Awards Nominees
Player of the Year
- Caleb Aekins (Featherstone Rovers)
- Dean Parata (London Broncos)
- Lachlan Walmsley (Halifax Panthers)
Young Player of the Year
- Bill Leyland (London Broncos)
- Aidan McGowan (Batley Bulldogs)
- AJ Towse (York Knights)
Coach of the Year
- Mark Aston (Sheffield Eagles)
- Mike Eccles (London Broncos)
- Andrew Henderson (York Knights)
- Top Try-Scorer – Lachlan Walmsley (Halifax Panthers) – 36
- Top Goal-Scorer – Jake Shorrocks (Toulouse Olympique) – 102
- Top Points-Scorer – Cory Aston (Sheffield Eagles) - 224
Betfred Championship Play-Offs Schedule
First Round – Sunday October 1
Sheffield Eagles (4th) v London Broncos (5th) – 3pm, Olympic Legacy Park
Bradford Bulls (3rd) v York Knights (6th) – 630pm, Odsal (live on Viaplay)
Saturday October 7 – Toulouse Olympique v highest-ranked First Round winner - Stade Ernest Wallon, 6pm CET
Sunday October 8 – Featherstone Rovers (1st) v lowest-ranked First Round winner - Millennium Stadium, 630pm (live on Viaplay)
Grand Final – Sunday October 15 – 2pm kick-off, live on Viaplay