Top award for captain fantastic

INSPIRATIONAL skipper Andrew Durante has won Wellington Phoenix FC’s premier award, named SONY Player of the Year at the club’s annual awards function on Wednesday night.

INSPIRATIONAL skipper Andrew Durante has won Wellington Phoenix FC-s premier award, named SONY Player of the Year at the club-s annual awards function on Wednesday night.

Durante capped a superb season, during which he has played every minute of every game thus far, by being named the club-s best by a panel of five comprising coaches Ricki Herbert, Luciano Trani, Jonathan Gould, chief executive Tony Pignata and football operations manager Mal Impiombato.

Such was the quality of Durante-s performances for the Phoenix during the Hyundai A-League 2009/10 season he was recently called into the Pim Verbeek-s squad for Australia-s recent Asian Cup qualifying international against Indonesia.

The 27-year-old centre back prevented talismanic striker Paul Ifill from making a clean sweep of the wards, the gun Briton snaring the remaining four titles on offer - Players- Player of the Year, Members- Player of the Year, Media Player of the Year and Golden Boot (with 12 goals during the 27-round regular season).

Herbert said Durante was thoroughly deserving of the top award.

“Paul Ifill certainly grabbed the attention and the headlines but Andrew-s work on defence was top-shelf throughout the season. Scoring goals up one end is great but counts for nothing if you can-t keep the opposition out at the other end.

“In that regard Andrew has been outstanding. His partnerships with Jon McKain and Ben Sigmund at the heart of the back four have been superb and his leadership on and off the field integral to all the success the team has enjoyed this season.

“It was no surprise to anyone at the club when Andrew was picked for the Socceroos - it was deserved reward for a player who is clearly the best centre back in the Hyundai A-League.”

Voting in the SONY Player of the Year category was close. The night-s supreme award was decided throughout the season by the five-man panel using a top-three voting system. At the conclusion of each of the 27 regular season matches, panel members voted for their three best-on-field on a 3-2-1 basis, making for a possible total of 15 votes per game. The final tally saw Durante poll 117 votes - just seven more than midfielder Vince Lia. Ifill was third with 101 votes.

However, the British-born Barbados international marksman was the clear winner in the eyes of his teammates during the season, his total of 105 votes from his peers 50 more than second-placed Durante for the Players- Player of the Year title. Lia garnered 42 votes.

Herbert had special praise for Lia.

“Vinnie-s had a tough run with injury but he-s been excellent for us this season. He-s really found his niche in the midfield and the work rate, ethic and spirit he brings to the team is fantastic.

“The club brought Vinnie here knowing he would develop into an excellent player and he-s truly borne that belief out.”

Of course, Ifill also received a huge rap from the coach.

“What can you say about Paul that hasn-t already been said? He-s been a tremendous addition to the squad this season and I have no doubt he-s the best striker in the league.”

Right back Troy Hearfield was named the club-s Under-23 Player of the Year as the highest polling young player in voting for the club-s supreme award.

SONY Wellington Phoenix FC Awards, Hyundai A-League 2009/10 season

SONY Player of the Year: Andrew Durante

Players- Player of the Year: Paul Ifill

Media Player of the Year: Paul Ifill

Members- Player of the Year: Paul Ifill

Under-23 Player of the Year: Troy Hearfield

Golden Boot: Paul Ifill (12/27)