Ellis Jenkins was awarded the Stuart Gallacher memorial 'Man-of-Judgement' trophy by the Welsh Rugby Writers Association (WRWA) at its annual dinner last night (Weds 13th September) at Cardiff Arms Park.
Jenkins is the second winner of the award following British & Irish Lions, Wales and Ospreys scrum-half Rhys Webb, who picked it up in September 2016.
The hand-made trophy which has been constructed from wood directly sourced from each of the four representative regions of Welsh rugby’s elite game, celebrates the best pro player on the pitch at Judgement Day as voted for by media.
It has been created in memory of former Regional Rugby Wales (RRW) chief executive Stuart Gallacher and is the result of collaboration between Pro Rugby Wales, the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) and the WRWA.
Stuart Gallacher, who sadly passed away on 19th October 2014 aged 68 was a widely respected figure in rugby with a career that spanned more than 40 years and was instrumental in establishing the close working relationship between the WRU and the professional clubs which we see today, exemplified by the huge success of the Judgement Day event.
A former Llanelli and Scarlets chief executive and Welsh dual-code international during his playing days, he was also a director of the European Rugby Cup and high profile Celtic League administrator.
A crowd of 60,642 attended last year’s Judgement Day V double derby at Principality Stadium, which saw Cardiff Blues claim a 37-17 victory over the Ospreys and the Scarlets a 21-16 win over the Dragons
Jenkins, 24, has appeared more than 50 times for Cardiff Blues and captained the Wales U20 side at the 2013 Junior World Cup.
He made his international debut on Wales’ tour to New Zealand in 2016 and has won five caps to date, facing the All Blacks three times that summer and touring again in 2017 with Tonga and Samoa the opponents.
Currently recovering from a hamstring injury sustained in a pre-season friendly against Exeter Chiefs in August, Jenkins is making good progress after recent surgery and already looking forward to Judgement Day 2018.
“It’s a great occasion for boys like myself who haven’t had the chance to play at the Principality Stadium, because it’s as close as you can get to an international occasion at our national stadium,” said Jenkins.
“It’s pretty special to run out on the pitch and actually play there in front of that many people on such a big occasion, inside the stadium where you’ve watched the big games as you’re growing up.”
Jenkins said last year’s double derby occasion was a highlight of the Cardiff Blues season as they secured a first victory in six years against their opponents - a formidable and in-form Ospreys side.
“It was one those days when everything clicked for us across the whole 23, we didn’t make many mistakes in that game and it showed what we can do as a team,” he said.
“The key thing for us it to try and emulate that every week, or as often as possible. It was a big day for us, we hadn’t beaten the Ospreys in years - so to come out and play the way we did and get that victory was brilliant for everyone involved at Cardiff Blues.
“Judgement Day is such a great fixture for us as players - yes you’re playing against your friends, but when you’re on the pitch you just want to get one over on your mates. It’s a game which does have an extra bite to it.”
Cardiff Blues Head Coach Danny Wilson paid tribute to Jenkins: “I’m really pleased that Ellis has received this award, not just for what he did at Judgement Day, but because he’s an outstanding talent.
“He’s a fantastic rugby player across the board, he’s able to play the type of game we want to play and is a real threat over the ball defensively.
“He’s extremely intelligent and has leadership qualities. He’s got the attributes to be a future captain of Cardiff Blues and, in my opinion, potentially Wales as well, he’s that good.”
WWRA chairman Simon Thomas said: “Judgement Day continues to celebrate the best in the regional game and this trophy has already become a part of the tradition and history of the WRWA.
“We are proud to have played a part in its creation and to celebrate the best player of what is now established as one of the most successful professional rugby events of the year. Congratulations to Ellis on winning this award and to all our other award winners this year.”
Welsh Rugby Writers’ Association 2017 Award winners were:
• Welsh Player of the Year: Justin Tipuric, Ospreys & Wales
• Most promising uncapped player of the Year: Steff Evans, Scarlets & Wales
• Liza Burgess Wales Women Player of the Year, Rachel Taylor, Dragons & Wales
• Women’s Rugby World Cup Player of the Tournament: Sioned Harries, Scarlets & Wales
• Principality Premiership Player of the Year: Steff Andrews, Aberavon (now Merthyr RFC)
About the ‘Man of Judgement’ winner:
Ellis Jenkins was born in Church Village and spent his early years in Beddau. Educated at Bryn Celynnog Comprehensive School, Jenkins started his sporting life playing football for Llantwit Fardre, before taking up rugby at the age of 12. Jenkins played for all the Cardiff Blues age grades and won the Welsh Championship every year he was in the squad. His performance at regional level saw him promoted to captain of the Blues Under-18 squad and then on to Wales at the same age grade.
He was integral to the Under-20 Junior World Cup (JWC) team in South Africa in 2011/12, who were the first team to beat New Zealand at Under-20 level, earning them a spot in the semi-final.
Jenkins was captain of the Wales Under-20s team who were runners up to England in the 2013 JWC in France and in 2014 signed a new long-term deal at Cardiff Blues as he looks to continue his development as one of the most talented and promising young back rows in Welsh rugby.
About the trophy:
The top is made from Plane – also known as Lacewood – gathered from a tree grown in the Swansea area (the Ospreys’ region), the main stem of the trophy is carved from Apple wood found in Rhondda Cynon Taff (Blues) and the Oak base was grown in the Scarlets’ region.
The goal posts, which support the main shaft signifying the flight of a ball through rugby posts, originate from the same Walnut tree that supplied the timber for the back board of the Presidents Board housed on the Principality Stadium concourses since 1988 – and is from a tree felled over 30 years ago in a small wood near Magor (Dragons’ region).
Designer and maker Kevin Jakeway, from ‘Modern Animal’ in Powys, has hand carved a WRU logo into the Apple-wood stem of the trophy and used marquetry to make each of the four regional logos on a ‘ball’ which flies to the highest point of the work.