IT was fitting that an open side flanker took out the inaugural Phil Waugh Medal following Perth Spirit’s NRC grand final victory over the Country Eagles at Scully Park last weekend.
It was even more fitting that Richard Hardwick is a hardworking, ball-pilfering breakdown specialist in the same cut as the former Wallaby and Waratah flanker that handed him the award with his name on it.
The Namibian born West Australian had arguably the game of his career at Scully Park, posing a brick wall in defence and a constant threat in attack as he dominated the breakdown along with the rest of the Spirit pack, just as they did the week before to beat the Sydney Rays in the semifinal.
“We knew it was going to take a big effort and a team effort,” Hardwick told The Leader after the match.
“We had to defend the way we wanted to attack.”
“We put everything in and stuck together playing for each other to get there.”
“I was cooked in that last 20 minutes.”
Despite being the most impressive player at Scully Park that day, the man that is set to have a Super Rugby debut next season was star struck after hearing his name read out as the first name on the Phil Waugh Medal.
“It was a phenomenal feeling to get the award from Phil Waugh.”
“I grew up watching him play and basing some of my game on that.”
“He (Waugh) put it all on the line every game and that is what we had to do tonight to get the win.”
The Spirit’s defensive effort was the backbone of their victory and Hardwick was in the middle of everything.
The visitors scored first points to break a 30 minute deadlock, and while the Eagles never let them get away the pressure was constant and relentless as they turned a 12-8 halftime lead into a 20-16 win, and maiden NRC title.
At only 22 the flanker is already a picture of consistency, holding the most caps of any Spirit player with 24 appearances, and after coming up through every representative and development squad from WA Schoolboys to the Western Force Academy squad Hardwick is about to take the next step after being promoted to the Super Rugby squad for 2017.
“That’s the dream.”