BRIAN McDermott insisted it was absolutely his duty to be present at the 2016 Leeds Sports Awards where his Leeds Rhinos side and Jason Gillespie’s Yorkshire County Cricket Club shared top billing.
Some 600 guests packed into an impressively decorated New Dock Hall for Thursday evening’s ceremony where newly-crowned world cycling champion Lizzie Armitstead and Ashes hero Joe Root took the sportswoman and sportsman of the year awards.
Armitstead edged out last year’s winner and diving star Becky Gallantree plus kayaking ace Claire O’Hara with Root eclipsing multiple gymnastics medallist Nile Wilson and world no 5 diver Jack Laugher.
But while assignments abroad understandably prevented both Armitstead and Root from attending, McDermott saw no reason whatsoever to not stay for the entire evening despite the occasion falling less than 24 hours short of Leeds’ crucial Super League clash with Huddersfield Giants.
Rhinos are still seeking their first win of the new campaign but last year’s brilliant treble remains fresh in the memory with Mac’s men named team of the year alongside county cricket champions Yorkshire.
With gymnastics coach Dave Murray highly commended, McDermott also shared the coach of the year award with Yorkshire chief Jason Gillespie who sat on the table next to the Rhinos supremo and also stayed for the entire evening.
It meant something of a star-studded line up for the 13th running of the Leeds Sports Awards – and in humble McDermott’s eyes quite rightly so. McDermott told the YEP: “I think if you are going to be magnanimous in defeat then I suppose you have got to have a lot of humility in victory.
“I think there’s a fair balance to strike there.
“Turning up at these awards – I could be all prima dona-like and think I don’t need to turn up at these awards but what this award is a recognition of all the hard work that people put in.
“I’ve got a great squad of players and I’ve got great coaches and while it’s a cliche it’s true as great players do make great coaches.
“The club is fantastic, the club creates a great environment for me to be as good as I can be and just in particular my four assistant coaches, conditioning coaches, analyst and assistant coaches, my four immediate staff work their absolute rocks off.
“When these awards and nominations are made and you have been nominated for a particular award it’s absolutely my duty to go down there and be recognised because it’s not just me being recognised, it’s the staff and everybody at the club.”
Other big winners on the night included the young team/club of the year, the City Of Leeds Swimming Club whose Georgia Coates was named young sportswoman of the year with her club-mate Layla Black highly commended along with diving starlet Lois Toulson.
Toulson’s club-mate Matty Lee won the young sportsman of the year award for the second year running ahead of archery ace Joe Fairburn while the night concluded with a lifetime achievement award for former Rhinos legend Kevin Sinfield.
With Sinfield typically involved with charity work the same evening, Jamie Jones-Buchanan picked up the award on his behalf.
McDermott, though, had to settle for sharing both the coach and team of the year awards with Gillespie’s Yorkshire and joked: “It’s a cop out.
“But I’m saying that jokingly and I understand why it would have been a very difficult decision.
“The Rhinos have won back--to-back titles themselves on a couple of occasions and we know how hard that is to do.
“Yorkshire Cricket has done that and that’s a huge achievement and as Jason Gillespie has said, they did it in a different style this year.
“They scored more points than anybody and did it with a fair amount of flair so it’s probably right that it’s been split and what we did was special too. I get why they split that.”
Despite not winning, one of the night’s biggest cheers was reserved for the national champions Leeds Schools FA Under-11s team who along with the City Of Leeds Diving Club’s European Games team were highly commended behind Leeds Swimming Club as young club/team of the year.
Pint-sized seven-year-old kickboxer Jake Frood also won hearts as he trundled up to the main stage to be highly commended in the junior sportsperson (under-14s) alongside Tommy Dawson with Macy Wood winning the award. Triple 2015 gold medallist Hannah Cockroft took the disability sportswoman of the year award ahead of Kadeena Cox and Sophie Carrigill with Jack Brown winning the male version ahead of James Simpson.
Izzy Palmer was named young disability sportsperson of the year while Leeds City Athletics Club beat Leeds Gymnastics Club and Yorkshire Jets for the non professional team award.
In the Special Contribution department, Pam Hardaker took the participation coach award in front of Dan May and Paul Fletcher.
Leeds Beckett University’s men’s rugby union team and Matthew Dobson shared the award for student sport while Jane Halkier took the sports volunteer gong.
Paul Cave, Sheila Gooch and Dave Blong were all acknowledged with an award for outstanding service to sport while Chris Ness took the prize for service to PE and school sport, just ahead of Harry Pieniazek.
The night concluded with Rhinos rugby league stalwart Lewis Jones being handed a lifetime achievement award.
Emma Endersby, event manager, added: “The Leeds Sports Awards are always a really enjoyable event to work on as it provides a wonderful platform to recognise the multi-talented sporting individuals we have in our City. This year we had a fantastic number of nominations, and we really hope this continues to build year on year.”
WINNERS – SENIOR ACHIEVERS (over 18s): Sportsman Of The Year: Winner - Joe Root; Highly Commended - Jack Laugher, Nile Wilson.
Sportswoman Of The Year: Winner - Lizzie Armitstead; Highly Commended – Becky Gallantree, Claire O’Hara.
Professional Club/Team Award: Winners – Yorkshire County Cricket Club, Leeds Rhinos RLFC.
Non-Professional Club/Team Award: Winner – Leeds City Athletics Club; Highly Commended – Leeds Gymnastics Club, Yorkshire Jets.
Sportsman Of The Year (disability): Winner – James Brown; Highly Commended – James Simpson.
Sportswoman Of The Year (disability): Winner – Hannah Cockroft MBE; Highly Commended – Kadeena Cox, Sophie Carrigill.
SPECIAL CONTRIBUTION – Coach - Performance Award: Winners – Jason Gillespie, Brian McDermott; Highly Commended – Dave Murray.
Coach - Participation Award: Winner – Pam Hardaker; Highly Commended – Dan May, Paul Fletcher.
Award for Student Sport: Winners – Leeds Beckett University Men’s Rugby Union, Matthew Dobson.
Sports Volunteer Award: Winner – Jane Halkier.
Outstanding Service to Sport Award: Winners – Paul Cave, Sheila Gooch, Dave Blong.
Service to PE and School Sport Award: Winner – Chris Ness; Highly Commended – Harry Pieniazek.
Special Achievement Award: Winner – Kevin Sinfield MBE.
Lifetime Achievement Award: Winner – Lewis Jones.
YOUNG ACHIEVERS (under 18s) – Young Sportsman Award: Winner – Matty Lee; Highly Commended – Joe Fairburn.
Young Sportswoman Award: Winner – Georgia Coates; Highly Commended – Lois Toulson, Layla Black.
Young Club/Team Award: Winner – City of Leeds Swimming Club; Highly Commended – Leeds Schools FA Under 11’s, City of Leeds Diving Club (European Games Team).
Junior Sportsperson (Under-14) Award: Winner – Macy Wood; Highly Commended – Jake Frood, Tommy Dawson.
Young Sportsperson (disability) Award: Winner – Izzy Palmer.