Tireless Vodafone Warriors back rower Tohu Harris has today been awarded the club’s highest accolade – the Simon Mannering Medal – for the second year running.
Despite a season-ending ACL knee injury limiting him to 15 appearances, the 29-year-old’s standout consistency was acknowledged again when the Vodafone Warriors’ 27th annual awards were held offshore for the first time in the club’s history due to Covid-19’s ongoing impact.
At a function attended by teammates, staff, families and old boys, Harris has become the fourth player to win the title in consecutive years after Steve Price, Simon Mannering and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck.
Following on from his exceptional deeds in 2020, Harris had been in stellar form again only to have his ninth NRL campaign and his fourth with the Vodafone Warriors ended cruelly in the opening minutes of the 18th-round encounter against Penrith.
He lasted only 12 minutes of that match and was limited to 23 minutes after being forced off the field with a head knock against the St George Illawarra Dragons two weeks earlier. However, in his previous 13 appearances he had averaged 117 metres and 46 tackles a game; only three players finished the regular season with better average tackles per game numbers than Harris. Across his full 15 games, he still ranked ninth among all players for most average tackles per match.
The other nominees for the coveted award were prop Addin Fonua-Blake, centre-turned-second rower Euan Aitken and hooker Wayde Egan.
While the Simon Mannering Medal – jointly determined by the coaching staff and players – went to Harris, first-year Vodafone Warrior and stand-in captain Fonua-Blake was voted the players’ player of the year by his teammates.
The 25-year-old, like Harris, was limited to 15 appearances after being side-lined for a long period after picking up a serious knee injury in just the fourth round of the season. Despite that he was right up to his career-best form averaging 160 metres and 26 tackles a game.
Also in contention for the players’ player were Harris and winger Marcelo Montoya.
The 19-year-old Reece Walsh was a predictable choice for the Vodafone Rookie of the Year award following his wonderful deeds from the moment he made his debut at the age of 18 in the Anzac Day clash against Melbourne.
Signed to replace the departing Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Walsh exploded onto the scene and was also almost immediately selected to make his State of Origin debut for Queensland, although injury subsequently ruled him out.
He finished the season as the club’s top try scorer with nine in 16 appearances while he averaged 119 metres a game. He led the club for try assists (11) and line breaks (14) while he was second for most tackle breaks with 53.
The other rookie candidates were centre Rocco Berry and winger Edward Kosi.
The fourth of the club’s main awards, the Canterbury of New Zealand Clubman of the Year, was won by Montoya, another first-year Vodafone Warrior.
The 25-year-old marked his arrival at the club with consistent performances across his 18 appearances, finishing with five tries and averaging a career-best 123 metres a game.
On hand to present the awards were former players Aaron Whittaker (#48), Kevin Campion (#86), Michael Witt (#134) and Nathan Friend (#171).
VODAFONE WARRIORS AWARDS | 2021
Vodafone NRL Rookie of the Year | Reece Walsh
Canterbury of NZ Clubman of the Year | Marcelo Montoya
NRL Players’ Player of the Year | Addin Fonua-Blake
Simon Mannering Medal | Tohu Harris
VODAFONE WARRIORS PLAYER OF THE YEAR | 1995-2021
1995 Tea Ropati
1996 Stephen Kearney
1997 Stacey Jones
1998 Joe Vagana
1999 Jason Death
2000 Robert Mears
2001 Jerry Seuseu
2002 Ali Lauitiiti
2003 Francis Meli
2004 Wairangi Koopu
2005 Ruben Wiki
2006 Steve Price
2007 Steve Price
2008 Simon Mannering
2009 Micheal Luck
2010 Manu Vatuvei
2011 Simon Mannering
2012 Ben Matulino
2013 Simon Mannering
2014 Simon Mannering
2015 Ben Matulino
2016 Simon Mannering
2017 Roger Tuivasa-Sheck
2018 Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (Simon Mannering Medal)
2019 Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (Simon Mannering Medal)
2020 Tohu Harris (Simon Mannering Medal)
2021 Tohu Harris (Simon Mannering Medal)
Departing/departed players | #147 Leeson Ah Mau, #186 Chad Townsend, #201 Ken Maumalo, #203 Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, #221 Peta Hiku, #229 Karl Lawton, #235 Hayze Perham, #249 Paul Turner, Isaiah Vagana.
Vodafone Warriors debuts:
NRL | #258 Rocco Berry (v Melbourne, Rd 7), #259 Reece Walsh (v Melbourne, Rd 7), #260 Edward Kosi (v North Queensland, Rd 8), #261 Taniela Otukolo (v Newcastle, Rd 15), #264 Viliami Vailea (v Wests Tigers, Rd 20), #265 Jackson Frei (v Canterbury Bankstown, Rd 22)
Vodafone Warriors | #251 Euan Aitken (v Gold Coast, Rd 1), #252 Addin Fonua-Blake (v Gold Coast, Rd 1), #253 Bayley Sironen (v Gold Coast, Rd 1), #254 Ben Murdoch-Masila (v Gold Coast, Rd 1), #255 Sean O’Sullivan (v Canberra, Rd 3), #256 Marcelo Montoya (v Sydney Roosters, Rd 4), #257 Kane Evans (v Manly Warringah, Rd 5), #262 Dallin Watene-Zelezniak (v St George Illawarra, Rd 16), #263 Matthew Lodge (v Cronulla Sutherland, Rd 17).
50 NRL appearances |#240 Wayde Egan
50 Vodafone Warriors appearances | #236 Kodi Nikorima
100 NRL appearances | #252 Addin Fonua-Blake
100 Vodafone Warriors appearances | #201 Ken Maumalo
100 Vodafone Warriors appearances | #203 Roger Tuivasa-Sheck
150 NRL appearances | #221 Peta Hiku, #262 Dallin Watene-Zelezniak
100 appearances as Vodafone Warriors captain | Roger Tuivasa-Sheck
50 NRL tries | Dallin Watene-Zelezniak
200 NRL points | Kodi Nikorima, Dallin Watene Zelezniak