North Otago captain Josh Clark has capped off his outstanding season for North Otago and the New Zealand Heartland XV by being named a finalist for Heartland player of the year at the Steinlager Rugby Awards.
The awards are being held in Auckland on December 11, and two days later if Clark is the winner of the Heartland Player of the Year, he will be a chance to win an award at the North Otago Rugby Awards on December 13.
Clark said it’s quite an honour to have been nominated for the award for the first time.
“It’s awesome really, I am a bit blown away to be honest to have been nominated for the award it awesome.”
Many people in the Heartland Competition would feel that Clark’s nomination for the award is a deserving one after he had a standout season last year for the Old Golds, but was ineligible for the award due to being a loan player, however playing the back end of the season for Maheno meant he was eligible for the award.
He is up against Mid Canterbury openside flanker Gary Redmond and Buller’s first five James Lash for best Heartland player.
“We will just have to see what happens, hopefully I can win the award, but just to be nominated as one of the top three alongside Gary Redmond and James Lash who are class players is an honour in itself for me to be honest,” Clark said.
He will attend the awards in Auckland with his partner.
As North Otago’s captain Clark has been one of best players all season and was rewarded with a spot in the New Zealand Heartland Squad which toured the Cook Islands recently.
The side played three games, a game against the New Zealand Marist XV which the Heartland side won convincingly, and two games against the Cook Islands in Rarotonga, which resulted in a win and a loss.
Clark who can play, in the loose forwards or at lock was one of a select few to start all three games on tour.
“I played six against NZ Marist and in the second game I started at number eight, but was moved into lock when one of our players was red carded, and then they said on my performance there I deserved to start there in my final game, so starting all three I was pretty happy with,” he said.
Rarotonga was a fantastic experience for the side with it having to play games in weather far hotter to what to what they were used to back in New Zealand.
“We would train short and sharp because it was so hot, and when we weren’t training it was pretty much a holiday which was awesome.”
While the results weren’t exactly what they were after with the second game against the Cook Islands resulting in a loss, Clark said it was a great experience.
Clark is hoping to play ITM Cup and while he hasn’t received an offer from anyone yet, it remains his goal.
“Hopefully I can have a strong season with Pirates in Dunedin and push for selection in the Otago squad, if not I’ll return to the old Golds as a loan player because they’ve been fantastic to me,” he said.
By BRAYDEN LINDSAY
PHOTO: North Otago captain Josh Clark in action against Poverty Bay. Clark has been nominated as a finalist for Heartland Player of the Year at the Steinlager Rugby Awards in Auckland on December 11.