Enigmatic wing David Smith has stormed home to win the 2011 Western Force Player of the Year award.
Smith scored 92 of his 212 votes in the final four matches of the season to finish 51 ahead of rising star Sam Wykes, who enjoyed his best ever placing in the Player of the Year award.
Recruited to the Western Force after stints in New Zealand with the Blues and Hurricanes, Smith brought an 'X-Factor' and reputation as a game breaking try scorer.
He proved a critical ingredient in the team's winning performances throughout 2011 and when he scored, so did the team. His season best five tries all came in games that resulted in victories for the Western Force.
A brace against the Brumbies (Round Nine) and Highlanders (Round 15) and another against the Rebels in the final match of the season helped the West Aussies secure all important wins.
"I just don't know what to say right now, I'm just pretty shocked but honoured to have been given the Player of the Year award," Smith said.
"There are a lot of players in the team that deserved to win so I didn't expect it all.
"I'm proud that I was able to give something to the team, it has been special to be part of such a great group of boys at the team.
"Thanks to all the players and the coaching staff for making me feel so welcome, I have really enjoyed my time in Perth."
Solid throughout, Smith really came into his own in the latter half of the campaign as the ball found its way into his hands more often. While possessing an uncanny ability to break opposition defensive lines, he also worked as a team man with his offloads freeing others to make positive attacking gains.
His work to recover a loose ball and begin an attack from deep inside the team's own defensive half against the Crusaders resulted in a wonderful team try that was named 'Try of the Year' at the 2011 Australian Super Rugby awards.
The Western Force Player of the Year is a peer voted award with each member of the match day 22 allocating votes on a 3,2,1 basis following a game. Smith is the fourth back in six seasons to be awarded the honour.
"I couldn't speak more highly of David and what he has contributed to the team this season," said Western Force coach Richard Graham.
"He has made an impact both on and off the field this year and in winning this award it shows the level of respect that David has earned amongst his teammates."
The top five in the Player of the Year were Wykes (2nd), James O'Connor (3rd), David Pocock (4th) and Nathan Sharpe (5th).
Pocock and Wykes were each recognised by teammates with top votes on three occasions throughout the season while Smith and Gene Fairbanks received the man of the match twice in 2011.
In other awards presented at the Western Force ceremony emerging West Australian prop Kieran Longbottom took home the Force Man award in recognition of both his development on the field and his commitment to growing rugby in his home state.
Longbottom enjoyed his best season to date at Super Rugby level by adding 14 appearances, including five starts, to his 22 games tally. Equally adept on both sides of the scrum the Rockingham product will be a key player for the team in coming seasons.
"Kieran's progression has come about from a sense of maturing and an understanding of what it takes to achieve," said Graham.
"In any team sport it is important that you not only prepare well off the field but you contribute to making the group better and Kieran has succeeded in doing both this year.
"He should take a lot of the credit for what he has achieved while it is also very good recognition for the schools, Academy and Western Force programmes that he has been a part of for a number of years."
The Rising Star award went to Patrick Dellit who made a sizeable impression in his debut season. A good team rugby player in Sydney, Dellit made the most of the opportunity presented by the Western Force and turned 2011 into a win-win for player and team alike.
"In modern day professional rugby Paddy's journey has been a little different having not being part of the academies and junior representative sides. I chose him as an experienced team rugby player and he demonstrated that if you commit to something and work hard you can get the most out of yourself and the programme being offered to you," Graham said.
The final award, the Members' MVP, was proudly presented by passionate team member Sandra Vagg to young back James O'Connor.
O'Connor played a variety of positions for the side throughout the season and was the team's leading point scorer with 170.
Western Force award winners:
Player of the Year: David Smith
Force Man: Kieran Longbottom
Rising Star: Patrick Dellit
Members' MVP: James O'Connor
Western Force Player of the Year Award – Top 10:
1. David Smith 212
2. Sam Wykes 161
3. James O'Connor 157
4. David Pocock 145
5. Nathan Sharpe 130
6. Nick Cummins 123
7. Pek Cowan 113
8. Matt Hodgson 108
9. Ben McCalman 105
10. Brett Sheehan 103
Western Force Player of the Year Honour Roll:
2011: David Smith
2010: Matt Hodgson
2009: Matt Hodgson
2008: Ryan Cross
2007: Matt Giteau
2006: Scott Staniforth
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