Running back Alex Watson received the 2014 MVP award at the Lions Awards function held at the King Street Brewhouse on Sunday. Watson was the mainstay of the Lions’ ground attack, rushing for 1,669 yards and 18 touchdowns on the season. With the injury to quarterback Kiernan Dorney leading into the playoffs, the pressure was on the Lions running game to pick up the slack and Watson responded with 117 yards in the playoff win over the UTS Gators and 201 yards and 3 touchdowns in the Waratah Bowl victory over the West Sydney Pirates. Watson received the Waratah Bowl MVP award for his performance. This was Watson’s fifth season as a Lion after graduating from the Cubs in 2010 and he now stands second on the Lions career rushing list with 5,665 rushing yards.

Strong safety Keenan Mackett beat out a strong field of deserving players, including Nick Olive, Michael Rigney, Steve Dabin and Nicolai Hansen, to claim his second successive Defensive Player of the Year award. Mackett made 87 tackles during the regular season – the third highest total in any season. On the full season, Mackett had 100 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, 3 sacks and took 9 interceptions while breaking up 15 passes.

Special Teams Player of the Year was awarded to Liam Erby for his fine season as kicker and punter. Erby slotted 63 of 69 PATs (91%) – the second most accurate performance on record. His punting was sound all year and the crucial safety scored by the defence to wrap up the playoff game would not have come about without Erby’s accurate punt to the goal line on the previous play. Erby also took back his only punt return for 59 yards and completed the fake punt pass in the Waratah Bowl for a memorable year on special teams.

Pride of the Lions awards were given to Nick Olive, Justin Klein, Kiernan Dorney, Michael Rigney, Mitchell Haney, Anthony Sinton and Nicholai Hansen for outstanding contributions on the field and for epitomising the Lions team spirit in their work off the field.

James Gifford took home the Lineman of the Year award for an outstanding job in leading an inexperienced offensive line to a great season. Gifford started all 14 games and was in dominating form all year. He directed the blocking schemes from his position at Centre and had to cope with personnel changes on the line for virtually every match. Under his guidance, the offensive line powered for 232 yards (v Gators) and 250 rushing yards (v Pirates) and gave up no sacks in the playoffs.

The Most Improved Player Award was received by Mazen Safkouni, who played a major role as Running back and Slot receiver until his season was shortened by injury. While only playing in 8 games, he still managed to lead the Lions in scoring in 2014 with 114 points (12 rushing TDs and 7 receiving TDs).

Sam Darcy received the Coaches Award after making telling contributions in key games at Quarterback and displaying outstanding application and effort throughout the year.

The Freshman of the Year award went to Defensive Tackle Jack Danielson. Danielson took on increasing responsibility as the season progressed, finishing with 21 tackles, 5 tackles for loss, 2 sacks and 1 fumble recovery. He won the award from a standout field of candidates which included Aiden Smith, Max Heard and Andrew Smart.

Finally, the David Allen Clubman of the Year award was presented to Keenan Mackett for the great assistance he gave to the club in coaching and managing the equipment for the Lions.

Congratulations to all of the award winners for their outstanding contributions to a remarkable season.