Image Caption: Winners at the Ulster Branch Women’s Rugby Awards are (back row L-R) Rosie Quinn, Julie Newton, Catrin Watts, Stephie Clarke
(both Queen’s); (front row L-R) Ashleigh Baxter, Joy Sparkes and Erin Caughey.
The IRFU Ulster Branch Women’s Rugby Awards took place at Malone RFC on Monday night, with the two big awards of the night taken home by
Ireland players Stacey-lea Kennedy (Ulster Inter-Provincial Player of the Year) and Ashleigh Baxter (All Ireland League Player of the Year).
A special ‘Services to Rugby’ award was presented to Joy Sparkes, who did much to develop the women’s game in Ulster as an IRFU employee. She
has recently taken up a post within community rugby in Ulster after ten years as Women’s Development Officer.
The other individual award winners were Julie Newton (Qualifying Player of the Year), Rosie Quinn (Development Player of the Year) and
Erin Caughey (Youth Player of the Year).
Queen’s University won ‘Team of the Year’ after finishing top of All Ireland Division 2 North and adding the Ulster Cup and Carrick 10s
IRFU ULSTER BRANCH WOMEN’S RUGBY AWARD WINNERS:
FRONT ROW UNION TEAM OF THE YEAR – QUEEN’S UNIVERSITY BELFAST
Rapid progress at Queen’s has seen the squad go from the Development League last season to contenders for promotion to All Ireland Division 1
during this campaign. They went through the regular season unbeaten to finish as winners of Division 2 North, but missed out on promotion after
a narrow defeat to Division 2 South champs, Portlaise. They added the Ulster Cup and Carrick 10s titles to complete a remarkable season.
FRONT ROW UNION ULSTER INTERPROVINCIAL PLAYER OF THE YEAR – STACEY-LEA
The City of Derry and Ulster Women’s Captain led by example this season in her typically enthusiastic manner. The prop built on a
brilliant inter-pro campaign by helping Ireland win an historic RBS Six Nations Grand Slam.
KE NAKO BILTONG AIL PLAYER OF THE YEAR – ASHLEIGH BAXTER
Belfast Harlequins, Ulster Women and Ireland Women’s Grand Slam winning team member. Currently a key member of the Ireland Women’s 7s
squad who are working towards qualification for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janiero.
FRONT ROW UNION QUALIFYING PLAYER OF THE YEAR – JULIE NEWTON
The successful season enjoyed by Ballymoney was in no small part down to the contribution of Nelson. The number 8 played a key role and her
impressive try tally underlined her importance to the team.
FRONT ROW UNION DEVELOPMENT PLAYER OF THE YEAR – ROSIE QUINN
The Newry player started playing in late 2011 as a second row but has now found her home at scrumhalf after a spell in the back row. She is
only new to rugby after coming from a GAA background. With hard work and determination she is one to watch in the upcoming years.
REJENERATE SPORTS MASSAGE YOUTH PLAYER OF THE YEAR – ERIN CAUGHEY
Malone player and Girls Schools’ Cup finalist with Grosvenor Grammar this year. Erin was a key member in the Eastern Regional Development
Squad where she played comfortably in the number 10 shirt. She is a rising star for the future.
SERVICES TO RUGBY AWARD – JOY SPARKES
The face of Women’s rugby in Ulster for the last 10 years in her role as Women’s Development Officer, Joy has moved into a Community Rugby
Officer role with responsibility for the North East of the Province. Her knowledge and enthusiasm will be refocused but thankfully for all
involved in Women’s Rugby not lost for good.
Joy worked tirelessly to promote and develop women’s rugby in Ulster and aided the development of many of the players who have achieved
success with Ulster and Ireland.