Jimmy Gopperth – once cast on the Kiwi rugby scrapheap – has picked up his third player of the year gong in England to continue his stellar career in Europe.
The 33-year-old Wasps playmaker added the prestigious Premiership crown to his player of the season gongs from both Wasps and the Rugby Players’ Association (RPA).
Gopperth, a one-time Junior All Black, also bagged the golden boot and try of the season prizes at the Premiership’s annual awards ceremony in London on Thursday (NZ Time).
The former Hurricanes and Blue star helped Wasps finish top of the Premiership’s regular-season table for the first time, and will be itching for Dai Young’s side to see off Leicester in Saturday’s (Sunday NZT) hotly anticipated semi-final clash.
“It’s difficult to put into words just how valuable Jimmy has been for our squad, both on and off the pitch,” Wasps rugby director Young said.
Taranaki native Gopperth’s success in the northern hemisphere came after he was dropped by the Hurricanes after 52 appearances and released Wellington in 2008.
He was loaned to North Harbour for the 2008 NPC campaign and played 11 games for the Blues in 2009 but the curtain then came down on his New Zealand rugby career at the age of 25 with him ever seriously being considered for All Blacks honours.
Far from washed up however, Gopperth joined the Newcastle Falcons as a replacement for England’s World Cup winner Jonny Wilkinson and promptly became the top scorer in the 2009-10 English Premiership, a feat he repeated in 2010-11.
Leading Irish province Leinster signed Gopperth in 2013 and he helped the Dublin-based team win the Pro 12 championship title in 2013-14.
Gopperth joined Wasps in January 2015 after 350 points in 58 games for Leinster.
He is averaging over 10 points for Wasps after scoring 570 points in 54 matches.
Coach Young hailed Gopperth’s versatility.
“We all know he is a quality fly-half, but his ability to play 10, 12, 13 and even a couple of games at full-back for us this season has really helped the side,” Young told The Daily Telegraph.
“Jimmy always puts the team before himself and he’s always played at a very high standard in every position he’s played. He’s a real club man and a quality player who deserves all the accolades he’s got this…