HALIFAX left last night’s Co-operative Championship awards bash in Manchester empty handed as Leigh half back Jamie Ellis hogged the limelight.
Ellis, the former St Helens junior who is bound for Hull in 2012, scooped both the Player of the Year prize and the Young Player of the Year crown, seeing off Fax’s dual-registered Huddersfield loose forward Jacob Fairbank and the club’s new back row recruit, Batley’s Dane Manning.
Ellis saw off teammate Chris Hill and 2010 Player of the Year Liam Finn - Featherstone’s Halifax-based half back, to clinch the top prize.
Incoming Fax boss Karl Harrison missed out on the Coach of the Year gong to Featherstone’s Daryl Powell, despite steering Batley to a top-three finish on a shoestring budget.
Swinton Lions took home two awards in Championship One, with coach Steve McCormack presented with the Coach of the Year award and full-back Ian Mort claiming the Player of the Year prize.
Batley and Gateshead Thunder were the winners in the club specific section, with the Bulldogs named Club of the Year following another successful season which saw them build on last year’s Northern Rail Cup final to finish third in this season’s table.
Female referee Sarah Bennison received the Neil Whittaker Award for Match Official Achiever of the Year in recognition of an historic season.
Bennison was not the only referee to receive an award with Matthew Thomason, who refereed this season’s Northern Rail Cup final between Leigh and Halifax, receiving the Co-operative Championships Referee of the Year award.
Castleford have fought off competition from home and abroad to secure the long-term future of prized stand-off Rangi Chase.
The 25-year-old former Junior Kiwi, who is on a three-man shortlist for the 2011 Super League Man of Steel award, had been linked with moves to Leeds and Wigan despite having two years left on his contract.
The Tigers say Chase also had offers from overseas, including from rugby union, but today he put an end to the speculation by signing a two-year extension which will keep him with them until the end of 2015.
Castleford chief executive Richard Wright said: “We are absolutely delighted that Rangi sees his long-term future here with Castleford.
“We have beaten off global interest for his services from both codes of rugby and believe this to be a huge statement of our intentions moving forward as a club.
“In Rangi we have signed, in our opinion, the best all-round player in Super League, a player who has proven his ability both domestically and on the world stage.
“He is a player that we, the board of directors, are determined to build a successful team around and believe, at 25 years of age, he is still to reach his peak and play his best rugby.”
Chase has completed his third and easily his best in Super League and his commitment to the Tigers is a significant boost for new coach Ian Millward.
Chase said: “I’m happy that I’ve signed and got it out of the way.
“Cas is home for me now and with Ian and the new staff coming in, I’m confident the club is heading in the right direction.
“I’ve been here for three years and I wanted to repay the club for giving me an opportunity. I want to be part of the success that we are going to have here in the future.”
Australian hooker Lincoln Withers is the latest Crusaders player to secure his Super League future by signing a two-year deal with Hull KR.
The 30-year-old former Wests Tigers, St George Illawarra and Canberra player was a regular throughout the Crusaders’ three seasons in Super League.