July 21, 2012
AUCKLAND – Football Ferns captain Rebecca Smith has had an impressive 2011 rewarded with the OFC Women’s Player of the Year title.
It's the first time Smith has won the confederation’s top honour following in the footsteps of team mates Rosie White (2008) and Ali Riley (2009 and 2010).
Smith fended off stiff competition from an eight strong field of finaliasts that included six of her Football Ferns team mates – Amber Hearn, Katie Hoyle, Sarah Gregorius, Abby Erceg, Ria Percival, and Ali Riley.
Voting was open to members of the OFC Executive Committee as well as presidents, general secretaries, national team coaches and technical directors from each of the 11 member associations.
The men’s award was taken out by New Caledonia striker Betrand Kai thanks largely to an outstanding showing at the XIV Pacific Games held in his home country during August and September. Kai’s golden boot winning 10 goal led his side to the gold medal in the competition.
All Whites Chris Wood, Shane Smeltz and Winston Reid along with Auckland City and Futsal Whites marksman Daniel Koprivcic all received nominations.
Germany-based Smith has been vital to the respective causes of her teams and wrote herself into the folklore of the women’s game in New Zealand at the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup Germany™.
The Football Ferns captain was one of only two New Zealand stars to be singled out as an ‘Outstanding Player’ by the FIFA Technical Study Group at the World Cup - the other was fellow nominee Katie Hoyle – and was at the heart of a historic moment, scoring in the 2-2 draw with Mexico as New Zealand earned its first ever point at the event.
Smith, 31, also achieved a personal milestone in 2011 when she played her 50th international – a friendly against Australia in May – and continued to carve out a groundbreaking professional career overseas with Frauen Bundesliga outfit VfL Wolfsburg.
Smith and her team mates are currently in Cardiff preparing for the Olympic Games opener against Great Britain.
OFC General Secretary Tai Nicholas says it is important for Oceania’s best to be recognised.
“On behalf of OFC, I would like to congratulate our two winners on their achievements,” he says. “We have had arguably a higher calibre of candidates from the Pacific than ever before for 2011 so to win the award is a real achievement. Bertrand and Rebecca have stood out amongst a very strong group and are fully deserving of these accolades.”
The OFC Player of the Year Award has been made annually since 1988 with players from Australia and New Zealand dominating the list.
The first recipient was Frank Farina from Australia and other notable winners include New Zealand’s Wynton Rufer (three times), Shane Smeltz (twice) and Ryan Nelsen (twice); Australia’s Harry Kewell, Robbie Slater, Mark Viduka, Mark Bosnich, Tim Cahill and Brett Emerton; and New Caledonia’s Christian Karembeu. In 1999, Rufer was named OFC Player of the Century.