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One of the hardest workers on the field this season, Ben Ellis has won both the Player of the Year and Players' Player awards at the Bears presentation night on Friday 14 October. Held at the North Sydney Bowling Club and MC'd by General Manager and Bears legend Greg Florimo, the night was attended by an enthusiastic crowd of players, coaches, officials, and supporters.
In his opening address, Flo expressed his appreciation to the players for their efforts throughout the year, starting with the pre-season training drills in the sandhills at Cronulla last October. A lot of effort went into the season, culminating in the Premier League finishing just short of a place in the finals. This was a big improvement on recent seasons, and augurs well for the future.
Flo pointed out that while the NRL denied the Bears the opportunity to participate in the elite competition, North Sydney nevertheless continued to foster and develop talented players, many of whom have been signed by NRL clubs for 2006. While it was disappointing for the club to lose players, he wished them every success with their new clubs. He looked forward to members of the 2006 squads also using the club as a stepping stone to the NRL via the feeder club arrangement with the Melbourne Storm, with which North Sydney began an affiliation in 2005, which will continue next season.
Finally Flo thanked the support staff who get the sides on the park each week, but who often don't get the accolades that go to the players and coaches. Flo also thanked the supporters for remaining with the club and hoped to see bigger numbers at the games in 2006.
Coach Gary Freeman also acknowledged the efforts of the players. Wizz has stood down as coach due to his broadcasting commitments, but hoped that the Bears would build on the achievements of 2005.
A final comment from Flo was the fact that North Sydney won all their games where Michael Pobjie filled in for Wizz, suggesting that Pobje should retire with his 100 percent record intact.
The highlight of the evening was the presentation of the player awards. Flo said that the awards were an important way for the club to honour players who had excelled during the season, and how the winners would join the ranks of some exalted company in North Sydney's long history. Ben Ellis received both the Premier League Player of the Year and the Players' Player awards. Getting both awards was a tribute to the young forward. Ellis said he was the fittest and strongest he had been since he moved to Australia from New Zealand, and gave credit to trainer Jamie Papa for that. He also thanked Gary Freeman for doing extra training sessions with him to work on his game. In presenting the award, Flo commented that Ellis had made 63 tackles in one game, which was more than Gary Freeman made during his long career.
Richard Retimana received the award for Highest Pointscorer - 4 tries and 46 goals. As Ritch was in New Zealand playing for the Maori team, the award was accepted on his behalf by team mate Matt Thurston who gave the funniest acceptance speech of the night, including the observation that the award would have been his had he been given more opportunities.
In Jersey Flegg, Ryan Verlinden was named Player of the Year, and Anthony Beare Players' Player. Beare played all 24 games for Flegg, a side which improved enormously over the season. One of the youngest sides in the competition - the side was competitive against such teams as the Sharks and Parramatta. Norths is looking forward to a successful Flegg season in 2006 and a repeat of the finals berth achieved in 2004.
Also in Jersey Flegg, Pat Galea received the Most Improved award. Pat was called into the Premier League team mid-season to play prop and never took a backward step. Pat Allendorf accepted the award on his behalf As Pat Galea was in Malta with the national team.
Captain Kyle Arnold was a popular choice as North Sydney's Clubman of the Year. Coach Freeman spoke highly of Kyle's abilities both on and off the field, including his work in helping the team bond. The award is a great recognition of a popular clubman.
The Supporters' Player of the Year award is Sponsored by www.mightybears.com. Votes were recorded after each game by supporters in a 3-2-1 format. David Choy had the honour of making the inaugural presentation which went to halfback Aaron Heremaia. As Aaron was in New Zealand with the Maori team Gary Freeman accepted the award on his behalf. Wizz spoke about Heremaia's determination to bounce back from a mid season lapse in form which actually saw him dropped from the side, and how he lifted his game to be one of the standout players in the second half of the season. Wizz believes Aaron will play for New Zealand within a couple of years.
The final comment from Flo was a thank you to the sponsors the Mighty Bears for their support during the 2005 season - Norths Leagues, J.J. Lawson, the Rag & Famish Hotel, the Cienna Group, Taragon Constructions and Di Mare Seafood Cammeray. Also to the players sponsors; Allied Pickfords, Coverforce, the Dural Country Club, Foster Raffan, mightybears.com, redandblackzone.com, Michael Tonello Typography and The Old Bears Club. And a successful 2006 will position the club for the League's 100th Premiership in 2007 and the Centenary Year Premiership in 2008.
See photos of the Seniors Player Presentation Night in the Photos section at http://www.northsydneybears.com.au/
Ben Ellis accepts his Player of the Year (Premier League) award flanked by 1st grade legends Gary Freeman and Greg Florimo. Photo: Steve Little