The Alternative Awards including Best Golden Oldie award

At the end of a long but entertaining campaign, Planet Rugby features writer James While handing out his Alternative Awards for the Premiership season.

Best Fan Experience: Northampton Saints

Every touchpoint of the Franklin Gardens is professional, welcoming and homely. From the true abundance of food, to the ease of parking and the untouched nature of the ground, it is a model of rugby excellence and one that continues to set the benchmarks for a fan experience. Harlequins receive an honorable mention for their atmosphere and fan engagement, as does Gloucester for his brilliant and always humorous atmosphere.

Best Golden Elder: Richard Wigglesworth (Leicester Tigers)

To win one Premiership a title is the dream of most players; winning seven and for three different clubs is quite remarkable and the impact the 39-year-old continues to have on every team he represents is quantitative. Blessed with one of the best kick games in the business, his ability to push the connectivity of the opposition number eight and scrum half is a feature of his game. He also has the best pass completion of any melee half in the Premiership with a batting 93% completion rate and he shows no sign of completion fairly recently, with Brad Thorn’s record of 40 years and 109 days well within his compass. Honorable mentions go to Jimmy Gopperth of Wasps and Bristol Bears rock, backed by John Afoa.

Best Fan Innovation: The Great Games (Harlequins)

On May 21, Twickenham Stadium hosted their neighbors Harlequins in Round 25 against Gloucester, attracting nearly 50,000 spectators on an exciting and family-oriented day called The Big Summer Kick-Off. A few months before that Harlequins faced Northampton Saints at the same venue when a huge 72,735 fans came in support! With the pay cap reduced and with teams struggling to return to post-Kovid profitability, events like these are cash cows for the besieged clubs and the event, combined with the noise around it, was an absolute knockout success.

Most Consistent Referee: Karl Dickson

While it’s hard to ignore the claims of Wayne Barnes and Luke Pearce, Dickson’s journey to the game’s elite referees is almost complete. When he first started, some criticized his interpretation of the jackal and breakdown, but heck, the guy is a melee half, so you have to wait for him to protect his own species. But, humor aside, Dickson’s only consistency in his application of the laws and his focus on speed in the game was a revelation this season and we wish him well with his summer Test schedule. Honorable mention to Matt Carley – a man who arbitrates with the most laconic sense of humor going on and perhaps has the longest arms in the history of arbitration.

Best Rugby Writer: Alex Lowe (The Times)

The Times’ new rugby editor, Alex Lowe, is a thoughtful and intelligent writer, always looking to unpack details and strive for thoughtful and thoughtful coverage. An occasional contributor to Planet Rugby’s podcasts, Lowe also broke the British and Irish Lions’ team story last year and continues to set the benchmark for the avid reader. An honorable mention is to Charlie Morgan (The Daily Telegraph) for his brilliant statistical analysis.

Best Rugby Media: Sarra Elgan (BT Sport)

From her sheer sense of humor to her mermaid-like dress feeling, Elgan has anchored so much of BT Sport’s coverage this year that she probably also wins the award for mileage covered during a season.

Always funny, always straightforward and curious, her interviews have both rhythm and pathos and she remains a jewel in the crown of BT’s coverage assets, with an honorable mention to her amazing BT Sport cohort, Craig Doyle.

Best Media Team: Leicester Tigers

Smooth, honest and punctual, Gary Sherrard and his team at Tigers continue to set the standard in access, organization and open engagement. Our only criticism is the narrow nature of the infamous “Classroom” but when you get the player access and open conversations that Tigers offer, it’s a small price to pay for dealing with such a professional organization. Just always remember, you don’t call Steve Borthwick “Borthers” on Gary’s turn! Honorable mention to Tim Percival and Jack Miller at Northampton Saints.

The ‘Get Well Soon’ Award: Elliott Stooke (Wasps)

One of the game’s most attractive and eccentric characters, the Wasps lock was in such blistering form this season that an England recall looked at the cards until he smashed his fibula in a harmless event in a home game. BT Sport chose not to show repetitions of the horrific injury when the lock was administered gas and air and carried off the field before being taken to hospital. In his best form, it was an inappropriate injury for Stooke and everything in the game wishes him a speedy recovery.

Gold Watch Award: Don Armand (Exeter Chiefs)

After an outstanding period at Sandy Park, great Armand bids farewell to Sandy Park after nine seasons of unparalleled back service.

With 193 games, 37 tries and a few England caps to his name, the Harare-born giant could have played a lot more for England if luck had gone his way. No player has been more important to Exeter than Armand and he will be missed. Honorable mentions go to Sean O’Brien (London Irishman) and Tim Swinson (Saracens).

Best Game Facilities: Northampton Saints and Franklin’s Gardens

The easiest of all prizes, the playing surface at the Gardens is a perfect cricket square and gives you the feeling that every single blade was taken care of individually one hour before the start.

With two excellent exercise facilities behind the stand and a well-equipped gym, Saints players live a luxurious life compared to other clubs. An honorable mention goes to London Irish, who merge the wonderful Hazelwood Center with their home play at Brentford.

READ MORE: Premiership: The Planet Rugby Team of the Season dominated by victorious Leicester Tigers

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