LEIGH Centurions scrum half Jamie Ellis capped off a fine season by picking up both the taking Co-operative Championship Young Player of the Year and Player of the Year awards.
The 21-year-old who will be plying his trade in Super League with Hull FC next season, has impressed throughout this season for the Centurions, scoring 34 tries in all competitions and helping guide Leigh to victory in the Northern Rail Cup final.
Ellis beat off stiff competition from team mate Chris Hill, and 2010 Player of the Year Liam Finn to clinch the top prize while the half-back edged out Halifax’s Jacob Fairbank and Batley Bulldogs star Dane Manning for the honours of Young Player of the Year.
But there was some disappointment for Centurions Coach Ian Millward as he missed out on the Coach of the Year Award to Featherstone Rovers coach Daryl Powell, who received that award for the second year running after guiding his side to a second successive League Leader’s Shield and into Sunday’s Grand Final.
Ellis’s double delight was fully merited in an outstanding season, but his Warrington bound Leigh team mate Chris Hill has also enjoyed a magnificent season that earned him the right to a Super League contract.
However the wins were scant consolation for the defeat last Thursday at home to Sheffield , with the mood of both players being summed up by captain Stuart Donlan who said that all the players “were devastated” after the defeat.
“We had a great opportunity but just didn’t perform on the night,” said Stuart. “To play like this with so much riding on the game is disappointing beyond words. This defeat is the worst moment of my career.”
Donlan also said he would be contemplating his future and added: “I don’t know what I will be doing next season. I need to take time and consider my options and if I want to put myself through the mill again.”
It was the end of a brilliant career for Robbie Paul after 17 years at the top in international and national rugby league, but he refused to be downbeat.
“It would have been great to make the Grand Final, and I am deeply disappointed that we let ourselves and our magnificent fans down,” he said. “But careers have to come to an end sometime, and unfortunately I am finishing on a loss. But that can’t take away the memories of the past 17 years and the great people and friends I have met in the game. Leigh have given me a very special ending to my career and it is one I will always cherish”.
Coach Millward, was gutted that his side fell at the last hurdle before the Grand Final.
“We trained and prepared well, but just didn’t turn up on the day,” he conceded. “Having said that we could and should have won it. We had more than enough chances and even in the last five minutes we had the opportunities to win the game twice over.
“It’s a disappointing end to the season, but the players have been magnificent throughout and we should not forget that. We did win the Northern Rail Cup and that is something that counts immensely in the club’s future plans.
“Unfortunately I will not be with them, but they are a club always closest to my heart and I have no doubt they will be a success in the future.”
Leigh now continue their search for a successor to Millward with the closing date last Thursday. Rochdale’s John Stankewicz is believed to be a late candidate among the 14 applications.