Mike McFarlane, predictably, picked up the Coach of the Year award at the UAE Rugby Annual Awards yesterday, but used his accolade to pay tribute to everyone who has helped Abu Dhabi Harlequins achieve such an historic season of success.
Quins and silverware have gone hand in hand this season as the Abu Dhabi club blazed a trail to glory – winning the quintuple of West Asia Premiership, Dubai Sevens, UAE Premiership, West Asia Cup and Asia Rugby Western Clubs Champions League.
And two more individual trophies followed yesterday as talismanic co-captain and flanker Ben Bolger was named Senior Player of the Season and McFarlane the UAE’s best coach as the cream of the crop in the Emirates was celebrated at Dubai’s Metropolitan Hotel.
And although he is quoted and name-checked more than most, McFarlane was full of praise for the whole club.
“I’m absolutely delighted,” he said. “It’s a great award to pick up but it’s a pat on the back for the whole coaching team, rather than just me. You look at the calibre of coaches at the club and it’s a large reason why the boys were so successful this year.
“Backs, forwards, strength and conditioning, managers, physios are all in place so I’m picking it up on behalf of them too. It’s also for the massive hours and work-rate the players have put in, everyone involved. It doesn’t come down to one person.”
It’s been a week since Quins beat Jebel Ali Dragons 30-20 at Dubai Sports City to lift the fifth trophy of a remarkable 2016/17 at the UAE Rugby Federation’s inaugural UAE Rugby Finals Day.
And McFarlane admitted he is only just beginning to realise the significance of the club’s success this season.
“Each day it feels bigger and bigger,” he added.
“It happened in a moment and we took it for granted I think. Dubai Exiles chairman Mike Wolff came up to me and said how incredible an achievement it was, and it’s when people like that, who we have the biggest of rivalries with, come up and say what a massive achievement it is, you realise that it really is some achievement.
“I’m sure it will start to sink in the next few weeks but we’re really chuffed with our achievements.”
There was plenty more to celebrate yesterday as trophies were given out to an array of rugby talent from around the UAE. There were 13 categories in all, while the lack of an event to celebrate last year’s brilliance also resulted in the 2015/16 awards also being handed out.
Quins were also among the other awards with former first team player Mike Ballard’s Mike Ballard Foundation Committee taking home the Volunteer of the Season award.
Al Ain Amblers’ stalwart Manu Vilsoni, meanwhile, took home arguably the day’s most popular accolade as he collected the Neil Palmer Award – established in memory of the ex-Arabian Knights chairman and founder, who died in February 2015 – which was presented by Neil’s widow, Louise.