KIAMA Knights halfback Cameron Vazzoler has created his own slice of history, after claiming the 2018 Michael Cronin Medal on Friday night.
At the annual Group Seven awards presentation at the Nowra Golf Club, Vazzoler, 20, became the first person in the competition’s history to win the league’s rookie of the year and best and fairest awards in back-to-back seasons.
“It [the Cronin Medal] was a complete surprise,” Vazzoler said.
“When I got told I was in the running, I couldn’t believe it. To win this award with the quality of players I was up against was very surreal.
“It means a lot to win the award – the quality of previous winners, some of which I’ve grown of watching, and to be put in the same category as those, is something that I never expected and I’m very humbled by.
“I credit the award to my teammates and the Kiama Knights club – none of these awards are possible without the hard work of your teammates, week in and week out.”
Vazzoler and his Kiama Knights team have reached the first grade grand final in both of his first two seasons in first grade, unfortunately losing on both occasions – a statistic him and his side are determined to rectify next season.
“I think personally we had a great year – after the disappointment of last year’s grand final loss, it was important for us to put ourselves in a good spot to have another crack at the decider, which we did but unfortunately just fell short again,” he said.
“Being my second year in first grade, I had a better understanding of the game after jumping from under 18s to first grade
“It is a huge step up, so having that year of first grade under my belt really helped me achieve what I did this season.
“I think the experience of playing in and losing two grand finals has given me motivation to hopefully go one step further and win the competition next year.”
Vazzoler ended up winning the Cronin Medal count by 15 votes, from Gerringong’s Nathan Ford and Albion Park-Oak Flats’ Josh Sainsbury, who finished equal second.
Rounding out the top six were Jamberoo’s Luke Asquith, Gerringong’s Matt Winchester and Shellharbour’s Harold Snell.
Other major award winners on the night were Sussex Inlet’s Dale Hammond (Athol Noble Medal – third grade Player of the Year), Kiama’s Kade Roberts (Kevin Walsh Scholarship), Milton-Ulladulla’s Cheyanne Hatch (Sharon Clarke Women’s League Tag Player of the Year), Warilla-Lake South’s Blake Dowel (Roy Stewart Rookie of the Year), Shellharbour’s Allan Carroll (Harold Alcock contribution to local rugby league), Karra-Lee Nolan (Referee of the Year), Albion Park-Oak Flats’ Jake Brisbane (Bill James under 18s Player of the Year), Jamberoo’s Corey Grigg (representative player of the year) and Kiama being crowned as club champions for the second straight season.
The night also a host of other stars recognised for their achievements throughout the year, including; Gerringong and Shellharour (Leo O'Dwyer Trophy – most competition points scored second round – 14 points), Milton-Ulladulla’s Tarje Whitford (Stan Barrington under 18s top pointscorer), Shellharbour’s Jason Gray (Tim Jones Memorial Trophy - leading try-scorer first grade), Shellharbour’s Matt Carroll (Kevin Walsh leading pointscorer – first grade), Berry-Shoalhaven Heads’ Billy Hayburn (Doreen and Len Holz under 18s leading try scorer), Kiama’s Mitchell Boles (leading pointscorer reserve grade), Sussex Inlet’s Nathan Dobeson (leading pointscorer third grade), Sussex Inlet’s Dale Hammond (leading try scorer third grade), Kiama’s Zoe Digham and Kirstie Pan (equal leading pointscorers WLT division one), Kiama’s Kristie Pan (leading try scorer WLT division one), Warilla-Lake South’s Jessica Ellwood (leading pointscorer and try scorer WLT division two) and Warilla-Lake South’s Lleyton Hughes/Kiama’s Marc Laird/ Robertson’s Samuel Pointing (leading try scorers in reserve grade).