10 January 2024
~6 minutes read
Bundee Aki and Nichola Fryday announced as Guinness Rugby Writers Players Of The Year
Today, Ireland and Connacht centre, Bundee Aki and ex-Ireland captain and Exeter Chiefs Lock, Nichola Fryday have been named the Guinness Rugby Writers of Ireland Men’s and Women’s XV’s Players of The Year respectively. These awards acknowledge their achievements and consistent performances throughout the 2022/2023 season for both club and country.
After a memorable season in green, Bundee featured as one of the standout players as the Irish men’s team claimed Grand Slam victory in March, along with a gallant pursuit at World Cup success last year. Nominated for World Player of the Year, Aki has been in the form of his life contributing significantly for Ireland but also across the season for Connacht, both domestically in the league and on the European stage. Recently retired Fryday meanwhile featured as a strong leader throughout a challenging final season for the Ireland women’s team. Stepping away from international level last July, Nichola enjoyed the highs and lows of the game throughout 34 appearances in green. Named International captain in 2022, the Tullamore native has enjoyed success through her club career with Exeter Chiefs with whom she reached the Premier XVs final last season.
The Ireland men’s team was named the Dave Guiney Guinness Rugby Writers of Ireland Team of the Year in recognition of their historic Guinness Six Nations Grand Slam victory last March. The side enjoyed success throughout the 2022/23 season competing as World Number One heading into the Rugby World Cup in France. A standout Guinness Six Nations journey, Ireland shined scoring the most tries (24), conceding the least tries (4) and as would be expected, subsequently scored the highest number of points (168) of the 2023 tournament.
Ireland men’s 7’s captain, Harry McNulty was awarded Guinness Rugby Writers of Ireland Men’s 7’s Player of the Year having been nominated for the second consecutive year, cementing his reputation as one of the Ireland’s best and most consistent 7s players. Following another successful season for McNulty which saw him part of the historic team that booked their tickets to the Paris 2024 Games, along with picking up bronze at the Rugby World Cup Sevens. Having recently achieved his 50th cap in green, McNulty has been a pivotal leader for the 7’s programme since 2015, earning a Rugby World Cup bronze medal to his tally of success during his career.
Women’s 7’s player, Lucy Mulhall is this year’s Guinness Rugby Writers of Ireland Women’s 7’s Player of the Year, the first time she has won the award in her career. Named captain for the tenth season, Wicklow native Mulhall played a pivotal role in helping the Irish women’s side qualify for the 2024 Paris Olympics for the first time in history. Lucy Mulhall also returned, briefly, to Gaelic games, in the 2022 off-season, helping her club Tinahely not only to a Wicklow Senior Football Championship title but all the way to the Leinster Senior Club Final.
Tyrone based club Clogher Valley RFC has been voted the Guinness Rugby Writers of Ireland Club of the Year on the back of their achievements which include promotion to Division 2C of the Men’s All Ireland League last season, a feat that saw the club compete in senior All-Ireland rugby for the first time ever. The club has also seen success having claimed the Ulster League and the All-Ireland Junior Cup and their second XV winning their respective league and Crawford Cup.
Leinster and Ireland rugby player Alex Soroka was acknowledged for his outstanding contribution through fundraising for the Ukrainian effort as he claimed the Guinness Rugby Writers Tom Rooney Award.
Finally, former Ireland, Leinster and Munster rugby player, Lynne Cantwell and former Ireland, London Irish and Ulster rugby player, David Humphreys, have both been inducted into the Guinness Rugby Writers of Ireland Hall of Fame. With 86 appearances in green, Cantwell is one of the most-capped and well respected figures in the game. A standout star of the 2013 Grand Slam Victory, Cantwell featured on the team to acquire a fourth-place finish at the 2014 Rugby World Cup. Committed to growing the women’s game, in 2021 Cantwell was appointed as South Africa Rugby’s first ever women’s rugby high performance manager. An acclaimed player and manager, Humphreys, meanwhile, Humphreys had a stellar career with Ulster and Ireland, winning 72 caps for Ireland and scoring 560 points. He captained Ulster Rugby to the first Irish European Cup success in the 1998/99 season and made 38 appearances for Ireland, captaining the side on 13 occasions. Humphreys served as Director of Rugby for Ulster and spent six years in a similar role with Gloucester Rugby. In 2023, Humphreys was named as the IRFU’s next Performance director, stepping into the role in place of David Nucifora.
Rory Sheridan, Head of Partnerships for Diageo, said;
“Guinness is proud to acknowledge the outstanding contributions to Irish Rugby during the 2022/2023 season. As we continue our long-term partnership of both Irish Rugby and the Rugby Writers of Ireland, it has been fantastic to see achievements reached both on and off the pitch. We would like to congratulate all of those who have been honoured today, most of all, Nichola Fryday and Bundee Aki on their contributions over the past season and throughout their careers.”
Rúaidhrí O’Connor, Chair of the Rugby Writers of Ireland added;
“As Chair of the Rugby Writers of Ireland, I would like to congratulate all of our award winners who have been nominated and voted for our members. The 2022/23 season was a remarkable year for Irish Rugby, with the Men’s team claiming a historic first home Grand Slam victory in March and providing a series of magic moments at the World Cup in France, to the introduction of professional contracts for Ireland’s Women’s squads for the first time in history. We have also seen Ireland’s men’s and women’s Sevens teams continue to shine on the world stage with the Olympic Games in Paris around the corner, while the provinces continue to set the standard and the club game thrives. My special thanks to Guinness for their continued sponsorship of these awards, which has spanned over two decades.”
Bundee Aki was proud to receive the accolade;
“It is an honour to have been voted the Guinness Rugby Writers of Ireland Men’s Player of the Year for last season.. All of my teammates at Connacht and Ireland are deserving of recognition for their commitment and contribution to the game and I would not be picking up this award without their support. The journey of Irish Rugby is an exciting one and I look forward to the season ahead.”
Nichola Fryday was honoured to receive her award;
“It is a huge privilege to be named the Guinness Rugby Writers of Ireland Women’s Player of the Year. It has been a bitter-sweet season but a journey I am grateful to have been part of for the last 7 years. I feel very proud to have captained a very special group of players with Ireland who epitomised resilience, dedication and commitment to the jersey. I would also like to thank the many people throughout my International career who supported me and made the journey a memorable one.”