Held at the Hurlingham Club in West London, the full Wasps squad, coaches, staff, sponsors and supporters marked the close of the season, reflecting on the highlights of 2008/09 with awards including Try of the Season and Young Player of the Season.
The players had their chance to honour their own with the Players Player of the Season Award and supporters made their vote count with the Magners Player Award.
After a challenging season, which ended with a convincing 34-3 win over Gloucester in front of a packed Adams Park as Wasps secured their seventh place seat in the league and a chance of Heineken Cup qualification, the night paid credit to the efforts of the squad and all those who work hard throughout the season.
First up was Try of the Season Award, presented by Mark Robinson and EMC Sales Director Russell Poole. The nominees included two Dominic Waldouck efforts - scoring against Northampton Saints on the 20th September and Castre Olympique on the 25th January. Joe Simpson also picked up two nominations – his score over London rivals Harlequins on the 16th November and his try at the Memorial Stadium over Bristol last month. The award went to Waldouck for his exploits on French soil with an impressive score over Castre in the Heineken Cup.
Dominic Waldouck - double winner on the night!
Waldouck also scooped another winners title on the night - recognised by the club as the Young Player of the Season and receiving his award from John Hart and Mostyn Thomas, Head of Marketing for Canterbury. Waldouck, at just 21, has shown his mettle this season making 22 appearances in 2008/09, tallying a total of 56 appearances with the 1XV. His nine try record is complimented with a host of silverware including a Heineken Cup and Guinness Premiership winners medal, and in a tough season for the men in black and gold, Waldouck is one who has shown great maturity and promise.
Crediting the youth at the club was a predominant theme of the evening as Joe Simpson took to the stage to receive the Academy Player of the Season Award from Hugo Ellis and John Martin of John Martin Estates . Simpson joined Wasps Academy full time in 2006 and has been recognised as an aspiring talent for the future – graduating the academy to sign a senior contract for the next two seasons. As well as recognition with the club the young scrum half has also enjoyed time on the international circuit collecting honours with England Under 16, Under 18, Under 19, Under 20, England Sevens. Stepping up to the plate with 13 appearances and 4 tries with 1XV this season – one of which earned him a nomination at the Guinness Premiership Awards for Try of the Season, narrowly missing out to a great David Lemi effort.
Academy Player of the Season, Joe Simpson
Next up Matt Lowen collected the Academy Apprenticeship Award from Dave Walder and Causeway Technologies' Abbey Griffiths and Carol Massey. Matt ,who joined Wasps AASE scheme in 2007, graduates the scheme as one of the players who has shown great development, buying into the scheme and the ethos at the club. Selected for the London Academies whilst with the club, he now moves to Nottingham University where he will study Sports Science, continuing his rugby with the University whilst upholding links with Ealing Trailfinders.
Tony Copsey, Wasps CEO and Trustee of the Community Foundation, took to the stage next to present the Community Player of the Season Award to Tom Palmer for his continual efforts to support the efforts of Wasps in the community. The Players also had their say as Serge Bestsen took to the stage to collect the Players Player of the Season – voted for by the full squad. Receiving the award from Joe Ward and Paddy Earnshaw of Group Meeting, Betsen was humbled by the recognition from his peers. One of the most popular additions to the squad this season, Betsen, who has stepped up to lead the team on many occasions throughout 2008/09 was a deserved winner.
The supporters choice via the Magners Player of the Season was also unveiled. Throughout the season Wasps fans had voted for their Player of the Month and this formed the shortlist for the winner of the season title. The nominees were Tom Rees, Riki Flutey, Tom Voyce, Josh Lewsey, Dave Walder, Danny Cipriani and Serge Betsen. Presenting the award was Phil Vickery and Magners Brand Manager, Richard Barnes, handing the title to Wasps Josh Lewsey.
Joe Worsley and Josh Lewsey
It wasn’t the only time that Lewsey would take to the stage as the dinner also marked the end of his Wasps career, hanging up his boots and retiring from the game this year. In an emotional night for the club, Lewsey said farewell to all those who had played a role in his ten year career with the London side. This was followed by fellow Wasps legend, Raphael Ibanez, also retiring form the game due to medical reasons earlier in the season. True to Ibanez’s style he said goodbye in a way only he could, performing his own rendition of ‘It’s a Wonderful World’ dedicated to Wasps.
Wasps also paid tribute to departing Forwards Coach Leon Holden, who continues his travels of Europe before heading back to New Zealand with his family. After four years and four trophies it was an emotional goodbye as all in club colours bid farewell to an integral member of the coaching set up.
As well as Holden, Ibanez and Lewsey, departing players James Haskell, Riki Flutey, Tom Palmer, Tom Voyce, Eoin Reddan and Michael Holford, who will also leave the club at the close of the season for London Welsh, were honoured. Wasps’ masseuse Kate Rehill also joined the players on stage leaving the club after five years of service.
Raf signs off in style
Drawing the evening to a close Mark Rigby, Wasps Executive Chairman, thanked all those who joined together for the evening. In a season of change and challenge he paid tribute to John O’Connell and Chris Wright, former Chairman and Club Owner who have been integral to the smooth transition of a new Board under new Owner Steve Hayes. Crediting all those who make up the club, the Chairman thanked players, coaches, staff, supporters and sponsors – particularly Magners who after four years with the club end their partnership – and looked ahead to 2009/10 a season of intent for the side who will be pushing for honours on all fronts.
An enjoyable evening was had by all as Wasps 2008/09 season drew to a close. For all those supporters who joined us - thank you for marking the end of the season at what was a very successful, emotional and fun filled evening. We hope very much that you will again show your support and join us for all the action on pitch and off next season.
Chris Wright with Executive Chairman, Mark Rigby and Board Director Lawrence Dallaglio
Don't forget Season Tickets are on sale now for 2009/10 – to find out more simply click here or call the ticket office on 0870 414 1515 today.
Photos by David Betteridge of DHB Photography